Bad Jews Review - So Who's Judging?

Written by Joshua Harmon and directed by Sabrina Lloyd, BAD JEWS is a darkly biting play which the New York Times dubbed “the best comedy of the season.” Awarded a three-year fellowship at Julliard and other subsequent foundation fellowships, playwright Harmon displays his skills in a very witty and clever piece of theater. BAD JEWS explores what happens when two cousins - one a self-proclaimed devout Jew and the other a far less observant Jew - bump heads with hysterical consequences.

Sigi Gradwohl and Hilary Carwen - Photo by Caity Ware

Poppy, the patriarch of the family and a Holocaust survivor, has just died. The family assembles for the funeral – but they can’t reach his grandson Liam Haber (Jordan Wall), who is on a romantic ski holiday with his girlfriend, Melody (Hilary Curwen) and doesn’t know that his grandfather has taken his last breath until after the funeral. Meanwhile, harridan cousin Daphna Feygenbaum (Sigi Gradwohl) vents about her not-Jewish-enough relatives “who only say they’re Jewish when they want to bash all things Jewish.” Liam’s brother Jonah (Tyler Alverson) desperately tries to tune out the world (and especially Daphna) while the two await Liam’s arrival.

Hilary Curwen, Sigi Gradwohl, Jordan Wall, and Tyler Alverson - Photo by Caity Ware

Cousin Daphna isn’t ready to forgive Liam for missing the funeral. Besides, she has her eye on a tiny gold charm, the Hebrew symbol for “life,” which granddad always wore around his neck – and even hid under his tongue while in the camps. Daphna fancies herself the only real Jew in the family and feels that the charm of life is obviously her due. When she attempts to gain support from Jonah, he vainly tries to avoid getting involved. Hard to do, with the four of them staying together in Jonah’s tiny studio apartment – now wall-to-wall people.

Jordan Wall, Hilary Carwen, Tyler Alverson, and Sigi Gradwohl - Photo by Caity Ware

The catch? Poppy gave the gold pendant to Liam, who is planning on gifting it to his future bride, Melody, when he proposes. Cousin Daphna is outraged that “a little Bambi thing” who isn’t even Jewish will become the new owner; and fur will surely fly. Who ends up with the fateful charm? You’ll have to see the play to find out.

 

In and around this complex plot which explores religion, family ties, spite, and love, author Joshua Harmon has woven a very funny tale of a proverbial lose-lose battle between warring family members. The cast obviously has a wonderful time breathing life into these four characters. Director Sabrina Lloyd offers a light touch to a potentially heavy topic. Scenic designer Chad Phillips creates the perfect constricted studio apartment, complete with an inflatable bed. Ashley McCormick’s lighting and Peter Berube’s fight choreography add to the merry goings-on. BAD JEWS proves again that dysfunctional families can be fun. Perhaps the only shortcoming of the play is the title, which seems to promise something elusive that just isn’t there (despite Daphna’s diatribes).

 

BAD JEWS runs through July 24, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Theatre of NOTE is located at 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd (just North of Sunset) in Hollywood, CA. Tickets are $20. For information and reservations, call 310-502-0086 or go online at the Theatre of NOTE

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