BWW Review: Jewish Family Theatre's Encore Presentation of BAD JEWS is Viciously Good Fun
Those who missed TheatreLAB's critically acclaimed 2016 production of Joshua Harmon's BAD JEWS can catch a special encore presentation at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center through May 14. Directed by Debra Clinton, the re-conceived, limited engagement recasts the roles of Melody and Daphna in this dark and relevant comedy.
Harmon's sharp and penetrating script pits cousins and siblings against one another after the death of their beloved Papi. Daphna, whose real name is Diana, believes she is worthy of Papi's chai because of her deep devotion to her family's faith. She was at the funeral for her Holocaust-surviving grandfather. Her cousin Liam, the eldest, has turned away from the faith and wants it for the symbolism it carries. His brother Jonah wants no part in the impassioned family fracas. Melody, Liam's good-natured girlfriend, would just like everyone to make peace.
Debra Clinton aims for the jugular in this laugh-out-loud, 90-minute sprint that gives JFT audiences a front-row seat to a bitter and cutting family dispute. Her artistic team makes great use of the theatre's space. Kevin Johnson's studio apartment set is true-to-life and functional. Michael Jarrett's lighting design is effective.
As Daphna, Rebecca Turner leads the ensemble with a tenacious energy that never lets up. She is vile, offering up round after round of longwinded insults and attacks, a product of her own insecurities. Evan Nasteff is captivating as the equally stubborn Liam, who, while at once shows restraint, quickly reaches his breaking point. Ethan Malamud is endearing as the passive Jonah. Christie Jackson is authentic and amiable as Liam's girlfriend Melody, and offers a hilarious, tone-deaf rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime" to well-deserved applause.
BAD JEWS is intended for adult audiences and runs through May 14 at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center.