Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions

Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions

For those of us who have ever spoken with a Holocaust survivor, it is easy to understand their perilous plight endured and why any cherished possession that survived the devastation would be desired by all surviving family members. Such is the story in Joshua Harmon's BAD JEWS, an extremely well-written character study centering on four people who each represent an important element in a human being's psyche and how we use it to get our way. No one is totally right or wrong, but you will wish a better compromise could have been reached to not tear the family apart by the play's end.

Directed with crackling energy by Dana Resnick at the Odyssey Theatre, BAD JEWS opens the evening after Poppy's funeral, a beloved family patriarch who survived the Holocaust, Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions hiding his most precious gold possession under his tongue for two years. Now that he is gone, a family battle to inherit the precious keepsake is about to take place between the ever-talking, self-centered Daphna Feygenbaum (Jeanette Deutsch), and her cousins Jonah (Austin Rogers) and Liam Haber (Noah James). Their ensuing battle pits her strong will against Jonah's gentle soul and Liam's overly-educated, brash intellect, muted only by Liam's shiksa (Yiddish for a non-Jewish woman) girlfriend Melody (Lila Hood, a seemingly bubble-headed, blue-eyed blonde) whose heart is open to allowing each to have their say, Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions inadvertently setting off the ensuing firestorm for possession.

You see, Daphna has such contempt for everyone other than herself, it is no wonder her cousins have trouble being in the same room with her, let alone carry on a conversation or discussion with her. This young woman is a train wreck waiting to happen, her attitude so irritating you would just like to reach out and try to knock some human compassion into her insecure self to stop her from spewing such contempt for others just to make herself feel better about her own lonely life. Speaking almost non-stop at a breakneck pace, Deutsch is a wonder in the role (as are all the perfectly cast actors in this production), even though you most likely will not like Daphna and would avoid her at all costs in real life.

The play opens in the Upper West Side studio apartment bought for Jonah and Liam by their parents, living just down the hall, as a "spare bedroom" for when they visit. Jonah and Daphna are settling in after Poppy's funeral, waiting for Liam to arrive due to his delay in getting back from a skiing trip to Aspen, Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions which caused him to miss the services attended by "over 400 people who really cared about him," according to Daphna. That fact alone is enough to set Daphna off in trying to persuade her cousin Jonah to side with her right to inherit Poppy's gold necklace with his beloved Chai (Hebrew for "life") charm since obviously she is the most devout Jew in their family and therefore should inherit the treasured family heirloom. And since the quiet and rather timid Jonah does not want to send the tempestuous Daphna into one of her well-known argumentative tizzies, he just tells her he "does not want Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions to be involved" when she challenges his brother Liam for possession of it.

So imagine her surprise when Daphna's less observant older cousin Liam arrives with Melody late in the evening and reveals he has Poppy's heirloom already in his possession and has his own plans for it. This announcement causes sparks to loudly fly between the cousins, until Melody encourages them to stop arguing and demands that Liam let Daphna have her say without interrupting her (after all, girls do need to stick together against strong-willed men now and then). Of course, a devastatingly funny battle of Old Testament proportions ignites as soon as both women realize Liam meant to propose to Melody with it on an Aspen mountaintop, just as his Poppy used it to propose to their Grandmother. Sweet and sentimental, appropriate and totally out of the question for Daphna.

Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions But as the fighting for possession escalates, the question arises as to what makes a good Jew or bad Jew, and is it possible the better Jew can be the worse person? After the bitter physical battle ends, causing Liam and Melody to exit the premises, it is Jonah was has clearly chosen the best way to honor their late grandfather, a surprise twist offered at the end of the play that will have you gasping with surprise at his choice. Clearly the quiet one has turned out to not be a bad Jew in any sense of the word.

Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions Complimenting the production is the wonderfully realistic Scenic Design by David Offner, Costume Design by Vicki Conrad, Lighting Design by Tom Ash, and Sound Design by Marisa Whitmore, with Josh La Cour's realistic props scattered around making it easy to picture yourself inside this cluttered studio apartment in New York City as the cousins attempt to work out their differences. Director Dana Resnick, a professor of theater arts at Loyola Marymount University, asks us, "where should we draw the line in the fight for what we believe?" And no doubt the play's premise and presentation will leave you discussing its implications long afterwards.

Review: BAD JEWS Centers on a Devastatingly Funny Battle of Old Testament Proportions BAD JEWS continues on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, with additional weeknight performances on Wednesday, May 9; Thursday, May 17; Wednesday, May 30; and Thursday, June 14, all at 8pm, at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Wednesday, May 9; Friday, May 18; and Sunday, May 27. Reserved seat tickets range from $30 to $35. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or visit OdysseyTheatre.com

Photo credit: Enci Box



Redondo Ballet Presents SNOW QUEEN, February 18 & 19 Photo
Redondo Ballet presents SNOW QUEEN based on Hans Christian Anderson's tale at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on February 18 and 19, 2023.

​​​​​​​UCLAs Center for the Art of Performance Presents Armenian Jazz Ensemb Photo
UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) presents Armenia's leading folk jazz and ethno-fusion ensemble MVF Band performing songs from their latest album, Nightology, along with other repertory on Thursday, February 23 at 8 pm in Royce Hall. Tickets are $38 and are available now at cap.ucla.edu, 310-825-2101 and the UCLA Central Ticket Office. 

Liveone Launches All-Stars Talent Competition Series Photo
LiveOne (Nasdaq: LVO), an award-winning, creator-first, music, entertainment and technology platform, has announced the launch of the LiveOne All-Stars Talent Competition Series, a year-long competition to celebrate the best and the brightest of the 3,000+ talented artists, both past and present, who have been featured across LiveOne's platforms over the past five years.

Matt Cook Named Executive Director Of Blue 13 Dance Company Photo
Arts leader Matt Cook has been named Executive Director of Blue13 Dance Company, the Los Angeles-based dance ensemble known for presenting aesthetically and culturally daring live performances throughout the US and abroad for over 20 years.


From This Author - Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in secondary sc... (read more about this author)


Interview: Peter Noone Talks Touring with Herman's HermitsInterview: Peter Noone Talks Touring with Herman's Hermits
January 25, 2023

Herman's Hermits featuring lead singer Peter Noone formed in Manchester in 1964 and then took the world by storm during the Beatles-inspired British Invasion era. The group's success continues internationally, with the group touring to entertain not only fans from the 1960s but their children and grandchildren as well. So when I heard Herman's Hermits was set to appear at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on January 27, I decided to speak with Peter about the group's beginning and how life on the road has kept the band going for so many years.

Interview: Deborah Robin on Portraying Doris Day in DAY AFTER DAYInterview: Deborah Robin on Portraying Doris Day in DAY AFTER DAY
January 18, 2023

The DAY AFTER DAY musical shares the dramatic personal life story of Doris Day through her music, including many of her hit songs: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Sentimental Journey, Secret Love, It’s Magic, A Guy is a Guy, and Que Sera Sera. Since her popularity turned Doris Day into America’s Sweetheart in the days before the ever-present internet and cell phones, were you ever as curious as I was as to who the real Doris Day was after the cameras stopped rolling? And what does it take to bring such a beloved and well-known icon to the stage? I decided to speak with Deborah Robin about her devotion to the star and the role to find out.

Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUBInterview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB
January 17, 2023

Anzu Lawson is gearing up to debut her second one-woman show, The Rub, inspired by her 30-minute single camera comedy pilot about her life as a stand-up comic who secretly pays her bills by being every Asian mother's worst nightmare... a masseuse. I first met Anzu when she was performing as Yoko Ono during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, a role she inhabits with her entire body, heart and soul. So it makes perfect sense that The Rub debuts on Yoko Ono’s 90th birthday on Saturday, February 18 at 8pm as part of Whitefire Theatre's Solofest 2023. Here's my interview with her about the show.

Interview: Playwright Lester Probst on VOLUN-TEARS, A World Premiere Play About Sexual Harassment in the MilitaryInterview: Playwright Lester Probst on VOLUN-TEARS, A World Premiere Play About Sexual Harassment in the Military
December 10, 2022

ArtsUP! LA is presenting the world premiere of Volun-Tears, a powerful play by Korean War Veteran Lester Probst, based on the true experiences of women who have suffered sexual harassment and sexual abuse while serving in the United States Armed Forces, performed by U.S. Veterans. I decided to speak with Lester Probst on what inspired him to write the play and what message he hopes to instill in audience members to start the road to achieving equality within the ranks of our military, especially for women.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLESInterview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES
December 7, 2022

The Actors' Gang is excited to present their family friendly holiday show, Shambles, an unbridled concoction of seasonal charm and sassy cunning all rolled up in a cirque-infused panto, blurring the lines between audience and performers. When I read that this immersive experience will drop theater goers into a 60's NASA holiday party complete with alien abductions, ugly Christmas sweaters, and free-flowing champagne offered as theatergoers meander through curated rooms of wonder, I knew I had to speak with the production's creator and director, Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves about his vision to bring such fun family fare to the stage.