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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Coachella Valley Repertory’s season-opener, The Chosen, begins the company’s selection of four plays that represent the diverse cultural heritage of America.

This play is bracketed by World War II in 1944 and the successful establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and it takes place in Brooklyn. Two boys meet playing baseball—how American is that? But don’t think Norman Rockwell just yet: One of the boys belongs to the strict and tradition-bound Hassidic segment of Judaism, and the other belongs other to a more progressive, modernistic and liberal sect. Instant conflict.

While the play’s main characters are Jewish, this play’s themes echo the lives of people worldwide. Almost every religion has different groups within it, each with its own rules about food, drink, travel, marriage, clothing, hair—everything. Maybe that deep sense of spiritual identification is why the audience at The Chosen was the most spellbound, silent bunch I’ve seen in a theater. There was not even a sniffle, and how are your sinuses doing with all the reseeding and the winds? Not a sound. Not a move.

It has to be gratifying for the actors to perform such a powerful play, because they get to see and feel how its message reaches all of us. The five, all-male actors in The Chosen are marvelous, dealing with a tiny stage—but a GREAT set!—and an unamplified room, demanding great diction and projection; they are rewarded with magnificent lighting and a lovely subtle color palette. CV Rep’s artistic and production staff gets stars for their work here. Kudos to Louise Ross, Jimmy Cuomo, Aalsa Lee, Eddie Cancel and Randy Hansen. Artistic director Ron Celona beautifully and cleverly directs the piece, with some brilliant uses of the flexible set that will make you smile with appreciation. (Just to make it perfect, an actual cantor, Samuel B. Radwine, is their consultant for this production.)

The universal themes are boiled down into the friendship of these two kids in wartime Brooklyn. At the game, Reuven, played by Drew Feldman, is pitching to Daniel, played by Daniel Seigerman. The show is narrated by the older version of Reuven, acted by Dave Natale. The fathers of the two boys round out the rest of the cast: The intellectual writer David Malter is Reuven’s widowed dad, played by Dennis Gersten, and David Light plays Daniel’s father, the brilliant and rigid Hasidic Rabbi (Reb) Saunders. Guess what happens?

This wordy play is adapted from the novel and film by its original author Chaim Potok, with Aaron Posner. The script throws around a lot of Yiddish expressions, some translated into English and some not, so the greater vocabulary you bring to this play, the more you’ll get out of it. The script also tosses into the mix a few stunning examples of Talmudic philosophical debate—and even a little humor. It’s all about learning, and we marvel at the devotion to their studies of these boys, back when school was simpler and more distraction-free.

Watching the actors move on this stage is only part of the fascination. We are frozen in anticipation, wondering what path awaits these two boys, their fathers and their countries.

The casting is, well, perfect. Drew Feldman is excellent as the Nice Jewish Boy we all know; despite being raised motherless, he lives to learn and loves life. His father, played by Dennis Gersten, is totally convincing as the passionate Zionist writer. The older Reuven, Dave Natale, devours the stage as he paces it, linking time, place and situation for us—and he gets to have some fun, briefly charming us by playing other parts. Daniel Seigerman excels in the hugely challenging role of a young Hasid facing a changing world while being locked into tradition—and, strangely, being raised in almost total silence by his father. David Light, as his dad … well, you can’t take your eyes off him, with his flashing eyes, growly voice and bearlike moves. Wait ’til he shows off his character’s brilliance and knowledge; he’ll give you goose bumps.

The only tiny little nitpick I could come up with is that I’d like to see more use of the hands. It’s not a stereotype to say that Jewish people (and Italians!) talk with gestures. We could use more of that here.

The best entertainment takes us to a place to which we could never go, and then makes us love the people we find there. This show does that. We keenly understand and accept each character, and the pin-drop silence of the audience proves that we all identify. This is, after all, part of American history, and we don’t need to have ever set foot in Brooklyn to become swallowed up by the story. This two-hour, two-act play will take you further down the rabbit hole than you’ve ever been, because it’s so real. I almost wish there hadn’t been an intermission; the break shocked us back to reality.

The title The Chosen reminds me of that old joke about the Jewish leader who one day gets to actually talk with God, and asks him, “Are we really the Chosen People?” God answers, “Yes.” The man reflects on the historical problems faced by the Jews—Cossack raids, the Holocaust, ancient Egyptian rulers, Biblical plagues—and timidly requests of God, “You think you could choose somebody else for a while?”

When you see this play at CV Rep, you’ll be glad they were chosen.

The Chosen, a production of Coachella Valley Repertory, is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 16, at The Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $45. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche—From Dezart Performs

It’s 1956, and the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein’s lovely annual quiche breakfast is disrupted by … the threat of Communists! At 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $22 to $25; $44 for the show and brunch at LuLu California Bistro on Sunday, Nov. 16. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

12th Annual Annenberg Theater Opening Night Gala Fundraiser

Andrea McArdle, Maureen McGovern, Donna McKechnie and Randy Graff headline this special fundraiser, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. $95 to $295. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—From Palm Canyon Theatre

An eclectic group of kids compete for the big prize in the renowned spelling competition at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Broadway in Drag!—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The lovely Bella da Ball hosts this fourth annual drag pageant, as female impersonators vie for the crown in this Palm Springs Pride event, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. $35 to $50. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

The Chosen—From CV Rep

The award-winning play tells the story of two boys, two fathers and two different Jewish communities in 1940s Brooklyn, N.Y., at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 16. $45; $40 previews on Oct. 29 and 30; $55 opening night on Oct. 31. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Magical Evening of Luminaries

Don Martin hosts, and Christopher Marlowe is the musical director at this fundraiser for CV Rep featuring Kaye Ballard, Joyce Bulifant, Carol Channing and many others, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. $75; $250 VIP. At the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

McCallum Theatre

Mummenschanz, the Swiss mask theater troupe, is part of the Palm Desert International Dance Festival and Choreography Competition, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13; $20 to $65. Also part of the festival: A Man’s Requiem, by the SEOP Dance Company from South Korea, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15; $20 to $65. Renowned musical Anything Goes is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 29; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30. $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 2. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Theatre 29

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, though Saturday, Nov. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Noises Off!—From Desert Theatreworks

Desert Theatreworks re-imagines what’s been called the funniest farce ever written for their intimate theater space, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 9. No show on Oct. 31. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Odd Couple—From Palm Desert Stage

Lou Galvan and Matthew Shaker star as the famously mismatched roommates at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28; $25 seniors Friends of IPAC; $17 students. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-636-9682; www.pdstage.com.

The Rocky Horror Show—From COD Theatre

The campy rock musical that made “The Time Warp” famous is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30; 7 p.m. and midnight, Friday, Oct. 31; 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. Most shows $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors; call to confirm times. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; collegeofthedesert.edu.

Scrooge in Rouge—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The play has a cast of 20—but 17 of the actors get food poisoning. Of course, the show must go on, so the three remaining actors do the best they can; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Dec. 21. 28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Shakespeare in Hollywood—From Theatre 29

It’s 1934, and famous Shakespeare fairies Oberon and Puck have suddenly materialized on the Warner Bros. set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a hilarious farce ensues, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Nov. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 20, with 2:30 p.m., Sunday, matinees on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins—From Desert Rose Playhouse

This comedy is set in 1977 and focuses on 15-year-old Horace Poore’s sexual awakening, hastened by images of Olympic champion Mark Spitz and anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 19. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Broadway D-Lights—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

Three of the valley’s top vocalists—Keisha D, Charles Herrera and Jerome Elliott—perform at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 17. A portion of the proceeds go to Desert Ensemble’s high school scholarship fund. $30. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.brownpapertickets.com/event/848586.

The Chosen—From CV Rep

The award-winning play tells the story of two boys, two fathers and two different Jewish communities in 1940s Brooklyn, N.Y., at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Wednesday, Oct. 29, through Sunday, Nov. 16. $45; $40 previews on Oct. 29 and 30; $55 opening night on Oct. 31. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Millicent Martin

The well-known star of both stage and screen—you may know her as Daphne’s mother on Frasier—is interviewed by Don Martin at noon, Wednesday, Oct. 22. $45; includes lunch catered by Lulu/Acqua Pazza. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Desert Theatre League Star Awards

Celebrate the best of the most recent theater season, starting at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5. $50. At Sun City Shadow Hills, 80875 Avenue 40, Indio. 760-772-9617; deserttheatreleague.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Theatre 29

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Oct. 3, though Saturday, Nov. 1, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12 and 26. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Nov. 2. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Noises Off!—From Desert Theatreworks

Desert Theatreworks re-imagines what’s been called the funniest farce ever written for their intimate Arthur Newman Theatre space, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Nov. 9. No shows on Oct. 26 and Oct. 31. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Rocky Horror Show—From COD Theatre

The campy rock musical that made “The Time Warp” famous is performed at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24; 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25; 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30; 7 p.m. and midnight, Friday, Oct. 31; 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. Most shows $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors; call to confirm times. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; collegeofthedesert.edu.

Sundays in Summer Series

Jan Abrams sings songs from World War II at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5. Sheldon Craig performs Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12. Julie Esposito sings songs in a range of musical styles from the 1960s to today at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19. Diane Pancel pays tribute to Day, Garland and Monroe in Ladies of Hollywood at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26. Each show is $11; cash only at the box office. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731; www.lesmichaels.com/joslyn.

The Who’s Tommy—From Palm Canyon Theatre

In this famous rock musical, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia after he witness his father commit murder. As an adolescent, he discovers a natal knack for pinball, and becomes an international pinball superstar; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 12. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance