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Humour and quirky show that proved a surprise hit
11:31am Friday 11th May 2012 in Leisure
Chaim’s Love Song was a surprise off-Broadway hit in the late nineties and has since become a very popular play wherever it is performed.
On this showing in the Wildman Studio theatre, it is easy to see why. Humour is at the core of the story – jokes, anecdotes and one-line quips galore – but essentially Chaim’s Love Song is a testimony to the power of love, enduring friendship and the means by which life can overcome even the most devastating of obstacles and tests of faith.
The central character, Chaim Shotsky, is a Jewish mailman, now retired, who spends a lot of time in the Brooklyn park adjacent to his house. Here he befriends a young woman, Kelly Burke, from Iowa, but with Irish roots, who feels abandoned in the big city while her husband is engaged in academic research on Walt Whitman. This set-up enables Chaim gradually to enchant young Kelly with the story of his life and loves, a story populated by Chaim’s two wives, his son and daughter (and grandchildren), a matchmaker, a variety of minor characters and, endearingly and enduringly, Chaim’s best friend Oscar Birnbaum.
Chaim is played by Stephen Forman most winningly. Rarely off the stage, Stephen, with his comic timing and dead-pan delivery, gives a confident and assured performance. His character’s infectious optimism in the face of reason after reason to cave in to despair or depression is largely what provides the play with its strong appeal. Miranda Armitage plays Kelly Burke with her out-of-town accent and diffident ways which are gradually broken down by Chaim’s charm. Her convincing conversion from rude shyness to open affection is part of the play’s upbeat momentum.
Malcolm Taylor as Oscar is another of the play’s many highlights – quirky, amusing, engaging and, by the end, very affecting. Chaim’s son, an actor struggling for roles that don’t involve dressing up as a monkey, provides Alan Carmichael with some entertaining cameo moments, as is the case for Emily Strange as Chaim’s daughter, though she also plays Chaim’s first love, Shana.