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St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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How to watch and understand NJT’s performance of ‘We All Fall Down’

Welcome to a new frontier in entertainment storytelling. In a world inundated with reviews and critiques, do you ever find yourself overwhelmed?

Musical theater, specifically, always made me feel this way until I learned to give myself more information about the show, the story and the music beforehand. I found that this made watching a play, a musical, or even some movies, more enjoyable.

Here’s the twist: I’m not here to simply rate performances, dissect plotlines, or reveal spoilers. Instead, we’re diving deep into the art of watching itself. Think of it as a guidebook to unlocking the full potential of your viewing experience.

“We All Fall Down”

The New Jewish Theatre is preparing to open the second show of its 26th season. “We All Fall Down” opens May 30 and runs through June 16.

Why “We All Fall Down” was chosen to be performed?

Rebekah Scallet, artistic director for the New Jewish Theatre, discovered the play during its first production on stage in Boston in 2020. She was intrigued by the show’s premise of a family who had never observed Passover gathering for a seder for the first time.

“I read it and loved it. It resonated so much with me and was so hilarious. Though the details of the family at the center of the play are different from my own, I recognized each character as a person from my life,” said Scallet. “And I’ve certainly had many memorable and vaguely disastrous family holidays, much like the one in the play. The more disastrous, the better the childhood memory.”

Plot summary

“We All Fall Down” follows the Stein family as they come together for their first-ever Passover seder, orchestrated by Linda, the matriarch. Linda, a brilliant psychologist with a penchant for drama, attempts to infuse the seder with theatrical elements, but her efforts veer from riotous to heart-wrenching as the night unfolds. The play delves into the complexities of family dynamics, cultural identity and the search for connection amidst personal and generational differences.

Basic character analysis

The following is based solely on my pre-show prep work to familiarize myself with the basics of each character.

  • Linda Stein: She became a committed Marxist in college and has lived a secular life. However, she recently feels a desire to reconnect with the Jewish traditions of her past, hoping this will help keep her family unit intact.
  • Saul Stein: Saul is an American historian who wrote a book on the American Revolution. After marrying Linda, he has largely abandoned the Jewish traditions of his upbringing, of which he has fond memories.
  • Ariel Stein: Ariel is a yoga instructor. She doesn’t know what to make of her mother, Linda, hosting a Seder but figures it’s a good place to share some big news.
  • Sammi Stein: Sammi, the daughter who moved away. She is an educator committed to progressive values. She appears willing to engage with her family’s traditions. She also has big news to share.
  • Nan Stein: Saul’s sister, and a college friend of Linda’s. She is civil rights attorney with a strong sense of justice and activism. She appears conflicted within her professional and personal beliefs and is confused about Linda’s change in behavior.
  • Bev: A former neighbor who brings a cheerful and supportive presence to the seder. She is concerned about Linda.
  • Ester: Linda’s grad student, Ester, is not Jewish but knows more about the seder than many at the table. Her presence adds an outsider’s perspective to the family gathering, potentially offering insights into the significance of the ritual beyond cultural boundaries.

Themes to watch for

The play deals with the importance of ritual and tradition, as well as what we take with us and leave behind from our childhoods—both in terms of the values and ideals instilled in us, and the character traits we inherit, whether we want them or not.

“It’s also about the wonderfully complicated relationships between parents and children and how those evolve over time,” said Scallet.

Symbolism to watch for

The holiday of Passover and the Seder itself play both a role in the plot of the play and serve symbolic purposes as well.

“The idea of a journey starting in mitzrayim, the narrow place, and going into a place of openness, from darkness to light, from ignorance to understanding – the play and the characters follow a similar journey,” explained Scallet.

Like the origin of the word “seder,” meaning order, the play follows its own order as it moves through the steps of getting ready for and executing a Passover seder.

Putting it all together

As we said at the beginning of this story, we are not here to reveal spoilers. When we asked Scallet if there was any significance to the play’s title, she said: “Yes, there is! But I would love for people to come see the play and put that together for themselves – it reveals itself over the course of the story.”

Enjoy the play.

We All Fall Down

When: May 30-June 16
Where: Wool Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Dr, St. Louis, 63146
Ticket Info: All tickets can be purchased online.


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About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.