There’s nothing more dramatic than family politics. It’s been the focus of many good dramas on the screen. Add cultural and social debates and you have a heavy mix of round-the-table chitchat. In Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon doesn’t steer away from delicate subject matter.
There’s nothing too unbecoming to mention, often leaving his audience with their jaws on the floor and fingernails pressing into the seat, not sure whether to embrace it or be completely outraged. The infamous show, which premiered at the Fugard Theatre, is now on at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg and features a local cast.
Bad Jews follows the story of a family reunion, brought about by the death of grandfather Poppy. A family heirloom propels cousins Daphna and Liam into a domestic battle of faith and heritage. Lara Lipschitz plays the dogmatic Daphna, a devout Jew appalled by cousin Liam’s (Glen Biderman-Pam) secular world view. In her mind, his detachment from his cultural traditions implies a lack of respect for the nation’s grim past.
This opens up room for conversation, not just in the Jewish world, but for anyone affected by former injustices. Do the children of Holocaust victims carry the burden of their family’s trauma and how, in today’s day and age, does one move on, while not denying what really happened?
The show is intense. It is extremely wordy and the content heavy, but also humorous. Jonah, Liam’s younger brother, and Liam’s non-Jewish girlfriend, Melody, who just wants everyone to get along. When the group is forced to spend the night at close quarters, mayhem ensues.
Although Lipschitz and Biderman-Pam demand the most attention through their putrid monologues, co-hosts Oliver Booth and Ashley de Lange are equally impressive.