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The Face in the Reeds Theatre Review – Passover Dramedy with a difference

By Ester Benjamin Shifren

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Ruskin Group Theatre's NEW COMEDY extends through Nov 22nd

From the Producers who brought you the SIDEWAYS THE PLAY by Rex Pickett, comes another extended run of a world premiere play.



Robin Uriel Russin’s play, The Face in the Reeds, centers on a dysfunctional family’s Passover Seder. The gathering turns into an almost-war-zone of conflicts, twists and turns, as faith, conversion, religious belief, and parental responsibility are examined and dissected.

Matriarch Christina (Stacey Moseley), a convert to Judaism, is married to a successful Obstetrician, Barry (Chip Bolcik), whom she married after both their previous marriages ended.  She is determined to make the Seder memorable and perfect, and painstakingly prepares and cleans around the authentic-looking living and dining room setting. The table is laid with all the necessary accoutrements that make the Seder a special event memorializing the Jewish journey from slavery to freedom.



Barry has invited a young doctor, Patrick (Tom Berklund), who he hopes will join his practice, to the Seder. Patrick, a Catholic, has never attended a Passover Seder. They are both sympathetic, caring men.

Sol (Paul Zegler), Barry’s father, is battling prostate cancer, and often leaves and re-enters the dining room with his walker after retreating to smoke the medicine he terms “The smoke of the Gods.” He is brash, uncouth, and outspoken, and has a sinister personal reason for wanting Patrick’s presence at the Seder.



To add to the craziness and surprising confessions of the evening, Rachel (Julia Arian), Barry’s daughter from his first marriage, arrives dressed as a hippie lumberjack. She is verging on coming out as a lesbian. Wonderful in her role, Rachel is confrontational, and insists they use her “Sisterhood” version of the Haggadah, which they do, up to a point, to keep the peace. The truth is, she is so insecure and unsure of herself that she lashes out at everyone. Some interesting twists and turns transpire—I don’t want to give the plot away, so you’ll have to see the play for yourself.



Not least of all the players is Barry and Christina’s young son Mose (Aidan Blain), who convincingly portrays an obnoxious Barmitzvah age teenager who spies on his sister, both online and in person, and is not above blackmailing her with a photograph he has found on Facebook. He relentlessly pushes his mother’s buttons and milks his Grandfather for money when asked to do anything.

While Passover is a celebration of freedom, it is also a quarrel about the meaning of freedom, the value of life, and the shadow of death, which symbolically “passes over” the house. This night is different from all other nights and of course, this being a Jewish family, it is also a comedy. We're all going to die--but first, you should eat.

All actors are convincing in their roles, and the production team has done a superb job with the lighting and stage sets. Kudos to the Writer, Director, and Producer, for a good show that's worth seeing.

I asked John Ruskin, founder of Ruskin Group Theatre and School of Acting whether the School of Acting evolved into what he had envisioned when he founded it, to which he replied:

“Way beyond. The Ruskin School was founded in 1986, with my hope that I could pass on the teachings of Sanford Meisner because his work had changed my life. It is, I believe, the single most important work for any actor…or really any human being. It’s became my life’s work to pass it on and I take the tradition and the responsibility of having been one of the few chosen by him to teach very seriously.  Almost thirty years later I feel very blessed to be doing the work I love both in the school and theatre. The quality and passion of the actors/students and our teachers has been beyond my dreams…”

PRODUCTION TEAM: Amy Ramirez (Set Designer), Mike Reilly (Lighting design/Production Manager), Katelin Phillips (Costume Design), Michael Myers (Producer/Managing Director/Santa Monica Arts Commission Chair), Robert Cannon (Producer).


Tom Berklund (Patrick)

Ari Blinder (Patrick/Alternate)

Chip Bolcik (Barry

Stacey Moseley (Christina)

Angela Stern (Christina/Alternate)

Julia Arian (Rachel)

Aidan Blain (Mose),

Paul Zegler (Sol)

WHAT: The Face In The Reeds

Written by: Robin Uriel Russin

Directed by:  Sarah Figoten

Produced by: John Ruskin, Michael Myersand Robert Cannon

Photos by: Ed Krieger

WHERE: Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Ample free parking) 

HOW: For Reservations call (310) 397-3244 or at Ruskin Group Theatre Co.

WHEN: Opening August 22, 2014

Running: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2pm

Closing performance: October 11, 2014

HOW MUCH: $25 (Students, Guild Members & Seniors $20.00

Published on Sep 09, 2014

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