By Madison McAllister
How many languages does love speak?
Just in time for the holidays, FST’s Mainstage Series brings you Handle With Care. Called “The perfect non-Christmas ‘Christmas’ show,” by The Los Angeles Daily News, this New York Times Critics’ Pick tells the story of love lost and love found under the strangest of circumstances on Christmas Eve.
The romantic comedy follows Ayelet, a young woman from Israel, who reluctantly joins her grandmother on a trip to the United States. A cataclysmic set of circumstances – both tragic and comical – leaves Hebrew-speaking Ayelet stranded with inept English-speaking delivery driver Terrence, her only hope of tracking down an important missing package on Christmas Eve. Not knowing any Hebrew himself, Terrence calls on the only Jewish man he knows – his childhood friend Josh – to serve as an interpreter.
Far from fluent, Josh shows up, armed with a vocabulary of Hebrew phrases from his Bar Mitzvah days. Throughout the play, Ayelet, Josh, and Terrence struggle to communicate, often with humorous results.
“Handle With Care surprised me when I first read it,” said Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “I was struck by the simplicity of connection between two people who spend an entire play together and form a bond even though they do not speak the same language. It is a testament to intuition and feeling as guides to the deepest of human connection.”
Director Jason Cannon is looking forward to bringing a little wintry holiday magic to Florida.
“I especially appreciate how the playwright has woven Jewish ideas and traditions together with Christmas-y themes,” said Cannon. “And even though the story is sweet, it is grounded in the awareness that life contains tragedy, and that tragedy can either define us… or propel us.”
Called “Utterly charming” and “A tiny bit magical” by the Naples Daily News, this heartwarming story isn’t your average rom-com. For starters, playwright Jason Odell Williams got his inspiration for the play from his real-life marriage with Charlotte Cohn (who also wrote the Hebrew for the script.)
When Williams asked his wife what kind of play she would like to act in, she shared that she was interested in a story where there was a communication gap.
“She’s Israeli and speaks fluent Hebrew, so I thought I’d start with that,” said Williams. “I thought [her character] should be lost or stuck somewhere where no one or very few people could understand her.”
With that premise in mind, husband and wife team Williams and Cohn created Handle With Care. Cohn even went on to play Ayelet, herself, in multiple productions, including its Off-Broadway run at the Westside Theatre.
Playwright Jason Odell Williams hopes that when people see the show, they will reflect on their own families and stories of falling in love.
“I want them to talk about whether or not they believe in fate, destiny, or soul mates…or if it’s all just a bunch of random chaos,” said Williams in an interview. He is looking forward to audiences leaving the play smiling and feeling a renewed faith in humanity.
Doesn’t that sound like a pretty great gift this holiday season?
Handle with Care plays in FST’s Keating Theatre starting December 11, and is part of a four-show subscription package. Also included in the Mainstage subscription package is the enchanting Broadway musical Bright Star, the gripping new play American Son, and The Legend of Georgia McBride, a musical comedy written by the Obie Award-winning playwright Matthew Lopez.