I Had A Grand Old Time At “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story”

I can barely begin to describe how delightful this play was.  I was lucky enough to see it on opening night, and if I had the extra money to spare I would buy tickets to see it again and watch from the front row.  It was hilarious, it was moving, and it was beautifully simple.  When a play is “simple” in that it has one set that doesn’t really change, a small cast of characters, and an uncomplicated story, it can be absolutely spectacular if each of these elements is executed as best as they can be.  That was undoubtedly the case as this play was phenomenal! Everything was done right – I was entertained and the story really made me think.

The only thing I would have changed about this play is the location in which it was performed.  Although I don’t doubt this show will be able to fill the seats of the Babs Asper Theatre during its run at the NAC, I would have loved to have seen this play in the smaller, more intimate, Azrieli Studio.  I wanted to get up-close and personal with the actors and see more of the finer details of the set. The whole set was creatively contained to a steel shipping container that opened up to reveal musicians and actors seated in a homey looking space, as well as small stage areas for The Wanderer (Ben Caplan). There were so many little details in the container that, although it was beautiful from afar, I would have loved to gotten up close and personal with the space.


The actors were also spectacular, and they gave an up close and personal look on characters based on real people. Mary Fay Coady and Eric Da Costa doubled as both musicians and actors in this refugee love story about Romanian Jews living in Canada. And as both musicians and actors they were delightful to watch.  They really succeeded at bringing their characters to life, and skillfully made the audience believe that their scenes took place in locations other than a shipping container.  The Wanderer, however, was the star of the show.  His larger-than-life personality made him the perfect narrator for such an interesting tale.  And his repeated breaking of the fourth wall not only made the audience feel included, but reminded us that the events on stage were based in fact, not fiction.


The story itself had a little bit of everything. It was both funny and sad, but it was always entertaining.  Not only was this a recounting of the lives of Chaya (Coady) and Chaim (Costa) Moscovitch, ancestors of the playwright, but this play served as a reminder of what refugees, past and present, have had to go through to seek better lives. Although the events of the tale took place in the past, The Wanderer heavily implied that similar events are still occurring to this day.  The lives characters in the play may not be so different from the lives of other refugees that have come to live in Canada. This dramatized piece of personal history from playwright Hannah Moscovitch was both entertaining and thought provoking.


Scattered in between the scenes of the play were songs that were almost always sung by The Wanderer.  Rather than add to the plot of the story, the songs served as a way to emphasize the important points from the previous scene.  Rather than sharing more of the story, the songs shared wisdom. And not only was it “old world” wisdom from the Romanian Jews that the play was about, but there were nuggets of modern wisdom as well (more often than not, this wisdom fit into both categories). An example that stands out for me is “consent”; there were multiple times throughout the play where The Wanderer emphasized the importance of consent in any sexual relationship.  What’s really fantastic is that the songs and the scenes worked well together as one whole play, but the scenes themselves could have easily been a play on its own, just as the songs could have also been a stand alone performance.  It was a thoughtfully crafted piece.

Well, it’s clear that I really don’t have anything negative to say about this play.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was the perfect amount of time, and it was beautifully put together by a skilled team. I think it’s been a couple of seasons since I have been this impressed by a play.  It was entertaining, artful, and thought provoking. And I loved every minute of it.

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