Handle with Care

You won’t believe the secret that brought these strangers to the same motel room.

By Andrew Andrews

Anat Cogan (Ayelet), Jordan Kaplan (Josh) and Justin Pietropaolo (Terrence) star in Jason Odel Williams and Charlotte Cohn’s Handle with Care, directed by Brendan Burke at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville. Original photos by Jeff Knapp.

Josh has just been called to a budget motel to help his friend Terrence out of a sticky situation.

Terry had been tasked with delivering an Israeli woman named Ayelet and the body of her deceased grandmother to Dulles Airport when something went wrong: somebody stole his delivery van with the body inside, and Ayelet doesn’t know enough English to understand the problem.

Terry called Josh because Josh’s mother is Jewish. And it’s Christmas eve, so nobody else answered the phone.

Josh, whose beloved wife Rachel was killed in a car accident eighteen months ago, only learned about two weeks worth of Hebrew when he was a child, making him only slightly more useful than the incompetent Terrence.

But what if the lost body wasn’t really an accident? What if the stars aligned to make it happen, to bring Josh and Ayelet together?

Told partly in flashback to the previous evening, when Ayelet’s living grandmother Edna was on an international mission to locate her long lost love in rural Goodview, Virginia, Handle with Care is a romantic comedy in English and Hebrew closing out Shadowland Stages’ season in Ellenville.

Edna (Lori Wilner) and Ayelet watch the falling snow through the motel window.

Handle with Care delivers everything you’d expect from a Rom-Com: a funny play about a love story with a happy ending and just enough tension to keep things moving.

In the perfect replica of a long-dated, budget motel room (did designers Brendan Burke and Peter Johnson actually borrow the furnishings from a nearby motor lodge?), the well-selected cast of four equity actors draw us into a story that is somehow perfectly-shallow and surprisingly-deep at the same time—like a motel swimming pool with a sharp drop-off and no guide rope separating its ends.

Although at times the characters seem to understand each other a little better than it seems they should, the script is well-written and conveys a subtle message about loyalties: to culture, to convictions, and to people alive and dearly-departed.

Aside from the impolite chatter and smartphone-related faux pas from the audience of mostly senior citizens (whom I’m sure were raised better), the worst I can say about this production is that I could hear the boxes being shaken when the snowflakes started falling—and that’s hardly a reason to pass on this otherwise delightful experience!

With the final performances next weekend reportedly selling out fast, I recommend that you waste no time securing your tickets to this unconventional holiday tale while you can.


Andrew Andrews attended Handle with Care at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville on Saturday, December 11, 2021 @ 2:00pm to write this review.