Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“The Wanderers” In An Outstanding And Polished World Premiere at Old Globe

One letter separates wanderer from wonderer. Imagine the wonders the Jews found wandering in the desert for 40 years after fleeing Egypt? Imagine now the wonders of traveling a world closed off to you while only knowing a cloistered one?

Imagine the wonders of seeing your own words in book form and finding praise in those words? Imagine wandering through the recesses of you mind seeking meaning to all that you hold true and not always finding the answers?
Ali Rose Dachis and Dave Klasko (background)
Playwright Anna Ziegler’s new work, “The Wanderers” was commissioned by The Old Globe and is sensitively directed by artistic director Barry Edelstein.  “The Wanderers” will be playing through May 6th and if we are lucky it will be extended. 

Edelstein was anxious to have the playwright back for a command performance after her “The Last Match” impressed him a few years ago.  Both playwright and director have shared memories of living in the Williamsburg community and can relate to the population living there now.

When two worlds collide as do the ones in “The Wanderers” we the audience are privileged to see how the other side lives, and even in grave conflict come together and almost become one.
Daniel Eric Gold and Michelle Beck
The connectedness is mind boggling as the two couples drift through their marriages, both doomed to cause heartache and pain, as handed down from generation to generation (L’dor V’dor), but still forge ahead wondering what the future holds for them.

L’chi Lach to a land that I will show you
Leich L’cha to a place you do not know –
Debbie Friedman
Esther and Schmuli (Ali Rose Dachis and David Klasko both excellent) are ultra orthodox Jews from the Satmar Hasidic group. Their marriage was an arranged one. She is young and inquisitive.

She wants to read secular literature, listen to the radio and get a job outside the house, perhaps in a library; he’s shy, stubborn and goes by the book and does whatever his father says. Anything going on outside their little village of Monsey is verboten like FM radio and secular books and in particular work outside the home.  
Daniel Eric Gold and Janie Brookshire
In Brooklyn Sophie and Abe (Michelle Beck and Daniel Eric Gold are perfect protagonists), have known each other all their lives. They grew up together and their mothers, Hasidic Jews living in Williamsburg when both were children, expected they would one day marry and they did. “I was seventeen when I realized I was going to marry Abe.” “Soph and I met before memory.”

Abe is Jewish and Sophie is half Jewish and half African-American. Both are writers. Abe is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Sophie is struggling to keep up but the interest in her work is short lived and she’s more than frustrated. They have two children and Abe insists they be brought up Jewish, ‘because that’s what Jews do’.

At the core of Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” are two couples living out two different, yet very similar stories that run along parallel tracks in different times. One is hostage to an orthodox community that has a strangle hold on them.
Dave Klasko and Ali Rose Dachis
The other is hostage to Abe’s upbringing as a Jewish son. He’s living a modern yet modest lifestyle with his writer wife with all the neurosis instilled in him as a child yet with a strong Jewish identity. (Think guilt as one) They play off each other, but Sophie is the stronger and even though Abe is the more successful their marriage is suffering from indifference.

As captives of their environment Esther and Schmuli walk a tightrope. One step outside their little bubble community and their lives go topsy-turvy. When we meet them, they are celebrating their marriage that, we learn happened just that day.

On the other hand, Sophie and Abe, the writers, are already in a strained marriage. Abe is moving along in his career so much so that book tours and interviews often take him away from home.
Janie Brookshire and Daniel Eric Gold
On one such an occasion he meets up with Julia Cheever (Jane Bookshire) a beautiful movie star with whom he begins an on line yet uncomfortable relationship. The incident is based on a New York Times- published email correspondence between Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer in 2016. 

The characters are true to life, funny, serious three-dimensional and absolutely believable. The interactions between Ali Rose Dachis’ Esther and Dave Klasko’s Schmuli are almost out of Chaim Potock’s “The Chosen” with clothes (David Israel Reynoso) to match.  Their conversations and mannerisms ring so true and Klasko’s speech patterns, thanks to dialect coach David Huber, are spot on.   

Beck’s Sophie is strong and grounded while Gold’s Abe can be charming and loving, yet he chooses to ignore all the warning signs that his marriage is in trouble especially as he continues to carry on his ‘letter writing’ campaign with the more that willing Julia. Janie Brookshire is the stunning actress who shares more about her life that pulls him deeper and deeper, but hey, that’s the carrot.
Cast od "The Wanderers"
A very long and rather narrow table with about four chairs around is the centerpiece of the set (Marion Williams) that is put to use for every occasion. Projections are written on the tables as ‘chapters’. Stacks of books surround the stage, bits of snowflakes fall and neon lights light up in strips on the floor on occasion. (Amanda Zieve). In it’s simplicity, it speaks volumes.  

“The Wanderers” is funny and somber, poetic and whimsical, thought provoking and wise, tragic and celebratory with very convincing acting; just about everything one would want to see in a play, new or otherwise, including some ah ha revelations that will open miles of conversation on the way home.

Hats off to Ms. Ziegler, The Old Globe and director Edelstein. May they wander this path more often, open more doors and leave more questions unanswered than answered.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through May 6th
Organization: The Old Globe
Phone: 619-232-5623
Production Type: Drama
Where: 11363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Ticket Prices: Start at $30.00
Venue: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
Photo: Jim Cox

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