You’ve got to love ‘em, but you don’t have to like ‘em, right?! And never has that been more true than in Birmingham this week, as fresh from its acclaimed run at the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket, Joshua Harmon’s hilariously dark comedy Bad Jews comes (literally) screaming into the New Alexandra Theatre.
Based in New York City, the story centres around three 20-something cousins in the aftermath of their Grandfather’s death. As they each lay claim for his posthumous approval and affections, there’s one personal effect that none are prepared to relinquish – with hysterical and heartbreaking consequences.
With fast-paced wit and smart dialogue the script packs a comedic punch from the outset, whilst shrewdly tackling more hard-hitting themes of grief and of cultural divergence, and what it means to be devout or Jew-ish in the 21st century.
Delivering the book with purpose and pace are Ilan Goodman and Ailsa Joy as Liam and Daphna, waging war across family lines with perfect vocal and physical comic timing. Supported in spades by Antonia Kinlay as Melody (Liam’s girlfriend) and Jos Slovick as Jonah, the small cast pitch each pointed and throwaway line perfectly to create very individual but sincere performances and fantastic presentation of the story from start to finish. All obviously accomplished performers, they snapped and goaded as if raised together all their life, with Kinlay being the fleeting voice of reason before inevitably succumbing to the madness – it was like watching any family, through a 6-pointed star window.
The set – although flanked by flats to disguise the negative space on the Alex’s larger stage – worked in the plays favour, and combined with a sympathetic on-stage light plot meant that despite the static scenery the audience never lost interest or failed to follow the direction of the narrative. Costumes too were understated but clearly chosen with care and representative of character, lending an authenticity to each actor’s portrayal.
You’d be hard pressed to pinpoint one highlight in performance or production, but if pushed it’s arguable that for the sheer volume of material and depth that Joy managed to convey through Daphna’s boundless eccentricity, she might (just) sneak the win.
Although not for the easily-offended, Bad Jews is a thoroughly brilliant production and a great watch definitely worth making the effort to see. Because if all else fails it’s a night off from the family, eh…?
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.