Families, after an integral member of the family has recently passed away, it will continually cause a giant level of upset and quarrels; especially when an important possession of theirs, maybe the root of brutal slaughter within the same family. The St James Theatre’s production of Joshua Harmon’s play, ‘Bad Jews’, explains how Jewish upbringings may vary in different people, correspondingly, the performances were exceedingly funny.
‘Bad Jews’ is set in a New York studio apartment where cousins, Jonah and Daphna are grieving after their grandfather’s funeral. Jonah is a quiet and conservative young man and cousin. Daphna who is a strict believer, with her Jewish values, expresses that she’s the only one who cares about being a Jew. She desires that their grandfather’s chai should be hers, as she is going to be moving to Israel and it will help be a comforting reminder of her grandfather. Moreover, Daphna is livid with Jonah’s older brother Liam’s absence at their grandfather’s funeral, and when he finally arrives in the evening with his girlfriend, Melody (Gina Bramhill), a ditzy blond, the conflicts commence immediately between Liam and Daphna. From the outset, we see that the two of them do not like one another, and as soon as the chai is mentioned in a conversation, it seems that Liam wants it too, but for dissimilar reason as Liam is going to use it to propose to Melody. Daphna revels in humiliating Melody, and once she acquires knowledge of Melody’s operatic past, she manipulates her into singing in front of Liam, Jonah and herself and it looks like that her vocal abilities are, somewhat limited. It reminds me of those horrendous auditions from ‘The X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ as such, it amuses Jonah and Daphna profusely. However, when Liam reveals that he is in possession of the chai, Daphna is furious by her aunt’s betrayal, and a vicious battle arises with hair pulling, devilish biting, which leads to Daphna triumphing. Harmon’s narrative is sublime as the visceral comedy presents how, adults cannot seem to act that mature when it comes to thinking, who was their grandfather’s favourite grandchild. Additionally, he never loses the upsetting situation of the grandfather’s death when Jonah reveals a tattoo of the number of their grandfather’s identity in the Holocaust.
One found the performances by the company of ‘Bad Jews’ to be truly witty and thought-provoking within Harmon’s amazing dialogue. Jenna Augen is humorous as the slightly attention seeking Daphna; especially when she violently, and scarily harms Liam’s girlfriend Melody in the fight for her grandfather’s beloved chai. Joe Coen is excellent as the quiet Jonah; explicitly when he endeavours to calm the awkward situation between Liam and Daphna, which does not exactly prove too successful as, they bicker with each other constantly. Ilan Goodman is rib-tickling as the self-absorbed Liam; specifically when he pompously claims to Melody, that his grandfather’s chai was always destined to be his, but this is not the case as there is no proof to his claims.
Michael Longhurst’s direction is impressive here, as he has stylistically conveyed how families with identical religious backgrounds have opposing views, as Daphna is passionate about it, but Liam is disgusted by it. This enables you to think about whether religion is necessary in today’s culture. Richard Kent’s design is marvellous, as the attention to detail in immersing the audience into a New York apartment, and in a family fraught with tension, in which it work remarkably with opulent effect and the accuracy is wonderful. Overall, I found the experience of ‘Bad Jews’ to be vastly enjoyable and I recommend it fully when it transfers to the Arts Theatre in March.