Set in an apartment in uptown New York, ‘Bad Jews’ tells the story of three cousins who come together after their grandfather’s funeral. What initially seems like a strained family reunion soon descends into chaos as underlying tensions bubble to the surface, causing arguments and confrontations. Despite its serious subject matter, this is a surprisingly funny play, with controversially memorable lines such as ‘Don’t holocaust me!’ and other moments of comedy are scattered throughout the script, adding a pleasingly humorous element to the play, which treads a very fine line between dark humour and downright malevolence.
The play’s discussion of religion and the role it plays in society today was highly relevant, posing questions about the importance of staying faithful to age-old traditions, and the motivations behind such actions. The juxtaposition of fanatic devotion at the expense of others' happiness with a more non-committal attitude to religion opened up discussion about the devastating consequences of religious zeal. Joshua Harmon’s play forces us to acknowledge the fact that obsession with faith does not neccesarily equate with moral rectitude.
The acting was very strong all-round; the cast of four had brilliant energy, bouncing off each other with snappy dialogue. Alona Bach was highly convincing as the manipulative and bossy Daphna, owning the space every time she set off on a preachy, rambling rant. There was also a great dynamic between Liam (Joe Sefton) and Jonah (Henry Phillips), united in adversity against their rather intolerable cousin. Liam’s girlfriend Melody, an unintelligent but well-meaning failed opera singer was played very well by Megan Gilbert. At one point, at Daphna’s request, Meoldy sings to the rest of the cast, but unfortunately Gilbert’s musical talent shone through a little too brightly what was meant to be a very poor performance.
Excellent direction from Elinor Lipman enabled a visually engaging performance, with a well-coordinated fight scene. The actors moved purposefully about the stage, taking both sides of the audience into account (something which is not always fully accomplished in Corpus shows). Equally, lighting was used very effectively, taking advantage of the Playroom’s quirks in order to create additional performance space. A small part of the performance took place in the aisle, signifying the exterior of the apartment; this allowed the audience a more personal connection with brothers Jonah and Liam when they try to come up with a solution for dealing with their obnoxious cousin. All in all, 'Bad Jews' is definitely a show you do not want to miss this week.