April 9, 2009
Why a Jewish Drama ('The Quarrel') Draws Christians In
Faith, doubt, and friendship collide in moving play, staged Easter Sunday.
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to meet over the phone Daniel Furst, who was telling me about a drama that I had never heard of before.
It's called, "The Quarrel." Click on the play button for a 4 minute YouTube video about this play
The amazing news is that "The Quarrel" will be staged twice this weekend, on Easter Sunday, April 12. But, of course, you have to live in southern California to take it in. (See below for performance details if you are lucky enough to be close by.)
Passover and Easter are powerful times for folks with cosmic questions about God, the Bible, and the meaning of life to explore the answers, hopefully in a faith-based (and orthodox) context.
Every year, I have found new friends with deep hurts who are grappling with theological questions that dramatists and screenwriters skillfully explore on our behalf, while we are at a safe distance away in the audience.
True confession, I was a lit major as an undergraduate, so I have a life-long weakness for powerful drama. I don't think "The Quarrel" will disappoint. Rabbi Joseph Teluskin, one of two playwrights for "The Quarrel," notes that Christians are becoming big fans of this modern Jewish drama with a Holocaust theme.
Perhaps this is because the storyline, though Jewish, mirrors many of the identical questions that Christians have about a loving God, an evil world, and the possibilities for reconciliation.
Here is additional information from the press kit:
The enormously popular, critically acclaimed Off-Broadway hit play, The Quarrel is coming to the Brandeis-Bardin Auditorium, located at 1101 Peppertree Lane in Simi Valley, CA on Sunday, April 12th at 8:00 pm. An additional 3:00 pm matinee performance has been added due to popular demand. Part of all proceeds will be donated to iVolunteer, a non-profit organization and visitation program that pairs volunteers with Holocaust survivors, providing them with companionship and case assistance www.ivolunteerny.com .
The Quarrel has played to impressive reviews and standing ovations around the country, most recently off Broadway at New York City’s DR2 Theatre. The questions that are raised in the Quarrel are still pertinent today; can you love someone whose views you really can’t stand? How can one believe in Gd when we are surrounded by so much injustice and hardship?
The story takes place years after the Holocaust and focuses on characters Chaim (Sam Guncler; Conversations with My Father, Law and Order, The Sopranos) and Hersh (Reuven Russell; Chaplin, ER, Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys). The two men were inseparable as schoolmates in prewar Europe, until a soul-shattering fight launched them on different paths. Both lost their entire families during the war and naturally assumed the other was also killed. One is now a free-living writer, the other a pious rabbi. The Quarrel begins as, years later; they accidentally meet in a park. Shocked, they soon recover, reminisce, and resume the life-altering argument that drove them apart.
Originally an acclaimed 1950 short story by the Yiddish master Chaim Grade, "Mayn Krig mit Hersh Rasseyner (My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner)" was adapted for the screen in 1991 by award-winning screenwriter and producer David Brandis (Showtime series My Life As a Dog, HBO series the Strangers) and noted rabbi and author, Joseph Telushkin (An Eye for an Eye, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism; co-written with Dennis Prager). The success of that award-winning film prompted the writers to take a fresh look at the piece with an eye toward enhancing its theatricality with a stage adaptation. In 1999, The Quarrel opened in New Jersey, breaking existing box office records before going on tour.
Advance tickets may be purchased at www.thequarreltheplay.com. For information regarding group rates, contact Shoshana at (310) 278-5562.