Bad Jews, Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath, review: 'Shockingly good'
There will be no justice in the world if this play does not transfer to London
Wednesday 13 August 2014
Daphna (superb Jenna Augen) is an intense, frizzy-haired and very voluble Vassar student who intends to move to Israel on graduation where she looks forward to joining the army.
She's lucked out, she believes, in finding an amazing vegan rabbi in Haifa who does pre-rabbinical course work for women.
But to one of her two male cousins in Joshua Harmon's blistering funny play – here receiving its UK premiere in Michael Longhurst's brilliantly acted production -- Daphna, with her oppressive “uber-Jewishness”, is tantamount to being a one-woman round-the-clock recruiting drive for the PLO.
And if you think that is a deplorably tasteless way of putting it, believe me it's a honeyed eulogy by comparison with the obloquy the cousin ends up lobbing at her when they are all holed up in the New York flat that the cousins own (their parents are a good deal richer than hers) on the night after their grandfather's funeral.
The grandfather was a survivor of the Holocaust and for two years he hid from the Nazis, under his tongue, the heirloom “chai” – the treasured little medallion on a chain – with which his father, who perished in the camps, had entrusted him.
Daphna is determined to assert her spiritual and cultural over the claims of her male cousins. Jonah (Joe Coen) is peace-keeping and agnostic to the point of gormless paralysis.
(Pic: Nobby Clark)
Liam is a different kettle of gefilte fish and he's brought to furious, suppressed-hysterical life in a stunning performance by Ilan Goodman who was adorable as the contrastingly gentle and charming Jewish haberdasher in the excellent Intimate Apparel at this same venue.
Liam has not impressed Daphna by managing to miss the funeral. He's been incommunicado because (“a beautiful metaphor” snaps Daphna) he'd dropped his iphone from the ski-lift in Aspen where he was holiday with his blonde shiksa girlfriend Melody, who, after an expensive education studying opera, is now working in administration, with a large treble clef tattooed on her calf, to remind her how she once loved music.
Face glazed with apprehensive well-meaning, Gina Bramhill is exquisitely hilarious in the role, as Melody from Delaware tries to cope with Daphna's predatory overtures (native peoples were slaughtered so that families like Melody's could live in Delaware) and I thought I had died and gone to comic heaven when Daphna demands a song and the bungling Melody visits every badly learned trick of the American “art sons” tradition on the unsuspecting “Summertime” with nerve-racked solemnity.
The arguments between Liam and Daphna draw blood and from Liam some scorching misogyny. He's atheist and thinks that integration through marriage “out” is the answer; she passionately believes that the dead can only be honoured by preserving racial identity.
The sexist Liam implies that a good seeing-to might cure her of her ideological zeal. They thwack constantly argumentative impasses and it's not a pretty noise: “A world without Jews is progress?” “You're the one who sounds like a Nazi”.
I doubt very much that Daphna would be of the Joan “they don't even own pencils” Rivers' persuasion at the moment. And the shrewdness of Harmon's play is to gradually show how strangely alike this pair are. There will be no justice in the world if this shockingly good production does not transfer to London.
To 30 August, 01225 448 844
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures