Bad Jews | Theater Wit | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

Bad Jews Closing (Theater and Galleries) Member Picks Recommended The Short List (Theater)

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 21 2015

Any self-respecting member of the tribe might be expected to approach Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews with caution—and not just because of the title. A summary of the 2012 comedy suggests loud, rude, grasping, aggrieved Jews as well as bad ones. Good old Poppy Feygenbaum has died, and his twentysomething grandkids are converging on New York for the funeral, shiva, and distribution of heirlooms. Daphna (hebraicized from Diana) is bunking with cousin Jonah at Jonah's studio apartment on the Upper East Side; Jonah’s older brother Liam (goyishized from Shlomo) is joining them late, having stayed conveniently out of touch during an Aspen ski trip. They're not a congenial bunch. Daphna has epic boundary issues and a vicious streak that could be photographed from space. Spoiled, dictatorial Liam has brought home a shiksa named Melody. Both of them want the chai pendant Poppy kept with him against all odds while consigned to a Nazi concentration camp. Their stupendously ugly knock-down-drag-out over the pendant's fate constitutes the action of the play. So: a shande far di goyim? A load of dirty laundry for the delectation of strangers? Oddly, no. What keeps Bad Jews from becoming yet another embarrassing episode in that ongoing cultural sitcom you might call America's Silliest Jews is, first, the witty, ruthless precision with which Harmon plumbs so much of what American Jews actually think, often in spite of themselves; second, the way his satire opens out into a compassionate look at what it means to be a millennial Jew. Then there’s Jeremy Wechsler's nasty-brilliant production for Theater Wit. Ian Paul Custer is an absorbing asshole (awful as that sounds) as Liam, while Laura Lapidus makes Daphna utterly mesmerizing as she dances through Jonah's apartment, performing a kind of scorched-earth psychic ballet. —Tony Adler

Price: $36

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