Playwright David Rosenberg’s drama “Wicked Son”, which had its world premiere on January 12 and is running through January 29 at Zoetic Stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, centers on the tensions of a Jewish family over the war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists.

Given the current clashes between the Hamas and Israel that began in early October, the play is drawing large audiences, although the story is set over two years between Passover Seders in 2022 and 2023.

There is no hint of a family clash yet in act one set in the Seder of 2022 at the home of Mark and Fay Silver (played by actors Michael McKeever and Jeni Hacker) in Rye, New York and attended by Fay’s sister Cindy (Margery Lowe), her husband Leo (Wayne LeGette), and their sons from previous marriages, Cindy’s son Ben (Jeff Brackett) and Leo’s son Jake (Ben Katz) along with Jake’s non Jewish girlfriend Amelia (Gracie Blu).

The entire family embraced each other and created an atmosphere of warmth, particularly with the good humor ribbing between Ben and Jake, who regard each other as brothers from the same family, despite not being biological brothers. 

Ben has returned from a trip to Israel courtesy of the Birthright organization and surprises his family with his introduction to Amelia, who is welcomed to the Seder by the Silvers. The family expresses all the Jewish rituals in the Seder as the audience is treated to a reenactment of a Seder, complete with a turntable table for the audience to see and hear the participants, courtesy of scenic designer B.J. Duncan.

From left to right, actors Wayne LeGette, Margery Lowe, Ben Katz, Gracie Blu, Jeff Brackett, Michael McKeever and Jeni Hacker in “Wicked Child”, running now through January 29 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

The first hint of the tension that will follow comes when Ben proudly announces that he is joining the Israel Defense Forces in the combat division, leaving behind his lucrative job as an attorney in a prestigious New York City law firm. The family is shocked at first, but then is overjoyed that Ben made a mature decision to follow his heart to help Israel in combat. Act one ends with Jake and Amelia having a rift concerning distinct viewpoints about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Amelia sides with the Palestinians, feeling Israel is being aggressive against the Palestinians whereas Jake feels that Israel is defending its Homeland against terrorists that can’t be reasoned with.

Act two begins one year later at the Passover Seder at the Silvers. Ben, Cindy, Jake and Leo are at the Seder, but Amelia is not with Jake anymore and none of the family members ask about Amelia at the Seder.

Ben has returned home from combat in Israel and is welcomed by his family with all embracing Ben. From this point, the play becomes tense as Jake openly ponders whether the war in Israel is about Israel’s right to self-defense or if other factors are in play.

Following much verbal interaction among family members to reach a better understanding and compromise, the tension is highlighted with both physical and verbal battles among family members. Ben and Jake openly denounce each other by having a fistfight as their feelings regarding Israel and Palestinians boil over.

The family is forced to take sides regarding Ben and Jake. Leo counsels both his son and stepson to make amends as he loves both boys as biological sons. Fay is also adamant, stressing the history behind the struggle for Israel to survive and the many ways that Jews have to cope with increasing anti-Semitism.

Playwright Rosenberg takes his title “Wicked Child” in reference to the fourth child in the Passover Seder rituals that questions the importance of the holiday as a reference to how differences within family members often may not be resolved.

Actors Jeff Brackett (Ben) and Ben Katz (Jake) confront each other in “Wicked Child”, running now through January 29 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

The drama succeeds in building up tensions with gripping dialogue between the characters. Jeni Hacker, known primarily locally for her work in light comedies, stands out and shines in her persuasiveness and deep emotions in expressing her position on the importance of Israel to defend itself.  Brackett and Katz created many facets of their relationships which added to the tension in the play.

All the characters are believable as a Jewish family due to the skills of the actors and director Stuart Meltzer in creating a balance between drama and warmth to a surprise ending.

Playwright David Rosenberg’s “Wicked Child” is a two act drama, running now through January 29 at Zoetic Stage in the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. Tickets range from $55-60 and can be purchased at arshtcenter.org or by calling 305-949-6722.

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