Would a fictional Jewish divorce ritual called "Undo" cut down on the divorce rate in America?
Playwright Holly Arsenault illustrates how the ritual works in her two-act production of "Undo," running now through March 1 for Parade Productions at the Studio at Mizner Park in Boca Raton.
Arsenault uses both humor, sadness and tension in creating a dramatic play with comic overtones. The premise of the play has Rachel Mendelssohn Pfeiffer (as played by Gladys Ramirez) and Joe Pfeiffer (Ben Sandomir) partake in a Jewish divorce ritual called "undo" in the presence of a rabbi in which every moment of their wedding ceremony is replayed, but in reverse.
To bear witness, all the extended family and guests invited to the wedding ceremony must watch the couple renounce their vows, return the wedding gifts, retrieve the bouquet, have the bride and groom take back their "I do" proclamations to "I undo." Even the broken glass ritual is reversed in scenes in which a young boy holds a solid ring.
Although not Jewish, Arsenault is married to a Jewish man and wanted to use the Jewish marriage ceremony as the premise for her play.
"The Jewish ceremony seems so well thought out and the potential to have a step by step divorce ceremony seems to provoke more humor and pathos through the Jewish ritual and the many members of the Jewish family," said Arsenault.
The Jewish family included many zany characters, such as the pushy mother of the bride, (Margot Moreland), the father of the groom who became a widower (Michael Gioa) and the aunt of the bride who is in love with the father of the groom (Candace Caplin).
The family and audience bears witness to much cruelty and deception as emotions run deep to both the divorcing couple as the ritual moves forward. Much shame is recalled by both spouses as the story unfolds issues of adultery, abortion, betrayal, lying that unfold like episodes of a television soap opera series.
"Holly (Arsenault) wrote about an imaginary ritual, but the emotions and thoughts of the ritual were real and I was proud to both act and produce the play," said Caplin, who is Jewish and also the executive director of Parade Productions.
Both the superb acting of the cast and the many two actor scenes that heightened the guilt and shame of the spouses, left audiences thinking about whether an imaginary Jewish divorce ritual, as Arsenault created, could work to lower the divorce rate.
"I am not a lawyer, but I think such a ritual would help lower the number of divorces," said Amy Botwinick of Boca Raton, author of "Congratulations On Your Divorce" and co-author of "Divorce Party: The Musical."
"I think any ritual that will allow any couple planning to divorce to reconsider would be powerful. Although I did not see the play, I know that a couple having to share the consequences of a divorce by recreating their wedding may make many couples reconsider having a divorce," said family attorney Mara Bernstein of Boca Raton.
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