Ray Sinclair was attending his first Passover Seder, and he was outraged. Why was the saying of grace not part of the event, and why — when he began the short prayer — did everyone not join in?
Sinclair, who wore a bow tie with his seersucker suit and spoke with a thick Southern drawl, was not a real Passover guest, but one of several people played by members of the student improv group Quipfire! during an improvised — and very funny — Seder, one of eight offerings of the ceremonial meal at the Center for Jewish Life last month.
“The only thing that can even begin to match the insanity of your own family’s Seder is the insanity of a made-up family’s,” said Amy Solomon ’14, Quipfire!’s artistic director.
More than 30 students squeezed in at the table, and many assumed the roles of characters from two very different families brought together at Passover by an engaged couple. On one side of the table were the Kleins, a Reform Jewish family. On the other side were the Sinclairs, a Christian family from Georgia.
The characters, who ranged from hilariously stupid to completely outrageous, used their personality quirks to give color to the ritual narrative of the Seder, which tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Nathan Klein, for instance, was a Philadelphia defense attorney obsessed with Israel who developed an inexplicably strong accent after a short trip to the country.
The Sinclairs, unfamiliar with Jewish customs, were determined to bring their own ways to the Seder. But as they comically struggled to pronounce Hebrew prayers (“there’s only one English word in here: Ben-David!”), the lines between the two sides blurred, and suddenly there was only one big family around the table. The two families may not have been united by the rituals of the Seder, but they found common ground over something else: laughter.