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August 29, 2014  RSS feed

Text: T T T

‘The Chosen’ to open season at American Stage

(L-R) Justin LeVine and David Friedman, play the lead characters, Danny and Reuven, in their youth (L-R) Justin LeVine and David Friedman, play the lead characters, Danny and Reuven, in their youth American Stage Theatre Company in St. Petersburg will open its 2014-2015 season in September with a production of The Chosen, a play by Aaron Posner, adapted from the best-selling novel by Chaim Potok.

The Chosen takes place in Brooklyn, in 1944, as two Jewish boys grow up five blocks and a world apart. This award-winning adaptation from Potok’s award-winning novel is by the same creators of last year’s American Stage Theater hit, My Name is Asher Lev.

The play begins when Reuven and Danny play a heated game of baseball between rival yeshivas – until one is badly hurt. As their unique friendship grows, they learn important lessons about their fathers, their community, and themselves.

Potok, author of The Chosen was raised in Philadelphia in a Hasidic family. He balanced his interest in traditional Jewish studies with his personal interest in American and European literature. He was an accomplished author, playwright, biographer, and theologian and won numerous literary awards for his written works. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and died at his home in 2002.

The cast includes the lead characters in their youth, David Friedman as young Reuven and Justin LeVine as Danny Saunders, both seniors at Howard W. Blake School of the Arts in Tampa, who are making their debuts at American State Theater.

Friedman and LeVine are Jewish and say that gives them a special connection to the play and their characters.

Friedman said he can relate to the play through his grandparents. “My grandma lived in Brooklyn during this time and my grandpa fought in World War II and, as we all do, faced prejudice. “So to play this out on stage is a beautiful thing, he said.”

“This story is very close to home,” said LeVine. “Everyone can relate to the themes discussed in this play, but being Jewish makes the show mean so much more. Having lost family in the Holocaust, and having other family members in Israel, makes this show really personal to me.”

He said that unlike his character, who is Hasidic, he has had a very different upbringing as a Reform Jew nor has he lived through the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel. “That being said, being Jewish has made me feel much more connected to the show.”

Preview performances are Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. (“pay what you can” night) and Thursday, Sept. 4 (Cost $29 per person). The show runs through Sept. 28 with performances Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $39 for Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday matinees and $49 for Friday and Saturday evenings. The cost for opening night is $59 and includes a preperformance reception. Discounts are also available for students, seniors, retired military and artists. Contact the box office for further details, (727) 823.PLAY (7529).

The American Stage Theater is located at 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg.

Those who cannot use their tickets may call the box office 24 hours in advance of a scheduled performance to exchange tickets for another performance of the same production.

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