- (Photo by Stan Barouh)
New York teenagers Danny and Reuven's platonic meet-cute could have ended badly: The former hits a baseball into the latter's eye, and when Danny visits Reuven in the hospital to apologize, an unusual friendship is born. It's only unusual in one aspect, actually – the fact that Danny (Joshua Morgan) is a payot-sporting Hasidic Jew, while Reuven's (Derek Thompson) Judaism is loose enough for Danny to call him an apikorsim, or heretic. But the tests of time that their friendship endures are universal, and that's the beauty of Theater J's production of Chaim Potok's novel, set during World War II: Danny and Reuven's story could belong to any friends of any faith who have struggled with their beliefs, especially as they pertain to their familial obligations. Danny is being groomed to take over his father's congregation, while Reuven's faith wavers between extremes, and is influenced by his father's Zionism. Morgan plays Danny with intensity and frustrated determination, and the pressure that his father (Rick Focheaux) puts on him is palpable. Focheaux, too, is a stern shepherd of the two boys, conveying through Reb Saunders that lessons about life and God are sometimes best learned by what's left unsaid.