Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Review of Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story Winnipeg Jewish Theatre October 29 – November 6. 2022-go see this show!

by Jane Enkin,October 30, 2022


Old Stock is an exuberant, unconventional hybrid of concert and play, buoyed by the glorious voice and stage presence of Ben Caplan.


Two Jewish refugees meet on their first day in Canada in 1908. What could be a simple love story becomes complex because of the impact of their pasts – they have escaped the pogroms of Eastern Europe, and dark memories often arise. Chaya and Chaim are based on the great grandparents of the playwright, Hannah Moscovitch, who developed the play with the director Christian Barry and the musician Ben Caplan.


Full disclosure: I am a huge Ben Caplan fan, I've loved his work on the CBC, at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and at the Ashkenaz Festival. His performance in Old Stock is not to be missed.


In Old Stock he is the Wanderer, a name that plays on the old trope that Jews are cursed to wander the earth, and an apt reference to the experience of a refugee. The Wanderer narrates the play, through his spoken lines and through Caplan and Barry's intricate songwriting. “The Wanderer is an ally to the audience, and also a trickster,” Caplan told the CBC's Faith Fundal, “and sort of responsible for pulling the audience along on this journey.” The journey includes many side trips, including into explorations of Jewish law, such as the distinction between Written Torah and the ongoing flexibility of Oral Torah.


A high point is the tallis-enfolded Caplan's authentic cantorial rendering of El Malei Rachamim, God Full of Compassion, a Hebrew prayer of mourning. I learned from Caplan that he researched recordings of the prayer, listening for the kavannot, the devotional intentions, of the cantors, as well as their vocal techniques. It was thrilling to hear Caplan pour his formidable vocal skills into this rich traditional sound.


He sings a lullaby and a tender wedding song, but mostly, Caplan uses his roaring, flexible voice to deliver melodically rich songs filled with wit and irony. There are reminders that the experience of refugees is a pressing world problem today, and newcomers to Canada continue to face obstacles as well as welcomes. A song tells of a fledgling bird escaping to a new home -- “Mama, where do we fly?Where are we welcome...and will we survive?” At one point, Caplan asks the audience directly, “Would you open your door?”


It was also a total delight to watch Caplan's over the top dancing at Chaya and Chaim's wedding, and his always rich gestures and expressions.


Chaya and Chaim are played with moving delicacy by Shaina Silver-Baird and Eric Da Costa. I loved watching them hang their own chuppah and solemnly come together face to face for their wedding ceremony, Chaim in a white kittel and Chaya in a simple veil. Da Costa's Chaim frequently explodes with enthusiasm, then restrains himself in order to communicate with Silver-Baird's quiet, unsmiling Chaya. Silver-Baird is delightful showing Chaya's down-to earth, no nonsense side. Both actors are called on to be serious but they are also very funny, with great timing.


Remarkably, Silver-Baird and Da Costa are also wonderful musicians, Silver-Baird on the violin and Da Costa on woodwinds. His klezmer clarinet is bang on. The band, including the two actors plus Jacques Arsenault on keyboard and accordion and Andrew Wiseman on drums, plays terrific klezmer, as well as accompanying the songs that pulse through the play.


What can I say? See this show!

<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Orthodox Union
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Tel Aviv University Canada
  • Booke + Partners
  • Gislason Targownik
  • James Teitsma
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • Obby Khan
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Chisick Family
  • Stringers Rentals
  • Winnipeg Beach Home Building Centre
  • KC Enterprises
  • John Wishnowski
  • JLS Construction
  • Ingrid Bennett
  • Gulay Plumbing
  • The Paper Fifrildi
  • Joanne Gullachsen Art
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Levene Tadman Golub
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bruce Shefrin Interior Design
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Bridges for Peace
  • CVA Systems
  • Chochy's
  • Lakeside Roofing
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.