Pros: A cast full of chemistry and talent bring hilarity and drama in this fantastic portrayal of and American Jewish family.
Cons: The character of Daphna is maybe more of a headache than she’s worth.
Every family has their ups and downs, but Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon takes it to a whole different level. After their grandfather dies, three cousins are reunited following his funeral – although it is clear that all three would much rather be anywhere other than the studio apartment in New York City that they’re all now sharing. When a treasured piece of jewellery belonging to their grandfather is brought up, chaos ensues and people butt heads (very nearly literally) as they fight amongst themselves for possession of the gold necklace.
Daphna (Jenna Augen) is a strong Jewish woman who preaches against inter-racial marriage and is all set to move to Israel following her graduation, has planned to marry her Israeli boyfriend and join the army. She is staying with her cousin Jonah in the studio apartment his parent’s bought for him while she attends their grandfather’s funeral. Jonah (Joe Coen) is a typical teenager, sitting around in his boxers playing Xbox while his cousin constantly complains about the third cousin, Jonah’s older brother Liam (Ilan Goodman) who missed his grandfather’s funeral as he was on a skiing holiday with his non-Jewish girlfriend Melody (Gina Bramhill). The tension soars as soon as the couple arrive, and it’s clear that there is no love lost between Daphna and Liam, the self-proclaimed ‘Bad Jew’, who start arguing the minute he steps foot into the apartment. It is not long however before she turns her attention and criticism upon blonde-hair, blue-eyed Melody who is so innocent and unassuming that she unwittingly reveals information that Daphna uses as cannon-fodder against Liam – including that they met on Match.com, which Daphna finds hilarious. When Daphna brings up the fact that she believes she has more right to her grandfather’s religious piece of jewellery than anyone else, Liam reveals that he has it and intends to use it as a substitute for ring when he proposes to Melody. Daphna is horrified at the thought of someone non-Jewish having her grandfather’s prized possession and so she, quite literally, decides to fight for it.
All four cast members have fantastic chemistry – you truly believe that Daphna and Liam hate each other thanks to intense outbursts from Goodman and Augen, with Goodman earning a well-deserved round of applause following his mid-show rant. Coen’s Jonah has such a mild personality that he is sometimes lost under his cousin’s constant fighting, but his revelation and emotional breakdown at the play’s end emphasise how we all deal with grief differently. Michael Longhurt’s direction means that the production is fast-paced and the 100 minutes easily fly by. Although the plot often mentions Jewish culture and history, the main theme is family and thus the production resonates with everyone.
Author: Joshua Harmon
Director: Daniel Aukin
Running Until: 28 February 2015
Box Office: 0844 264 2140.
Booking Link: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/book-tickets/?event=22629