by Jennifer Maisel
THE LAST SEDER is the bittersweet story of the Price family as four grown daughters return to their childhood home for a final holiday before the house is sold and dementia forces their father into a nursing home. It is a big, sprawling family play: 11 actors, locales ranging from Penn Station to a Long Island beach to multiple rooms in the family house with many simultaneous, intercut scenes.
When I began the Off-Broadway production, it had already been done regionally in large spaces that easily accommodated the script’s demands. Our space was much smaller and more intimate. I knew right away that the delicate emotional life of the play could not survive huge scene changes or interruptions of script’s very distinct rhythms. Set designer Gabe Evansohn and I quickly decided that we had to find a radically abstract, theatrical approach to shaping the space.
The thematic heart of the play is the loss of the family house. Our set was a large section of roof, seemingly sinking into the ground, surrounded by shelves and shelves of moving boxes. The multiple locales were a master-class in theatrical economy: a step-ladder became the kitchen, boxes transformed into furniture of all kinds, bedrooms were made by standing actors covering themselves with sheets – in bed as if the audience were looking down from above.
The play ends with a Seder, ushering in a moment of magic that is a reprieve from the family’s grief. That magic began with the set, as the roof itself unexpectedly transformed to become the Seder table. The whole family sat along the ridge-line of the roof, perched on top of their house like people huddling together seeking safety after a flood.
Cast: Ryan Barry, Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Gaby Hoffmann, Kathryn Kates, Natalie Kuhn, Andy Lucien, John Michalski, Eric Miller, Greg Mulavey, Abigail Rose Solomon and Sarah Winkler
Designers: Gabriel Hainer Evansohn, Sydney Gallas, Graham Kindred, Sam Kusnetz
“The Last Seder is a powerful and haimish play that is sad yet uplifting, and true to contemporary times.” – The Arty Semite.
“This gentle, comic drama by Jennifer Maisel about a family coming together during a difficult time features simmering tensions that can occur at any time of year… much to the credit of the director, Jessica Bauman, The Last Seder runs smoothly.” – The New York Times.