This Week in Theater
Review by Rose Desena
There is nothing like a holiday meal to bring a family together, writer Robin Uriel Russin plops us down at a Passover dinner that turns out to be nothing less than a group therapy session, fueled by good wine, salty herbs, and dry matzos.
Barry (Chip Bolcik) is a nice Jewish doctor who married a Goyim. His wife Christina (Stacey Moseley) has been diligent in her studies, and she finally has succeeded in converting to Judaism. Tonight is her first official Seder as a full-fledged convert. She prepares everything carefully in an attempt to deliver the perfect holiday meal. Barry, proud of his family and his wife, brings home another Doctor. He’s a nice Irish guy named Patrick (Tom Berklund). It’s a great story line with unlimited possibilities. Put a dysfunctional tribe together at the same table and I don’t care what nationality or religion you are, its bound to be amusing.
Christina’s rebel daughter Rachel (Julia Arian) comes home to share the event and to everyone’s surprise has rewritten the Seder book. Pretty darn creative of her if you ask me. However, Mom is not too happy with this new version, and it’s the start of one heck of a Seder. Furthermore, the book is not the only topic that came up during this festive evening. Grandpa, Paul Zegler, brings up some simple subjects like murder and marijuana. Then we have the family favorites…tattoos, neglect, being happy, and last but not least a planned announcement “Mom Dad I am Gay!” The play moves along with a lot of comedic lines and some that are quite touching. I liked the concept, and Russin does a good job of making the message of Passover become part of the story. But that being said the script had some issues. One was the length; it was way too long and full of unnecessary repetitive lines that could have easily been edited out. I got that Grandpa was cantankerous, but he was over the top. There was just too much talk about going out to get high. The senseless bickering between Rachel and there young son Mose was annoying and could have been limited. Racheal was very abusive; it made me question why the family would put up with that. Hard to believe that there guest Patrick couldn’t find the right moment to walk away.
As the cast takes turns revealing their little secrets, and I must admit there are a few doozies, I said, “Self this is one screwed-up bunch” but in reality, nothing new or unexpected. There was just too much going on and by the time the story arched to the predictable climax I was more than ready for it to end. Other than Arian and Bolcik the acting wasn’t very memorable. I would have liked to see more emotion from Moseley. Her Monologue toward the end should have brought a tear but that wasn’t the case, for me anyway.
I did like the spiritual side of the story; Mose (Aidan Blain) goes through the prayers in Hebrew, which I am sure made every Jewish mother in the audience glow with memories and thoughts of their own son. I enjoyed the historical side of the script and the story telling about the holiday itself.
The Ruskin always has good production quality with decent directing. Amy Ramirez nicely designed the stage set. As I mentioned, there were parts of the play that were very funny and entertaining. The script has real potential, and I would like to the play again after some good editing. I appreciate that this is a world Premiere and I commend there artistic team for taking chances on new works.
I want to mention that most of the audience seemed to enjoy the production. The west-side location makes it easy to visit, so if you’re in the area you might want to give it a shot. Please let me know what you think, comments are always welcome.
The Face in the Reeds
By: Robin Uriel Russin
Director: Sarah Figoten Wilson
Runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through October 11, 2014. Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com. Free parking is available at the theater. https://www.facebook.com/groups/171460689597145/