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Message on BAD JEWS

Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, the 2013-14 season's first production at the Laura Pels Theatre begins previews September 19.

You may already know about Bad Jews, since this play had a big impact at our Black Box Theatre one year ago. We selected Josh's play, under the direction of the wonderful Daniel Aukin, to be produced as part of theRoundabout Underground program, which gives productions to emerging playwrights. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response that this play received. Our 62-seat theatre was being rocked to its foundations every night as the audience went absolutely wild for Josh's work. When closing night rolled around, it just didn't feel right to be saying goodbye to this one.

So, it's time for a first: a direct transfer from the Underground to the Pels, as those Bad Jewsmove one story up and add a few hundred seats. I'm thrilled to be bringing this production back, particularly because the complete original cast and design team are with us once again. There is something truly special in the chemistry that Tracee Chimo, Philip Ettinger, Molly Ranson, and Michael Zegen developed on stage, and I think they are as happy to be back as we are to have them with us.

As with any show that gets such a strong response, I always find myself examining exactly what made it come together so beautifully. I'm willing to bet that the title alone was enough to intrigue many people. Would it be serious? Funny? Divisive? To me, the play is difficult to pin down, but that's part of its charm. Somehow, Josh has found a way to be both reverent and irreverent on the subject of religion. At the same time, he creates characters who will feel like part of your own family but express their feelings far more vividly (and hilariously) than most. I suppose that calling the play a comedy is closest to the truth, but that characterization shouldn't make you think that this writer isn't getting down to serious business. What could be more serious than being stuck in a studio apartment...with your family?

That's what truly captivates me so much about this piece - those familiar family dynamics that Josh has captured in all their uncomfortable glory. In many ways, family and tradition bring us together, especially as children, but what happens when the kids grow up and form beliefs of their own? Bad Jews looks at that very specific moment in time when a generation of cousins realizes that it's up to them to decide how their culture will be perceived. Depending on their behavior, Judaism can be a collection of perfunctory traditions or a legacy of faith and survival. And the stakes are even higher when you're the grandchildren of a man who lived through the Holocaust. For these characters, choosing to eat a cookie during Passover carries more than the average amount of Jewish guilt - it carries the symbolic weight of their feelings about the life of Judaism throughout the world.

In this play, all sides are allowed to have their say. And I think you'll be surprised to find your own loyalties shifting throughout the evening. A character who behaves repugnantly can be both awful and absolutely right at the same time. The gentlest of souls may bring out the strongest emotions. And even the most assured can have their faith shaken. It's a play that lives on ever-shifting ground, which is exactly what makes it so exciting to watch.

I'm thrilled to be bringing this play to a wider audience this season, and I hope that you will share your thoughts on Bad Jews with me after seeing the show. Please email me and let me know what you think about this provocative play.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!


Todd Haimes
Artistic Director

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