Theater Wit’s “Bad Jews” Review – A Good Play

What is a “bad Jew”?  Curious, my husband and I went to Theater Wit at 1229 W. Belmont Ave to find out. Joshua Harmon's play BadJews received its world premiere at Roundabout Underground, the first production there to transfer to the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre (Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Award nominations, Best Play). BadJews opened in London at the St. James Theatre in January 2015 following an acclaimed run at Theatre Royal Bath.

Melody (Erica Bittner) Daphna (Laura Lapidus) Liam (Ian Paul Custer), Josh (Corey Kahane

Taking our seats, we were immediately impressed with the set where every detail was consistent with a New York apartment.  And then the characters filled the set.  Cousins, Daphna Feygenbaum (Laura Lapidus) and her younger cousin Josh (Cory Kahane) reveal that their grandfather has died and they are back from the funeral and sharing the apartment waiting for Shiva to begin the next day.  Daphna is disdainful of Josh’s older brother, Liam (Paul Custer) who somehow could not make it to the funeral.

 

Daphna asks Josh to help her persuade Liam to allow her to have their grandfather’s Chai necklace because she is the most religious of the group.  Liam, who arrives soon with his very non-Jewish girl friend, Melody (Erica Bittner) is that non-observant (bad?) Jew.

 

Daphna Laura Lapidus), Liam (Ian Paul Custer) and Melody )Erica Bittner)singing

This cast was perfect for their parts and the acting was top notch. “Bad Jews” was hysterically funny but not very happy.  The writing is incisive reflecting the conflicts of family, the pain of loss (the grandfather), the confusion of how to hold a family’s tradition and how to fit into the larger world are played out powerfully and convincingly.  Loss is painful, the loss of a grandfather, the loss of a people.  At some level, it is the struggle that Tevye conveys in “Fiddler on the Roof”.

 

There are many issues that are explored in the strong interactions between the cousins.  Each of them in their own way wants to hold on to a part of what they related to in their grandfather.  As a family comes together for a funeral and the roles of family members shift, emotions run high and difficult questions are raised.  Thinking about the elements of this play I realized that I recently saw a play with similar elements, a funeral, a family gathering from many places, a girl that didn’t really belong but in this case, it was a vehicle for lots of singing. It was Sounds So Sweet

“Bad Jews” is good theater.  See it.

 

Brothers, Josh (Corey Cahane) and Liam (IanPaul Custer)

The BadJews design team includes Adam Veness (set), Kristof Janezic (lights), Janice Pytel (costumes), Cassy Schillo (props) and Michael Stanfill (lighting). Sarah Luse is stage manager.

 

BadJews:  Dates, Times and Ticket Prices

 

Tickets to BadJews are on sale now. Previews are April 24-May 3: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Previews are $12-$18. Press opening is Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m. Regular performances run through June 7: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. No shows Thursday, May 7 or 14. Regular run tickets are $20-$36.

Theater Wit is located at 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District. For tickets and information, visit TheaterWit.org or call 773.975.8150.

  

Liam (Paul Custer), Daphna (Laura Lapidus), Melody (Erica Bittner)

More about Joshua Harmon: He wrote the book for Radio City Music Hall's upcoming original show, the "New York Spring Spectacular." His work has been produced and developed by Manhattan Theatre Club, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Hangar Theatre, Ars Nova, and Actor's Express, where he was the 2010-2011 National New Play Network Playwright-in-Residence. He has received fellowships from MacDowell, Atlantic Center for the Arts, SPACE at Ryder Farm, and the Eudora Welty Foundation.  Harmon is currently in the Playwrights Program at Juilliard and is under commission from Roundabout Theatre Company and Lincoln Center Theater.

  

About Theater Wit:Founded in 2004, Theater Wit's mission is to explore contemporary issues with wit and wisdom through new works and Chicago premieres. As a production company, Theater Wit is Chicago's premier smart art theater, producing humorous, challenging and intelligent plays that speak with a vibrant and contemporary theatrical voice.  As an institution, Wit seeks to be the hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene.

In its three spaces, Theater Wit brings together Chicago's best storefront companies. Here audiences find a smorgasbord of excellent productions, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.

In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

 

We were delighted to find a terrific restaurant on Belmont just across the street from the theater:  Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market website –good food and pleasant service.

 

Photos: Charles Osgood

 

NOTE:

Originally scheduled to close June 7, Bad Jews will now run through June 21 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at
8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

(Note: Wednesday evening and Saturday matinee performances have been added to the original performance schedule.) 

 

Tickets are $30-$36 and are on sale now. Bad Jews runs approximately 100 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and information, visit TheaterWit.org or call 773.975.8150.

 

Immediately after, Theater Wit's Bad Jews will transfer to the 318-seat space at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Ill. Performances are June 26-July 19: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (Exceptions: No 2 p.m. show Saturday, June 27. No shows Saturday, July 4 or Friday, July 10.) Press opening is Friday, June 26 at 8 p.m.

 

Tickets are $20-$58, and go on sale Thursday, May 28 at 10 a.m. For tickets and information, visit NorthShoreCenter.org, or call the North Shore Center box office, 847.673.6300. 

 

 

 

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