3 words: Vibrant, Euphonious, Laboured

Old Stock is a musical-cabaret-storytelling platypus of a show. Its heart is singer and musician Ben Caplan, who plays The Wanderer, a frank and often foul-mouthed master of ceremonies, storyteller and vocalist. Caplin is a stunning presence, his voice weathered and deep, and his songs are full of humour and melancholy. The stand out number is an exposition on the wonders of the Jewish tradition of oral biblical exegesis, and by extension, all oral maxims everywhere; there is a nod to Brecht and Weill in “Plough the Shit;” and one cannot help but feel that somewhere, somehow, Tom Waits blessed this band. So the music rocks (though hindered perhaps by too much generosity with the vocal mic—note to the sound desk: Caplan has a great voice, making it louder does not make it greater). However, the show is billed as a Refugee Love Story, and indeed it follows the fraught relationship between two Jewish immigrants as they try and make a new life in turn-of-the-(20th)-century Canada. This unfolds as a series of entre-acts in between the musical numbers: boy meets girls, boy marries girl, boy can’t help but compare himself to girl’s dead husband while occasionally having flashbacks to the pogrom which killed his entire family… The stakes here are high, and the great shortcoming of the production is that the two characters remain merely a pastiche of two incredibly complex, scarred and brave human beings. They are not helped in this by the cramped staging inside a shipping container— it works symbolically but limits the actors.  With the story a tad predictable, and the dialogue often leaving us wondering if somewhere on the internet there is a video entitled “Jewish Inflection 101,” it is the songs that propel this journey forwards. Musically, this show is a winner. As theatre, it waxes and wanes.

– S. Turner (a wandering Jew)

AUG 20-27
16:00; 21:30 @  CanadaHub @ King’s Hall in association with Summerhall (Venue 73)

Tickets Here