Review: Bad Jews
Josh Harmon’s Bad Jews is like forcing the whole Lord of the Rings into a tiny suffocating room.
Gathering together with the family can be awkward quite often, but mourning brings the worst out from everyone.
The author, the characters and the core of the play are Jewish, but it doesn’t mean that any other family couldn’t recognise itself in this dark comedy. There is always a relative who knows everything better. Who feels they’re a better son, daughter, sibling, grandchild than you. Who deserves better the beloved family relic.
In the play three cousins have to spend an unwanted night together in a room after the funeral of their grandpa. Daphna (Alona Bach) is deeply religious and plans to move to Israel to marry her semi-fictional boyfriend who presently serves in the army. Although being an extremity, she is not only a stereotypical cliché. Her antipathic character is multilayered and well-written. She is full of insecurity and personal traumas; however, this doesn’t make her any more acceptable. Truth be told, she is the person with whom you don’t want to share even a lift longer than ten seconds. She is aggressive, offensive, judging and scornful. Alona Bach is striking in this difficult and barely desirable part. She hardly takes a breath between her sputtered lines, but she is never aimlessly hysteric.
Her enemy that night is the stubborn Liam (Joe Sefton) who wants to leave all the overloaded family baggage behind, and marry the shy and less complicated Melody. They arrive late directly from Aspen, where they were intended to spend a pleasant holiday. For some weird reasons, Liam thought that it could be a romantic idea to propose Melody with the jewellery which survived the holocaust in the grandpa’s mouth. Fortunately, the grandpa’s sudden death interrupted his morbid plans.
Daphna wants that necklace so desperately, that it almost results in blood. The grotesque war starts in the room between the two Gollums, and the audience secretly searches the way for slipping out, feeling uncomfortable witnessing this private family affair in which nobody cares about hurting the other. Joe Sefton and Alona Bach are perfectly balanced in this bizarre duel on stage. Megan Gilbert is also entertaining in the part of the seemingly foolish Melody. I’d never wish to anybody such a proposal she finally had.
Henry Phillips as Jonah reflects the embarrassment of the audience, as he just wants to be left out from the whole conflict, and successfully pretends to be a houseplant most of the time. Until it turns out that not always the loudest ones have the deepest feelings.
It’s still a comedy, but from the darkest type. It’s so dark that sometimes you find it better to squirmingly hold your laugh back. The Bad Jews may seem offensive, but under the surface nobody is who you thought them to be at first sight.