Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company
By Joshua Harmon
Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw
October 24 – November 29, 2014
Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts
October 24th – November 29th, 2014
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Review by Kate Lew Idlebrook
(Boston) Bad Jews asks a question that is fundamental to so many young “Jew-ish” Jews. Are we bad Jews? Are we letting our faith, our traditions, our race die out? Now, in a time when it has arguably never been safer or easier to be Jewish, are we sitting by and letting our very culture die?
The story centers around three college-age Jews who have come home for their beloved grandfather’s funeral. Each of them honors his memory in their own way. Daphna (Alison McCartan) wields her faith and her grief like a sword, daring everyone to doubt her. Liam (Victor Shopov) wears his grief like a talisman, with reverence, while Jonah (Alex Marz) turns inward, curling protectively around it. They spend the long evening after the funeral cramped together in a too-small apartment reeling with loss. And late at night, they let their tempers fly, as one can only do with family. Daphna and Liam war with each other, desperate to prove that they loved their grandfather the most, understood him best, and that they alone deserve his most treasured possession.
Writer Josh Harmon’s dialogue is honest, and at times, brutal. Under the direction of Rebecca Bradshaw, the characters are authentic, if not likable, so much so that you find yourself cringing, or wanting to tap them on the shoulder to beg them to stop talking before it becomes too late. McCartan taps what feels like a never-ending wealth of energy to capture Daphna’s overeager, over-honest passion and a religious fervor that crosses the line into annoying. Marz also uses great physicality to telegraph Jonah’s nervous energy. While all the actors performed valiantly, some of the actors have more to work with than others. Melody (Gillian Mariner Gordon) borders on a caricature of a pretty-but-no-too-bright token blond. Her biggest addition to the play is that she is a vehicle for Liam’s redemption.
All in all, Bad Jews is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and intimate look into what it means to be a good, or for that matter, bad young Jew.