We’ve all had those gatherings where we had to meet up with the extended family and play it nice with our cousins for the sake of keeping the peace amongst our clan but also in all due respect for our parents and ancestors. We may have felt a lot of joy being surrounded by our relatives or on the contrary a lot of anger and frustration. If you’ve been in this kind of situation before, the play Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon will be very familiar as it will get you to witness the whole spectrum of human emotions while listening and engaging with all the different point of views and experiences of Daphna Feygenbaum, Jonah and Liam Harber (brothers) as they mourn the death of their beloved grandfather and debate as to who gets to keep his precious heirloom.
I was very fortunate to witness the premiere of this amazing play which had been done at Segal Centre last year and was totally sold out but is now back on popular demand! The playwright, Joshua Harmon, has been praised plenty for his work that as been staged all over the world and is since 2012, one of the most popular play in North America.
As we entered the theater, audience members walked along a narrow path reproducing an apartment hallway in order to get to their seats; already, we were in the space. The lights went off and the whole story began. It’s in this realistic setting that we were able to observe a moment in the life of Jonah and Daphna, late at night in a small studio apartment in New York city, exhausted from what seemed like a big funeral day. Liam brought an extra special guest with him, his new girlfriend Melody who is a non-Jew blond, blue eyed and his soon wife to be. It’s in this tense atmosphere that we witness old secrets, family affairs, pain and religion unleashed as the young three adults argue over who is more deserving of inheriting their grandfathers heirloom. Should it be the most religious grandchild who wants to preserve the traditions? The eldest who claims he is a bad Jew? Or the one who hasn’t said a word, for he doesn’t want to be involved? Melody watches the cousins fight over years of traditions symbolized with what is left of this family’s legacy, their grandfather’s necklace.
The play is great in the way that it tackles very ancient traditions and asks us what does it mean to be a Jew today. This dramatic comedy is refreshing and uses smart humour techniques in order to get its message across without being too heavy. The actors have a great energy and deliver their lines in fast pace as if there is no more time to be lost. Their energy is tangible and they are all connected at every moment even in their silence and in their listening. All their speeches have a space to exist and they do a great job at delivering the point of view of their respective characters. They are grounded from beginning to end and never lose focus of their personal objectives. I want to point out the great delivery of the cast, that is very connected and really gives an amazing performance. I want to congratulate the three returning actors and cousins Jamie Elman, Jake Goldside and Sarah Segal-Lazar for their great work!
This play is wonderful at the work it does in exploring the question of faith, family and legacy and asking us as an audience what does it means to be worthy of our ancestors? Should we question traditions centuries old, traditions that people have followed for centuries and are still following?
The whole creative team working on this play brings to life a stunning story that deserves to be listened to and opens a discussion that I feel is much need for today’s generations of people who are less and less inclined towards religion.
If you are looking for a smart comedy with a strong message and great actors I suggest you see Bad Jews at the Segal Centre. Let yourself be charmed by these colourful, attaching characters and, who knows, maybe it will prepare you to face your own family this coming holiday season! Great show, a must see.
Bad Jews plays at the Segal Centre of Performing Arts (5170 chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montreal) from November 8th to November 26th, Tickets: 514.739.7944. Click HERE for tickets and showtimes.