BWW Review: WHAT THE JEWS BELIEVE at Berkshire Theatre Group Leaves Audiences With Lots to Think About.
If, based on the title, you think you have an idea of what the final selection in Berkshire Theatre Group's 2019 Season, WHAT THE JEWS BELIEVE has in store, you are not alone, and your are more than likely, mistaken. Yes, Sabbath candle holders are prominently displayed. Twelve year old
Nathan is struggling with studies for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Yes, elements of this play will feel very familiar to members of the Jewish Community. But really, that doesn't matter.
Dave and his family still live in the old home built by his father in rural Central Texas, and they are still the only Jewish family in town. His son Nathan feels isolated attempting to understand the family's beliefs, while his wife Rachel faces an even greater crisis of faith. Meanwhile, Dave struggles to maintain a sense of normalcy for his searching family.
At it's core, WHAT THE JEWS BELIEVE is a poignant story about the loss of faith and the journey to find it. Moreover, it is about life. The joys, sadness,
fears, and many of the overwhelming number of questions that come with it. To his credit, playwright, Mark Harelik, goes to great lengths to pose a plethora of
questions most of us have had, or will have to deal with. It is both notable and admirable that he does so without providing answers. About the choices we make as well as their consequences and impact. Harelik encourages us to think but never tells us how, what, or why we should do so.
The cast features Emily Donahoe as Rachel, Benim Foster as Dave, Cynthia Mace as Sarah, Logan Weibrecht as Nathan, and Robert Zukerman as Rabbi Bindler. Each delivers a strong performance and show themselves to be skilled at their craft. Having Harelik directing, may have enabled them to know the characters as well as they clearly do. This is helpful as there is virtual no time available, nor required for us to connect with them. We do so, quickly, deeply, and emotionally. So much so, it makes for a challenging first act in which having a tissue at hand is advised.
The Artistic Company includes Scenic Designer Randall Parsons, Costume Designer Hunter Kaczorowski, Lighting Designer Kim Smith, Sound Designer Jeffrey Smith, Dialect Coach Jennifer Scapetis-Tycer Dialect Coach, Casting Director Alan Filderman, and Stage Manager Carolynn Richer.
Playwright and Director Mark Harelik provides the following insight concerning his work: "A feature of man's deepest nature and most primal instinct is the urge to ask why? We ask why of each other. We ask why of the natural world. We ask why of our 8th grade algebra teacher. We ask why of our divorcing parents. We ask why of the oceans, the atmosphere, the planets, the cosmos. We ask why of our government. And at some point, we all ask why of God. Not only of God, but even about God.
One message that came through and resonated strongly with me was that faith is a choice.