BWW Review: HGJTC's THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE is Sheer Perfection
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when walking into Therefore Choose Life, a new play based on a true story by Broadway leading man Jake Epstein and his mother Kathy Kacer, produced by The Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company. The play is about a man (Joseph, played by Avery Saltzman) who is married during the holocaust, and presumes his wife dead after being separated in a concentration camp. After the war he moves to Toronto and eventually remarries and has a son, never forgetting the love he lost. Thirty years later, just before his 25th wedding anniversary, he learns his first wife is alive and coming to see him.
The material is dramatic, heavy, and emotional, However, the production left me feeling more hopeful and appreciative of life and our freedoms - and overall ends on a positive note, even if the ending is anything but happy for all the characters involved.
Saltzman as Joseph is giving, in my opinion, of the best performances I've ever seen on stage. His performance has incredible depth, and he embodies the inner conflict and confusion that the real life Joseph must have felt. He never overdoes it... His character is firmly grounded in reality.
Jake Epstein plays Joseph's son - who himself is conflicted about what he wants in life. His father has always instilled in him that being responsible is the most important thing in life. But when all of their lives are shaken up by the return of Joseph's first wife and Joseph must make a decision of what he truly wants for the first time in his life - will he make the responsible choice?
Epstein, who recently left 'Beautiful' on Broadway, is extremely charismatic and has a brilliant stage presence. He steals every scene he's in and you can't help but watch him in awe. Amelia Sargisson plays opposite Epstein as the son's girlfriend. Sheila McCarthy plays Joseph's second wife - an all-Canadian, jewish housewife who takes pleasure in gossiping about the neighbours. Lisa Horner brings to life Joseph's first wife, Chava. Horner, who also appeared in HGJTC's 'Stars of David,' also demonstrates great emotional depth through her character. Her Chava has lived a lifetime searching for her love, and Horner manages to make the audience feel her longing and desperation. When Chava finally made it it Toronto in one of the final scenes of the play, I was in tears.
Aside from the brilliant performances all around, the book of the play is perfectly written. Not a moment of stage time is wasted - and your mind will never wander. Each proceeding moment is more fascinating than the last. Epstein and Kacer, along with director Rachel Slaven, have managed to craft this very unusual story into an impeccably paced ninety minute drama.
I urge Toronto audiences to go see Therefore Choose Life in the brand-new Greenwin Theatre at The Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts before it closes on May 10th... It won't be long before this play is picked up from North York for a New York run. Tickets are available at hgjewishtheatre.com.