Playwright Joshua Harmon may or may not have been thinking of No Exit when he wrote his acrid dramedy Bad Jews. But after seeing the riveting new production of Harmon's play at GableStage, Sartre's metaphysical masterpiece seems like a touchstone in at least one sense: It depicts a handful of tortured souls, trapped and bickering in a prison of their making, with no resolution on the horizon. Hell is other Jews.
Photo by George Schiavone
The infernal setting, in this case, is a studio apartment on the Upper West Side, a property so privileged that, as two characters point out, "You can see the Hudson River from the bathroom!" A pullout sofa and two air mattresses of varying quality are spread along the carpet of the space, a single person's sprawl converted into a cramped barracks for four.
This is where the religiously observant Daphna Feygenbaum (Natalia Coego) and two of her cousins -- the loose-canon atheist Liam (David Rosenberg) and the quiet doormat Jonah (Mark Della Ventura) -- will spend a fraught night on the day of their grandfather's funeral, arguing chiefly over the possession of a Jewish family heirloom. Daphna wants it because she's the most fervent believer of them all, a kosher-keeping, Hebrew-speaking carrier of the torch, with a boyfriend waiting for her in Israel. Liam has his own designs on the sacred amulet, which becomes all the more infuriating to Daphna because they involve his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Lexi Langs), whom he has brought along uninvited.
See also: Mothers and Sons at GableStage: Theater as Gestalt TherapyMore »