Hitting the stage in NYC

On a sunny day in late March, Christian Barry (BA’01) and Hannah Moscovitch take a break in a cozy Brooklyn cafe called Sit & Wonder.

The pair, who are married, haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit and wonder lately. Their play, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story—written by Barry, Moscovitch and klezmer musician Ben Caplan, and directed by Barry—is just over a week into an off-Broadway engagement at the midtown 59E59 theatre, with The New York Times naming it a critic’s pick, and The New Yorker calling it “darkly funny and moving.” And a Toronto company has just opened a new production of the 2016 play, What a Young Wife Ought to Know, written by Moscovitch and directed by Barry.

Barry, who studied acting at Dalhousie, is artistic co-director of Halifax-based 2b theatre company. The company’s previous experience in New York was limited to two brief showcase runs. Old Stock is different. “New York City is New York City. It’s the big leagues of English-speaking theatre, and it’s exciting. It does definitely put 2b on the world stage,” he says.

Christian Barry (BA’01) is artistic co-director of Halifax-based 2b theatre company (Jamie Kronick photo)

Barry describes Old Stock as “a music-theatre hybrid between a Ben Caplan concert and a 2b theatre company play that tells the true story of two Romanian Jewish refugees [Moscovitch’s great-grandparents] coming to Canada in 1908.” It premiered in Halifax in May 2017, then played Ottawa and Edinburgh before coming to New York. “The show seeks to expose what we feel to be the universal experiences of refugees: people fleeing a war-torn country, looking for a safe place to call home, fall in love, and raise a family,” says Barry. “But it feels like everywhere we go, there are subtle differences in the reaction to the piece—probably more related to the context where we’re presenting it than the show itself.”

He says reaction in Ottawa was “deeply emotional” while “in Edinburgh it was more like a party, with people having a few pints while they were watching it.” In New York, “responses feel a little more charged. By and large it has been positive, but we have had the odd person stomp out.” The audience had a bit more of a Canadian flavour on April 7, when the theatre hosted Nova Scotia in New York night, with a kitchen party following the play. The Dalhousie Alumni Association was there too, with a couple of dozen ex-pat grads attending.

Barry is thrilled with the New York response to the play, not only for his company, but because it may open doors for more Canadian productions. “I think 59E59 are quite seriously looking at a Canadian festival. That’s a direct result of the success of this show. They’ve gone, oh, there’s high-quality theatre right there, really close to us.”

Editor’s note: Article author Philip Moscovitch is no relation to Hannah