WEST CHESTERFIELD, N.H. >> Joshua Harmon's heralded comedy BAD JEWS will be at the Actors Theatre Playhouse in West Chesterfield for two final Performances only on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The NY Times called it 'the best comedy of 2014'. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 877-666-1855. Tickets are $15. The Playhouse is located on the corner of Brook and Main streets, West Chesterfield, N.H. For additional Information on this and other Playhouse productions, directions, reviews, blogs, etc. visit ATPlayhouse.org .
Harmon's "Bad Jews" is a smashingly venomous and blisteringly funny tale of a family tearing itself apart with wit, fury, serious debate, and uproarious hilarity right in front of our eyes.
Two twenty-something cousins, a girlfriend and a brother come together after the funeral of Poppy, their Jewish grandfather and family patriarch. A Holocaust survivor, Poppy has left an inheritance. It's a very special piece of family jewelry, a Chai ("Life") necklace, which is imbued with special significance. Poppy hid it in his mouth throughout his internment in the camps during the Holocaust.
Two of his grandchildren believe it should be bequeathed to them, and them alone. Arguing like 'Upper West Siders whose brunch reservations have not been honored' in the words of one critic, they battle each other over observance, secularity, marrying a Gentile, and just how much they hate being related to one another as Harmon grapples with what it means to have a cultural inheritance in the 21st century.
"Bad Jews" is a comedy, but one that packs a wallop. At times it seemed as if we are stuck in a shoe box with a couple of hungry hamsters fighting over a single food pellet. There are so many uproariously funny lines, and so much humor in the characterizations that it might be possible to overlook just how nasty these people are to one another but probably not. "Bad Jews" is too smart and too well balanced and too well written to let that happen.
Production Director Burt Tepfer says, "Among Jewish people, a 'good Jew' is a Jew who embraces the rituals, language, cultural, and religious traditions of their Jewish heritage whereas a 'bad Jew' rejects those traditions. In 2016, how much do young adults identify with the cultural and religious traditions they have inherited? Some align closely with their family's observances and history while others wish to shed their Jewishness and move fully into America's melting pot.
Harmon is probing what it means to be Jewish in the early years of the Facebook-infused 21st century, when the politics of religious and cultural identity have never been more visible or frequently expressed, people more easily offended, nor friends more easily customized to provide 'likes' and supportive comments on demand. For the Facebook generation, how much of your past should dictate your 21st century present? After all, everybody comes from somewhere.
"It is a laugh out loud comedy, for starters. Cousins who have deeply held convictions argue without any pulled punches over the disputed family heirloom. Both want this tangible symbol of the family's survival through the holocaust, and are willing to come to blows both verbally, and briefly, physically.
Tepfer says, "I saw the production in London and fell in love with its feisty and hilarious fun while at the next moment the piece is exploring serious questions of young people dealing with their cultural identity. What I found so wonderful is the seamless shifting from uproarious comedy to serious discussion and argument, and back again. What exactly is the purpose of having a past? It is so very well written, that it can be a hilarious comedy and a thought provoker at the same time. I wanted to explore how one directs such material."
The cast includes Xoe Perra, Jonathan Reid, Kristina Meima and Elias Burgess, who bring boundless energy to this explosive comedy."It has been great fun working with these young newcomers to the Playhouse."
Director Tepfer concluded, "Come to the show prepared to laugh yourself silly while witnessing some confrontations you have probably had within your own families. Things get said. Then suddenly, they can't get un-said. It's a very well written play. It's funny. It's devastating. Mostly, we hope it's a special night of theater you won't soon forget."