Awesome triple play for Aaron Posner

For a guy who lives in New Jersey, Aaron Posner’s work is all around the Bay Area.

This month, audiences can see three of the writer/director’s works in the region. Posner’s adaptation of Chaim Potok’s “My Name is Asher Lev” runs through the weekend at the Marin Theater Co. Posner the director, meanwhile, has a sparkling staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the California Shakespeare Theater.

And this week, TheatreWorks opens another acclaimed Posner work.

Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen,” adapted for the stage by Posner and Potok, is being revived in a production directed by Aaron Davidman.

It’s a stunning triple play for Posner and, in a phone call from New Jersey, he called it a first.

“This has never happened before,” Posner says. “It’s just delightfully coincidental that it all came about this way.”

Posner said he was thrilled with his production of “Midsummer” at Cal Shakes, along with Marin’s “Asher Lev,” directed by Hal Brooks.

Still, “The Chosen” remains one of the works closest to his heart.

He spent several years working on the adaptation with Potok, who died in 2002, and says the experience was “extraordinary.”

“Chaim was wonderful to work with,” Posner says. “He was a brilliant man and a brilliant author.”

Set against the postwar turbulence of 1940s Brooklyn, N.Y.,

“The Chosen” centers on two teenagers from very different Jewish communities.

“Five blocks and a world apart,” Danny is the son of a Hasidic rabbi while Reuven is the son of a writer and scholar exploring modern methods of studying Judaism. Despite their divergent backgrounds, the boys forge an enduring friendship.

First published in 1967, Potok’s novel became an instant classic.

“Chaim was amazed to realize that his potential readership was so large,” Posner says. “Both ‘The Chosen’ and ‘Asher Lev’ are about characters who are very different from their parents and their communities, trying to reconcile who they are with where they come from.

“Those themes are deeply felt by people across all cultures, ages, races and genders.”

When they began collaborating, Posner says “The Chosen” had already been adapted as a musical — to mostly negative reviews.

He and Potok built the play on a more intimate scale.

“We kept it focused on the core conflicts of the book,” he says.

Their adaptation, which premiered in 1999, has since been performed in more than 40 professional productions.

Posner says he still considers it among his best work. “Chaim often used the word ‘worthwhile’ in his literature,” he says, “and I find sharing this kind of story a very worthwhile thing to do.”

Posner, who was co-founder of the Arden Theatre Co. and is currently artistic director of Two River Theater Co. in Red Bank, N.J., uses Potok’s “worthwhile” standard, whether he’s directing Shakespeare or adapting books for the stage (in addition to “The Chosen” and “Asher Lev,” he’s adapted works by Mark Twain and Ken Kesey).

“These are great works of literature,” Posner says. “Any way you can continue telling these stories, bringing them to new audiences in new ways, it’s a worthwhile thing to do.”

 

IF YOU GO

The Chosen

Presented by TheatreWorks

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View
When: Opens Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; 2 and/or 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and/or 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 1
Tickets: $26 to $62
Contact: (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org

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