Monday, January 23, 2023

"In Every Generation" ★ ★

It's the Passover from Hell. Grandpa is in a wheelchair, Grandma and Mom would rather be anywhere else, Dad (who is a rabbi) has apparently run off with the President of the Sisterhood and the two daughters can't stop arguing.

Ali Viterbi's "In Every Generation" seems to intend to convey that Passovers are times for personal angst. As Grandma (Luisa Sermol) says, "Arguing is Jewish." Jews will be familiar with the nods to Seder customs, such as counting out the ten plagues and a child singing the Four Questions, but non-Jews will probably be scratching their heads about why everybody is in such a tsimmis before dinner.

Act One sets the scene and the beginning set piece of Act Two delivers a wonderful dialogue between Grandma and Grandpa from fifty years earlier, when they were recent immigrants struggling with assimilation, language and difficult memories. These are terrific performances from Sermol and Michael Champlin. We feel for them, we understand them, we can look back to Act One and come to understand the bittersweet passage of time. 

But then comes the incomprehensible last set piece, a flashback to Moses and his family in the desert, arguing, of course, about whether or not someone born in Egypt can be allowed into the Promised Land, which is only for Israelites. The similarities between 1400 BC and today are clear, on a political level. We get it. We already got it. Everyone dances the hora in sandals and then the kids take off for the Promised Land. 

Are we uplifted? No. It just feels like a bad dream. 

Ratings: ★★

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants Two Stars to "In Every Generation." Perhaps this story reflects the author's experience but she needs to decide whether she is going for the joke or something deeper, if we are to make it to the Promised Land.


"In Every Generation"
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through Feb. 21, 2003
$30 and up

No comments: