"What makes you a ‘good’ person of faith? Where does that line even get drawn? Playwright Joshua Harmon attempts to answer these questions in his comedy “Bad Jews,” currently running at PURE Theatre."
I often think of the legacy that I will leave behind for my kids. This includes possessions, creations, traditions, and anything else that has played an important role in my life. I can think of a few books, a few notebooks, and a very special wine bottle cork, but also some life lessons such as do unto others etc. or Red means STOP and green means GO.
As a fallen-away Catholic, at this point it doesn’t look like religion will be one of those things that I pass along to my kids, though I might change my mind when they actually arrive. I have family members who are deeply invested in their faith, who would be horrified at the thought of it not being sustained. So, if I don’t pass along Catholicism and its practices to my children, and they don’t pass it along to theirs, and other families do the same, does Catholicism eventually die out?
Or, is it important just to impress upon future generations the importance of religion in general, why it exists, and hope that they will make intelligent, informed decisions based on their own life experience? What makes you a ‘good’ person of faith? Where does that line even get drawn? Playwright Joshua Harmon attempts to answer these questions in his comedy “Bad Jews,” currently running at PURE Theatre.
We meet the characters of Daphna (recent College of Charleston gradaute Ashley Genneralli) and Jonah (Pure Theatre’s Miles Boinest) the evening after their Grandfather’s funeral, cramped in Jonah’s New York City loft. Their Grandfather, affectionately known as ‘Poppy,’ was a Holocaust survivor, and obviously this has had a profound effect on all of his grandchildren’s lives.
Daphna is convinced that she, as a dedicated student of Judaism with a desire to pass her faith along to her kids, deserves to inherit her Poppy’s gold Chai necklace, ‘Chai’ being the Hebrew word for ‘life.’ When Poppy was in the concentration camp, he had kept the necklace safe by hiding it under his tongue. Needless to say, it is a priceless family heirloom and Daphna is the kind of girl who will stop at nothing to have it. She has faith on her side, and armed with little other than her biting wit, she goes into battle against her cousin Liam.
Liam (Played by L.A. based actor Cameron Tagge) missed Poppy’s funeral, and has, at this point, all but completely renounced his faith. He’s sarcastic, he’s angry, and he has poked fun at Daphna’s enthusiasm for her faith since they were kids. In Daphna’s mind, he’s a bad Jew. Unfortunately, Liam also wants the Chai, but for very different reasons. Unstoppable force meet HUGE ROCK. Let the games begin.
As the fiery and resolute Daphna, Genneralli handles many heated, razor-edged rants with focused determination. The character of Daphna is quite difficult to empathize with, as she tends to sound stubborn and bull-headed, but the pain and hurt that Genneralli injects into the quieter moments has you rooting for her, albeit quietly. She is admirably relentless and has a head of hair that makes it seem like the part was written for her.
As Liam, Tagge is dangerous and seriously pissed off. His mid-show diatribe against Daphna (while she is brushing her teeth in her PJ’s) puts you on the edge of your seat—quite the thrill ride.
The character with the funniest, yet fewest, amount of lines is Boinest's Jonah. Many of his lines are just one word, but with pitch perfect timing and an introverted, matter-of-fact attitude, both the actor and the author make their points.
Rounding out the cast is Sullivan Hamilton as Melody, Liam’s Delaware-bred girlfriend, who, with her sheet of blonde hair and outfit straight out of a Talbots' ad, gives a terrific comedic performance and offers a refreshing contrast to the tensity of the three cousins.
The wonderful thing about author Joshua Harmon’s use of humor is his specificity, says Sharon Graci, PURE Theatre co-founder. This isn’t slapstick comedy or farce. The humor comes from how real it all is. The violent arguments that erupt are offset by moments of surprising harmony, a phenomenon that most anyone will recognize from within their own families. Liam and Daphna do make an attempt to hear each other out and both parties have legitimate reasons for wanting to maintain or retain this piece of family history. Their arguing allows the audience to see things clearly from both sides.
So, if you are someone who has considered their legacy, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to see things from a new perspective. These bad Jews might have you changing your mind about what you leave behind, and what you want to preserve.
"Bad Jews" runs through August 8th at PURE Theatre. Purchase tickets here.