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The Last Seder 

Thursday, Jun 26 2008
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Structured around the Passover ritual, Jennifer Maisel’s satisfying family drama smoothly transcends its ethnic trappings. Marvin (Joseph Ruskin) suffers from rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s; caring for him has become too much for his loving wife, Lily (Jenny O’Hara), who plans to sell their house and use the proceeds to pay for a nursing facility. The idea distresses their four daughters, who have arrived home for one last, contentious holiday gathering — each packing emotional baggage and each in varying stages of denial about the deterioration of their cherished father. Already-simmering passions become more inflamed when it comes to light that Lily has found much-needed solace with the widower next door (Nick Ullett). Alzheimer’s is a worthy dramatic theme, albeit thoroughly mined in recent years. Maisel, however, skillfully maneuvers the drama beyond the tolls of the illness; in her conflicted characters, she also illuminates the contemporary woman’s struggle for love and identity. (Tossing in a couple of gentile lovers — and one gay marriage — also keeps the material updated.) Unfortunately, the piece becomes protractedly schmaltzy toward the end, but no matter: Director Joseph Megel pilots a strong ensemble, with notable performances that include O’Hara’s pivotal shoot-from-the-hip matriarch and Elisa Donovan as her confrontational daughter, whose plea for support to a stranger at a subway station aptly launches the play. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: June 20. Continues through July 27, 2008

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