Bad Jews review - February 2016

A surprisingly funny play

Funerals tend to be a time when families are brought closer together. But not for this set of Jewish cousins…

Bad Jews is comprised of only four cast members; Jewish brothers Liam and Jonah, Melody, Liam’s girlfriend, and Daphna, their handful of a cousin.  A swish Manhattan studio apartment, owned by Liam and Jonah’s parents, is the set for the entire play which takes place on the evening of Poppy’s funeral – the esteemed Granddad of the Jewish cousins.

Daphna, who resembles Anne Hathaway in Princess Diaries, but before the makeover, comes to stay in the flat. Her big, bushy and untameable hair as well as her ungainly mannerisms make her an amusing character at first, but not for long. She quickly establishes herself as possibly the most draining cousin imaginable, with her incessant fidgeting and chattering. Her main topic of conversation, and the central focus of the whole play, is the future recipient of their Grandad’s chai, a gold medallion he kept safe throughout the Nazi years.  Daphna believes that she deserves it because she sees herself as a ‘better Jew’ than her cousins, whereas Liam, the oldest male, is the rightful heir, and unbeknownst to Daphna, he wishes to use it to propose to his small town girlfriend, Melody.

What ensues is one hour and forty minutes of heated debate over the rightful owner of the chai, sans an interval. Liam and Daphna furiously tear each other to shreds, often while the other is in the bathroom; from where they can actually hear every word, so it turns out. One particularly venomous rant from Liam gradually escalates louder and becomes ruder until it reaches a frantic crescendo resulting in him screaming the ‘c word’ into the audience, leaving them momentarily shocked,  then shaking with laughter, and then rigorously applauding.  However, his mannerisms mirrored Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory so much so that it was difficult to take him seriously. In an effort to ease the tension between the cousins, outsider Melody, the relatively dim all-American bimbo treats the audience to a dismal operatic performance, which is a definite highlight of the play.

Considering there are only four characters and one set, Bad Jews is a surprisingly funny play, which playfully mocks the stereotypes of Jewish familial relations, although, as a non-Jewish audience member there were certainly a few jokes that can be missed. The whole performance is fast paced and comical until the quiet character of Jonah, who constantly tries to stay out of the conflict, is brought to tears, and the play ends on an unexpectedly poignant and humbling note.


Reviewed by Francesca Lynagh.
17 February 2016, Theatre Royal Haymarket