Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon is a dark comedy discussing the nature of death, religion and inheritance. Three grandchildren come together following the death of their holocaust surviving Grandfather and his religious heirloom is contested as to who is the most worthy to receive it. All the action happens within a cage like apartment where the relatives prowl, pounce and hurl scalding tirades at each other.
This is an excellent play, the fine cast carry the script with great energy and power and the blistering dialogue bounces off the walls of the confined space. Jenna Augen (Daphna) is the fiercely aggressive “Uber Jew” her self-righteousness stifling everyone around her, coiling and lashing out rattlesnake style, never allowing anyone in. Ilan Goodman (Liam) is in her eyes a “Bad Jew” whose arrival with his non Jewish American girlfriend Melody (Gina Bramhill) is a step too far. Liam takes on Daphna in a series of tirades, wounding and tearing at each other with acidic power. Within this Jonah (Joe Coen) attempts to remain on the outside, used as a pawn by both Daphna and brother Liam in the arguments and never listened to. His silence is the most powerful and the closing moments of the piece hugely moving.
Director Michael Longhurst has lifted this challenging and thought provoking play off the page and the young cast control the piece with great clarity. Design and lighting from Richard Kent and Richard Howell respectively transform the Ustinov stage into a fine albeit slightly claustrophobic Manhattan apartment. This is another winning production for the Ustinov season; a brave and exciting play, which deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. The Ustinov without question is punching well above its weight and it is a privilege to have this venue in the city.
**** (4 Stars)