A Passover Seder dinner provides the premise for a free-swinging discussion of politics and religion, including the Middle East, in Lisa Loomer’s often funny but frustratingly stereotype-laden attempt at reconciling some of humankind’s most divisive issues. Like the Last Supper, 13 disparate souls — in this case a diverse sampling of Los Angeles residents — gather to share views on freedom, oppression, slavery, and plagues. The ethnic smorgasbord serves up zingers for every palate.
In addition to the observant Jewish hosts, Myriam (Mimi Lieber) and Jack (Lenny Wolpe), the assembled melting pot includes an African American, a born-again Christian, a Buddhist, a Japanese American, an adopted Chinese American child, the Mexican help and a man of Lebanese descent. All the usual ethnic stereotypes, gender biases, religious prejudices and political reflexes get exercised but not exorcised, and therein lies the problem. We’ve heard all these arguments before; without new material, the discussion founders, despite Loomer’s larger intensions.
The bickering is a run up to the big question, which Loomer defines as Israel versus Palestine — as a political problem that began in 1948 between states, instead of a religious war that began nearly 1400 years earlier.
In the absence of an informed historical view, the arguments about the present slaughter paint an unbalanced picture, as if current circumstances had no antecedents including a long line of atrocities, claims of spiritual superiority on all sides and the unending cycle of violence between three religions.
After the play’s climactic blow up, ignited by unseen photos of mutilated children presented by one of the dinner guests, the gathering disperses, concluding with interplay between the principals. One decision drives a wedge between mother and daughter, while Loomer’s attempt at a reconciling denouement between Myriam and a dinner guest leaves the big questions hanging and the story without a catharsis.
The inter-religious aspect of this dinner table discussion never evolves past cliche, despite excellent production values, direction (Wendy C. Goldberg), and performances — particularly from Lieber, who must hold down the fort with some unnecessarily weak arguments.