Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Bad Jews is set in a confining studio apartment on New York's Upper West Side where four twenty-somethings, three cousins and a "shiksa" girlfriend, spend a rough night following the death of Poppy, the cousins' Holocaust-survivor grandfather.
The dazzling cast of characters is led by Daphna (Tara Sisson), who is 2/3 body, 1/3 thick, intense, frizzy long hair. Her Jewish personality goes back a thousand years of Jewish history. Liam (Jeremy Kahn) is the "bad Jew" who missed his grandfather's funeral because he was skiing in Aspen with "goyim" girlfriend Melody (Chloe King). Liam has as strong a sense of humor as an overdue library book. Rounding out the cast, Noah Thompson is laid back brother Jonah who is less brainy, more brawn and more heart.
Daphna, a Vassar senior, and Jonah, a Chicago postgraduate, share the cramped studio apartment. Liam and Melody, who studies opera in college and can sing barely a note (she murderers "Summertime" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess), arrive at the cramped studio apartment. He is skeptical about his Jewish religion because he is devoting himself to Japanese studies. What follows are contradictions for a passionate, penetrating, and often entertaining family meltdown through 90 minutes with no intermission.
The meat of the play is the claiming of their grandfather's beloved chai, a religious ornament. Daphna feels it's hers by right as the true believer among the three grandchildren. She learns that Liam has already secured the ornament and she becomes unhinge with anguish, rage and animosity, demanding the chai from Liam. Of course, Liam is not going to give it to her.
Perfectly paced by Amy Resnick, the production features a terrifically skilled cast. Tara Sissom is an unbelievable force of nature as Daphna. She is sanctimonious, self-righteous, arrogant, domineering, and has a motor-mouth tongue. Jeremy Kahn is excellent as Liam, foil to Daphna. He gives a pitch perfect performance as the enabled, petulant and worldly sellout. Chloe King is splendid as the gentile Melody. Her facial expressions say more than her words and she finally she breaks loose at the end of play. Noah Thompson is excellent as Jonah, always determined to uphold passive noninvolvement. He has a beautifully natural way of acting and becomes vital to play's powerful final moments.
Bottom Line: The New York Times called Bad Jews "delectably savage and supremely funny" and I second that. It is a contemptuously entertaining comedy.
Bad Jews runs through July 23rd, 2017, at the Capital Stage Company, 2215 J Street, Sacramento. You can call the box office at 916-995-5464 tickets or you get them online at capstage.org.