Written by US Playwright Marvin Chernoff, Chaim’s Love Song tells the story of Chaim Shotsky, a retired Jewish mailman who lives in Brooklyn. Sitting in the local park each day, he befriends Kelly Burke, a newly married, but very lonely, young woman who has recently moved from Iowa. As their friendship develops, Chaim shares stories of his life, acted out on stage with a variety of characters. In time, Kelly not only makes a friend, but learns considerable life-changing lessons about love and relationships.
The strength of this production lies in the casting.
Keith Hutton is outstanding in the role of Chaim Shotsky, bringing a genuine warmth and charm to the character. Despite this being Hutton’s ninth play for the 1812 Theatre, he has the ability to inhabit his character so well that you don’t feel you are watching the same actor from other seasons. As Chaim Shotsky he is immediately endeared to the audience and you can sense they are hanging on every word; eager to hear the end of Chaim’s story.
Kathryn Brown is delightful as Kelly Burke and superbly portrays the growth in her character through the course of the play.
Chris Hodson is very likeable as Chaim’s friend Oscar Birnbaum. Amy Jenkins is convincing as Chaim’s daughter Rachel.
Campbell McNish is the ideal choice for Chaim’s unemployed actor son, Reuben. McNish delivers such a believable performance it feels like it’s straight out of an American sitcom.
Helen Ellis does an excellent job bringing a uniqueness to a multitude of characters.
The final member of the cast is Stephanie King who is exquisite in the role of Tzawrah Shotsky. Without giving away the plot, King’s Tzawrah is the perfect balance to Hutton’s Chaim and the pair are captivating to watch.
Unlike the usual detailed sets regular patrons of the 1812 Theatre would be accustomed to, the set for Chaim’s Love Song is relatively simple. Rather than creating a realistic park scene, Set Designer John Mills has instead opted to use the painting ‘Lovers Above the Town’ by renowned Jewish painter Marc Chagall as the inspiration for the set. While this is explained in the programme, the painting is somewhat of an abstract distraction for the first part of the play, and it’s really only in the conclusion of the play, or reflection afterwards, that the set feels connected to the storyline.
Lighting design by Robin Le Blond works well to create separate performance areas during the many story-telling moments in the play. Costumes by Jayne and Tilly Ruddick are suitable for the characters.
Chaim’s Love Song was awarded Best Original Comedy of the Year during it’s Los Angeles season in the US, but this play doesn’t really feel like it truly fits the genre of comedy. While there are plenty of humorous moments in the play, director Geoff Hickey has instead found the heart and tenderness of this storyline and hasn’t pushed the comedic side. The first act takes some time to establish the characters, but it’s worth hanging in there. Chaim’s Love Song is a surprisingly beautiful story that will leave you with a smile on your face, a tear in your eye and just a lovely warmth inside.
It’s well worth checking out.
Chaim’s Love Song is playing until June 9th at the 1812 Theatre in Upper Ferntree Gully.
Tickets and more information: www.1812theatre.com.au