Bad Jews, by Joshua Harmon has been on quite the journey since it debuted off-broadway in 2012. It’s UK premiere was at Bath’s Ustinov Studio in 2013, before transferring to London’s St James Theatre in 2014 and then the Arts Theatre in the West End in 2015. Continuing its success, 2016 has seen yet another transfer to the larger Theatre Royal Haymarket where it is currently playing for a six week run.
The play is set on the evening of three American-Jewish twenty-something cousins, who have just spent the day mourning the death of their grandfather (some more than others). Daphna is the most religious of the three, planning to move to Israel and marry a nice Jewish boy she has been dating. Jonah just wants to be left alone to enjoy his peaceful life in his swanky Manhattan studio apartment that his parents bought him, just down the hall from their own. Liam (Johah’s brother) has just flown back from skiing in Aspen with his new girlfriend Melody and is planning a surprise proposal! Daphna has come to the funeral with one goal in mind, to secure their Pappi’s Chai (a Jewish pendant that represents those who survived the holocaust) as her own keepsake. Of course, this is a comedy and so all-hell breaks loose and the three cousins unleash their wrath upon each other in order to fight to the death for the treasured piece of Jewellery. No one is safe, not even girlfriend Melody who just wants everyone to be nice to each other.
Antonia Kinlay plays dear, sweet, ditzy blonde Melody, who met boyfriend Liam online and doesn’t believe in being horrible to other human beings. Her character gets some of the best lines of abuse, including Daphna describing her as a ‘tepid little Bambi creature’ and declaring her Opera singing professor must have been deaf or just lazy when he taught her. Jonah, played by Jos Slovick (who was last seen in the West End production of ONCE the Musical) is the quiet, shy, reserved one, who really just wants everyone to get out of his apartment and let him live a quiet life (he certainly doesn’t want to get involved in the arguments). Ilan Goodman is great as the angry, erratic and screechy Liam. His physical comedy is brilliantly displayed and he has an air of the character Sheldon from the TV show How I Met Your Mother to him. Alisa Joy plays Daphna, the erratic, religious and proud Jew (who isn’t just Jew-ish like the other two) who has wild hair and acts like a crazy cat lady.
Bad Jews is one hour and forty minutes (without an interval) and works perfectly on-stage. I was a little upset that the stage seemed to have been transported from the Arts Theatre directly to the Theatre Royal Haymarket (which is much larger) as the set didn’t really fit properly to the size of the stage. However, given this is just a short run, this can be forgiven. With the brilliant comedy writing and superb acting from all four cast members, this show is one that you simply can’t miss. The message is around the youth of today and how religion is being diluted throughout the generations. In years to come will religion become a thing of the past? Not if Daphna has anything to do with it!
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Nobby Clark
Bad Jews is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 19 March 2016. Please go and see it, you won’t regret it.