Sunday, October 28, 2012
Bad Jews ***
Roundabout Underground, now in its 6th year as a home for emerging playwrights, has an impressive track record for discovering new talent like Stephen Karam (Speech and Debate, Sons of the Prophet). Whether Joshua Harmon, author of this world premiere production, will also go on to greater things remains to be seen. In Bad Jews, three grandchildren of a just-deceased patriarch are forced to share an apartment overnight. Liam Haber (Michael Zegen), a graduate student in Japanese studies, has nothing but disdain for organized religion. He has missed the funeral because he was skiing in Aspen with his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Molly Ranson, recently seen as Carrie). His younger brother Jonah (Philip Ettinger) is a severely withdrawn college student, who only wants to play video games and avoid conflict. Last but certainly not least is the brothers' cousin Daphna (formerly Diane) Feygenbaum (Tracee Chimo, recently seen in Harvey), soon to graduate Vassar and then join her alleged boyfriend in Israel. Daphna is an unattractive, relentlessly abrasive, holier-than-thou, self-centered, covetous, domineering, hyperactive, logorrheic termagant. The role is an actress's dream: it probably is not true, but it seems that she has more dialog than the other three actors combined. Liam and Daphna passionately detest each other; their conflict over which one should receive their grandfather's chai necklace is the main focus. The play has many shortcomings, but it does have a lot of vitality. Daniel Aukin's direction is assured. Lauren Helpern's set and Dane Laffrey's costumes are fine. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes without intermission.