Chaim's Love Song | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Chaim's Love Song 

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Chaim's Love Song, Attic Playhouse. A precurtain broadcast of Michael Feinstein crooning sentimental standards establishes a fitting tone for Marvin Chernoff's bitterschmaltz comedy, set in a quiet park in Brooklyn. Retired mailman Chaim Shotsky befriends a lonely young woman unwillingly transplanted from Iowa. The exchanges are light at first, with Shotsky introducing Kelly to the pigeons he's named after movie stars. Later he reveals family conflicts and the tragedies endured by his ancestors, who faced persecution in Russia and during the Holocaust.

Despite the contrived setup--Kelly exists almost solely as a sounding board--the cast delivers some honest, affecting dynamics: Shotsky's mix of pride in and frustration at his children, for example, and his wife's agonizing reopening to love after surviving loss. The best moments come from the strong supporting cast, including Claudia Garrison as Mrs. Shotsky, Peter Goldsmith as Shotsky's unemployed but optimistic actor son, and Sari Rubin as a one-woman klatch of eccentric characters.

The two leads, however, never stray far from the surface. Ron Turner, about ten years too young for Shotsky, delivers a convincing enough put-upon Jewish father but misses the character's loneliness and vulnerability while Emily Churchill's performance as Kelly consists mainly of mugging and shrill harping. That shortcoming combined with Chernoff's abrupt emotional shifts--one minute the two are philosophizing about pigeon poop and the next Shotsky is screaming, "God damn you, God!"--produces interactions that feel more like audience manipulation than human conversation.

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