What would you do if you had the chance to be with your true love, 25 years after you’d lost them and thought you would never see them again? Would you leave everything for what you once had, or keep the life you have today? This is the question a new play called Therefore Choose Life is tackling. It’s about a man who survives the Holocaust, believing his first wife perished in a concentration camp. He ends up remarrying, has a child, and on the eve of his 25th wedding anniversary, his first wife resurfaces. He has the incredible (and heartbreaking) choice to either leave his wife of 25 years (and his kid) for the possibility of a relationship with a woman he knew for only a year, or stay in his new life.
The tale is based on a true story, and here’s some context: Therefore Choose Life was written by the mother-son writing team of author Kathy Kacer and her son Jake Epstein (an actor you may know from Degrassi: The Next Generation). Kathy’s the child of Holocaust survivors herself, and she’s spent her adult life transforming stories about life during World War II into writing suitable for a young adult audience. Some of those stories, like the one that’s the backbone of Therefore Choose Life, come from survivors that seek Kathy out to tell her their tales of escape and endurance. She’s effervescent, and it’s hard to imagine how she negotiated those stories as a kid, let alone figure out how to tell them to the next generation without horrifying them. It turns out her positivity is sort of a natural or innate characteristic:
The refrain of hope that runs through Kathy’s narratives (and her personality) isn’t the only positive element of this play. Writing it with her son Jake was not only a symbolic way of giving him the role of storyteller, it was also a way to act out the writing process. Kathy took on the role of writing the parent, Jake the second-generation kid. And Kathy says this was natural – Jake’s always felt connected to the subject matter:
And ultimately, this is a story that’s accessible to everybody – young or old, whether we know about it from a first-person perspective or we just watch the news, we can imagine the kind of overwhelmingly emotional terrain that comes with war. And Therefore Choose Life has a powerful message for generations to come:
You can see Therefore Choose Life at Toronto Centre for the Arts from April 18th ‘til May 10th. Go to hgjewishtheatre.com for more information.