Each person I brought to see “The Chosen” followed a different thread to the heart of the play: traditions tested by modern ideas; divisions not between but within faiths; tough love. But in a play so full of words and ideas, it was the silence that ended up speaking to me in the loudest voice. The lack of communication between Danny and his father may be the primary focus, but I found a bread-crumb trail of silence winding through the entire story and my juicy questions all explore it:
1. How do you sit with silence? Do you embrace it or avoid it? What comforts you in your silence?
2. Is there anyone close to you with whom you don’t share many words?
3. What silence have you borne in your life? What lighted your way through that silence?
In “The Chosen,” silence is alternately viewed as a terrible, lonely prison or a blank canvas full of possibility. In solitude, I often embrace silence, letting my thoughts fill the space with colors, allowing memories and dreams to comfort me. In the company of others, it takes more effort to welcome silence to the table. There’s that nagging voice telling us that that empty place ought to be filled. Sometimes, though, silence holds a subtle beauty. My wife’s family, for example, tends to be much quieter than my own. It took time to discover the nature of their silence and to find my place in it. Within that silence is a deep love not easily expressed through the spoken word.
Even after I came out to the rest of my family, I held the truth back from my grandmother, a very conservative person who had made clear her disapproval of gays and lesbians. I worried about upsetting our complicated and delicate relationship, both for my sake and, as her health worsened, for hers. And so, I remained silent. Lighting my way was the love of my family and the confidence I had in myself. My grandmother’s beliefs were largely relics of a bygone era, while the bright future shone on my path. Even so, I came to regret my silence, later made permanent by my grandmother’s passing.
The season began in silence with “Small Mouth Sounds,” and now the powerful theme once more graces the Long Wharf stage. The retreat attendees in “Small Mouth Sounds” chose silence for a few, finite days. “The Chosen,” true to its name, shows us what happens when silence chooses you. Despite this important difference, both plays show silence to be a crucible in which our mettle is tested and transformed. Silence can be the making of us, but the converse is also true: the choices we make in silence resonate in all parts of our lives, like expanding ripples in water.
I find myself changed after watching this play. It is a story that won’t easily leave me. For a long time to come, I think I will find my silent, blank canvas painted with the rich, complex colors of “The Chosen.”
Leah Andelsmith is a writer living in New Haven. She loves the arts and finding magic in the everyday. This is her first season as a community ambassador for Long Wharf Theatre. You can find her on Facebook: facebook.com/leahandelsmith and on her website: leahandelsmith.wixsite.com/website.