A Night Like Any Other: A Pesach Play

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March 31, 2010

The lights come up on the living room of a Queens apartment. It’s the first night of Passover, and Ingrid and Alexander have finished hosting a seder. The guests have all left, but Alexander has neglected to recount the story of how the Israelites were freed from bondage in Egypt. Now, after four cups of wine, his three-year-old son, Lazar, asks him “why they ran away into the desert.”

Alexander: What?

Ingrid [holding their four-month-old, Django, in her lap]: Tell him the story of how they left Egypt.

Alexander: Oh, right. [Clears throat. Drinks more wine.] Once upon a time, the Jews lived in Egypt.

Lazar: Where is Egypt?

Alexander: Far, far away.

Lazar: Farther than Chicago? [Where his grandparents live.]

Alexander [chuckling]: Yes, much farther.

Lazar: Farther than Barbados? [Where Alexander had promised to take the family on vacation, but couldn’t swing the airfare.]

Alexander: Yes, farther than – what kind of a question is that?!

Ingrid: Just tell the story.

Alexander: Right. So anyhow, they were slaves to an evil king named Pharoah.

Lazar: What are slaves?

Alexander [growing animated]: They worked for free. Building pyramids! Big buildings! For nothing! Some things never change. That no-good publisher, Fagien, he still hasn’t paid me what he owes me for that last column…

Ingrid: Focus…

Alexander: Sorry. Right. So this guy called Moses, he goes to the evil king and he says, “Let these Jews go!” And the evil king says, “No way! This working for free thing is a sweet deal!” So Moses says, “I’m gonna give you one more chance. Let my people go!” And the evil king says, “Nugatory! Nobody leaves till the pyramids are finished!” So Moses says, “Okay, but you’ll be sorry. The Lord God Jehovah, he’s gonna whack you with a bunch of plagues!”

Lazar: What are plagues?

Alexander: Bad stuff! Real bad! Blood and lice and boils and cattle disease…

Lazar: What’s boils?

Alexander: Giant pimples you get on your ass – you know, like the ones mommy and daddy get when they don’t clean the toilet seat real good…

Ingrid: Moving on…

Alexander: Right. Sorry. Plagues. Blood, lice, boils, cattle disease, the plague of the firstborn… [Gives Lazar an appraising look.] You know, you’re the firstborn.

[Lazar watches Alexander uneasily from across the table.]

Alexander [moving unsteadily towards Lazar]: And the plague of the firstborn is… tickling!

[Alexander lunges at Lazar; tickles him. Lazar squirms, hits head on the edge of table. Spills horseradish. Bleeds. Cries.]

Lazar: Mama!

Ingrid [hissing, to Alexander]: Nice going! [To Lazar] Sweetie!

Alexander [stumbling back to his chair]: So the Jews, they pack up so fast, they don’t even have time to go to make sandwiches for the trip. All they got time for is to grab whatever’s in the kitchen – some crackers, some parsley – and they take off into the desert, heading for the promised land. And boy, were they screwed! 40 years they spent in the desert…

Lazar: Why did they?

Alexander: Nobody would ask for directions. Anyhow, when they finally got to the promised land, they found out, oops, guess what! God had already sort of promised it to some other people, too. Thanks a lot, Jehovah! [Slams fist onto table. Knocks over wine glass.]

Ingrid [to Lazar]: Okay, sweetie, time for your bath.

Alexander: What, no singing?

Ingrid: It’s getting late.

Alexander: How about a quickie? The one about the goat – I always loved that one.

Ingrid: Maybe tomorrow night.

[Alexander starts singing Chad Gadya off key. Turns to Lazar.]

Alexander: It’s about a goat, see? A cat eats it. Then a dog bites the cat. And a stick beats the dog!

[Lazar is now hiding behind Ingrid.]

Ingrid: You’re scaring him!

Alexander: Jesus, how about a little holiday spirit? Fine! I’ll sing it myself.

[Alone now at the table, Alexander sings to himself, taking swigs directly from a bottle of Manischewitz. Fade to black.]

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