One of the most profound challenges inherent in the acting profession is one that might not be immediately noticeable. Steven Skybell faced it in the early days of rehearsal for The Chosen, the play adapted by Aaron Posner from the novel by Chaim Potok. “This play is about very deep, complex personal relationships,” Skybell said.
The challenge is creating those relationships with people they might have just met. “You show up on such and such a day and you say ‘hello, you are my son and have been for 16 years,’” Skybell said.
The key is to take enough time in rehearsal to explore the idiosyncrasies between people, moving past the surface appearances towards a more profound and truthful engagement with the material. Skybell, playing David Malter, is working closely and carefully with director Gordon Edelstein and performer Max Wolkowitz, playing his son Reuven, to do precisely that.
For example, David Malter is a visionary thinker and an activist who advocates for the creation of a Jewish state, Skybell said. In many ways, Malter could be seen as the perfect father, always ready with the right lesson, always supportive of his son Reuven. However, even that level of support could be hard for a kid growing up and trying to find his own way. “There is no perfect way to be raised. Every parent-child relationship is going to have its own possible flaws,” Skybell said.
Such is the complexity of The Chosen, one that the actors – who now know each other extremely well – have fully engaged. “One of the beautiful challenges about this script is that it is so subtle and nuanced,” Skybell said. “It is wonderful for an actor to embody a life that is so simply and delicately put forward on the stage … my sense is that the message (of the play) is timely and timeless.”
Above: Steven Skybell and Max Wolkowitz in THE CHOSEN. Photo: T. Charles Erickson