Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

We All Fall Down
The New Jewish Theatre
Review by Richard T. Green

Bridgette Bassa, Alan Knoll, and Mindy Shaw
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
If there's a definition of "Jewish theatre," it may come down to a balance between tradition and change on stage. Exhibit A: Fiddler on the Roof. And (a personal) Exhibit B: Feast of Tsuris, about 46 years ago at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, a light comedy I acted in that followed the same general formula. Now, at the very same JCC, 46 years later, the tradition continues, in Lila Rose Kaplan's comedy We All Fall Down. It's directed by The New Jewish Theatre's smart and professional artistic director, Rebeckah Scallet.

A light comedy based on family squabbling, Feast of Tsuris has not been staged very often, or at all since 1978, to my knowledge. Ms. Kaplan's We All Fall Down will be celebrated here for a strikingly fine cast, which manages to add a ring of truth to a lot of light comedy based on family squabbling. This staging will also be remembered for its heavy reliance on humorous hats and sight-gag dresses, provided by the respected costumer Michele Friedman Siler. And for a set that seems far more ambitious than the play itself, by Andrea Ball.

But there's actually a shockingly good reason to stage We All Fall Down right now, though it may be hard to sift out. The eager-to-please show's buried premise, of rediscovering one's faith, gives us a sense of relief from today's troubling world news, in spite of a landfill of easy laughs. And "boy do we need it now," as they used to say about the 1974 film, That's Entertainment, after the grueling crises of Vietnam and Watergate. The rediscovery of faith, I mean.

The current war in the Middle East has provoked at least some of my friends to worry and fear for their identity, and for the fate of the Jewish homeland itself. In We All Fall Down, Linda (the mother, played by the commanding Mindy Shaw) has a sudden urge to reclaim her own spiritual side during Passover, for reasons that will remain baffling until the very end of the play. But if you can just set aside your drama critic impatience for about 100 minutes, it may still be a perfect show for grown-up Jewish families who are questioning their role in the world today.

When we finally ascertain the point of all the groan-worthy costumes and the very nearly amusing Passover ceremony, we can stop rolling our eyes at the steady barrage of sitcom moments–as when Linda dons a costume from her daughter's childhood production of Fiddler to stage a Passover remembrance, a seder. Her family is every bit as uneasy as I was, after Linda's lifetime of agnosticism, or even atheism. Even so, in a roundabout way, the theme of a very awkward spiritual reclamation is the one structural thing that may make this show memorable.

It's perfectly fine from a performance standpoint: Alan Knoll is terrific as Saul, the father, who's suddenly retired (for reasons that are also hard to fathom). Their two daughters (played by the accomplished young actresses Bridgette Bassa and Hailey Medrano) are intermittently life-like, as is their aunt, played by Jenni Ryan, though they're all bound by the constraints of this style of comedy. Somebody please give Bridgette Bassa a really good role–she's earned it lately.

On top of all that, actress Bethany Barr makes everyone else look sketchy. She's great as the hapless, good-hearted neighbor who has moved away but come back up on the train to Long Island for this solemn holiday event. Her character has the most developed, sustained vulnerability on stage–and in theatre, vulnerability is often the greatest strength. (In that sense, theatre and religion are once again unlikely twins.) In the end, I suppose everyone on stage gets at least a very brief dose of that same humbling magic.

In spite of the show's waka-waka tone, Taijha Silas is disarmingly fresh and clear as Ester, Linda's assistant who tries to arrange a TV appearance in conjunction with the publication of Linda's new book, "Raising Difficult Children." And Ms. Silas gets a beautiful singing solo halfway through.

But We All Fall Down is a grueling test for them all, to make it into something memorable. In more ways than one.

We All Fall Down runs through June 16, 2024, at The New Jewish Theatre, Wool Center, #2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis MO For tickets and more information, please visit

Saul: Alan Knoll*
Linda: Mindy Shaw
Sammi: Bridgette Bassa
Ariel: Hailey Medrano
Ester: Taijha Silas
Nan: Jenni Ryan
Bev: Bethany Barr

Production Staff
Director: Rebekah Scallet
Scenic Designer: Andrea Ball
Costume Designer: Michele Friedman Siler
Lighting Designer: Michael Sullivan
Sound Designer: Ellie Schwetye
Stage Manager: Patrick Siler
Assistant Stage Manager: Nathan Wright
Assistant Costume Designer/Wardrobe: Abby Pastorello
Props Supervisor: Cecile "Cece" Entz
Wig Designer: Dennis Milam Bensie
Paint Charge: Cameron Tesson
Master Electrician: Tony Anselmo
Board Operator: Amy Ruprecht

Additional Credits:
Artistic Director: Rebekah Scallet
Technical Director: Laura Skroska
Production Manager: Sean Seifert
Assistant Technical Director: Patrice Nelms
Box Office Coordinator: Hannah Ryan
House Manager: Laura Newman

* Denotes Member, Actors' Equity Association