Old Stock, a lively dark
cabaret about immigration
Popular singer-songwriter Ben Caplan returns to his acting roots
By Byron Toben
Last October, the Segal Centre studio space hosted a lively production, A Bintel Brief, about crowds of immigrants arriving in the USA through New York’s Ellis Island.
Now, the same venue follows two immigrants to Canada through Halifax’s Pier 27, in a lively dark comedy, Old Stock.
This production was created by the small but mighty Halifax-based company 2b theatre that has been churning out innovative pieces since its founding in 1999. It has arranged tours to five continents.
Old Stock comes here after winning accolades in New York City.
The script was the latest by Hannah Moscovitch, a National Theatre School Alumna, whose earlier play, East of Berlin, I saw and admired in Toronto some years ago. She has churned out 15 plays, including Other People’s Children, which recently played at the Centaur.
Old Stock’s title was inspired by a comment by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper favouring Canadians whose ancestors have been here for at least 100 years.
New arrivals who came in the turn of the 20th century and faced difficulties in ready acceptance have begetted descendants who have now evolved into being parts of the “old stock”. Such is the case of Ms Moscovitch herself. She is the great-granddaughter of two such immigrants, Chaim Moscovitch (played by Dani Oore) and Chaya (Mary Fay Coady). Mr Oore doubles by playing various woodwinds throughout, as does Ms Coady on the violin.
The two, fleeing persecution in Romania, meet upon landing in Nova Scotia and later encountering one another in Montreal.
This production was created by the small but mighty Halifax-based company 2b theatre that has been churning out innovative pieces since its founding in 1999… Old Stock comes here after winning accolades in New York City.
Chaim, haunted by memories of relatives slaughtered while young, hopes that his sons to be in Canada would “live to be old men”. (He himself did last it out to age 94.)
Ben Caplan, best known as a popular singer-songwriter, returns to his acting roots by portraying a sort of master of ceremonies as, say, the one in the hit musical Cabaret. That character, here called “the Wanderer” evokes the legend of the Wandering Jew, forced to migrate throughout the centuries, facing violence and restrictions, but always persisting in the face of adversity.
Backed up by Klezmer-style musicians Graham Scott on keyboard and accordion, and James Kronick on drums, Mr Caplan lets it all out in seven songs written by him and director Christian Barry. Most are loud, a folk rock motif with semi Brechtian verse, one really raunchy Plough the Shit and one tender and sweet Lullaby.
Two other songs were written by others – Traveller’s Curse by Geoff Berner, established the nature of the Wanderer and Danny Rubenstein’s The Happy People found some joy despite difficulties.
A unique set design behind opening panels (giant ledger covers?) is the work of Louisa Adamson and Mr Barry.
Old Stock continues at the Segal Centre studio until its extended end date of December 19.
More information: 514 739-7944
Images: Stoo Metz Photography