Sukkot Review – A Path to Healing

Jonathan Slavin and Andy Robinson in SUKKOT - Photo by Jackson Davis
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The 6th Act is thrilled to announce its first full production since theaters were shuttered in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Penned by Matthew Leavitt and directed by Joel Zwick, The 6th Act presents the 2024 world premiere of SUKKOT at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles. To quote co-artistic directors Matthew Leavitt (who wrote the script) and Liza Seneca (who also performs in the piece): “…even though we are in the business of storytelling, it doesn’t feel overly dramatic to say the world has completely changed since then (2020). All of us experienced loss in its many forms, and we wondered if and when we would ever return to the theater…we are not the same as we were three years ago; we have been through a collectively traumatic event, but here we are and that is worth celebrating. So we rejoice.”

Andy Robinson – Photo by Jackson Davis

The time is in the fall, and the place is the Sullivan yard in Bolinas, California. Patrick (Andy Robinson), the patriarch of his family, remains in deep mourning since the death of his wife.  His is a “mixed” family; Patrick is Irish Catholic; and his wife was Jewish. The first anniversary of his wife’s death is fast approaching; and a traditional Jewish “unveiling” ceremony is scheduled in days. As it turns out, on the same date is a little-known Jewish holiday called Sukkot. But the two are very different in nature. While the unveiling is by its very nature a sad moment in time, Sukkot is a joyous time based on Jewish tradition in which God offered the beleaguered Jews wandering the desert a time to rejoice despite all obstacles to their happiness.

Andy Robinson and Natalie Lander – Photo by Jackson Davis

When his wife’s rabbi points out the juxtaposition of the two events, Patrick immediately sees a way to bring his estranged family together. His unemployed and rudderless son Asher (Jonathan Slavin) and his daughters, serious and hard-working gynecologist and mother of two Mairead (Liza Seneca) and flibbertigibbet Eden (Natalie Lander) are definitely not on board with Patrick’s plan – even though he has built a topless tent in his backyard to celebrate Sukkot. In it are a special spot for his wife’s memorabilia and furniture to allow for sleeping, eating, and – most importantly – sharing. Is it any surprise that his kids are sure that pop has gone off his rocker in his grief. Will this plan serve any purpose? This well-written play has some surprises in store for the audience.

Liza Seneca – Photo by Jackson Davis

Kudos to the Sullivan family performers, who offer a superb mix of humor and pathos to the story – all carefully and compassionately helmed by director Zwick. The dramedy offers each cast member a strong and poignant role to play in this family tale. Kudos are also in order for the production team, including Mark Mendelson’s scenic design, Douglas Gabrielle’s lighting, Christopher Moscatiello’s sound, and Michelle Hanzelova-Bierbauer’s graphics. All elements in the production come together to form a nuanced and gripping story of a family in crisis. This is a must-see production for anyone who grew up in a family – and that probably includes all of us.

Natalie Lander – Photo by Jackson Davis

SUKKOT runs through February 4, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Skylight Theatre is located 1816 ½ N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, go online.

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