Director Lisa Rubin, a performer of note herself, as well as the Artistic and Executive Director of the Segal Center, knew she had something special on her hands when she first read about Bad Jews, written by Joshua Harmon, while leafing through a magazine. The third most produced play in America this season, there are few among us who couldn’t identify with this gripping tale of interpersonal extended family conflict and deeply held emotional scars that runs through the veins from one generation to another like steel links in a very dysfunctional chain. Rubin delivers the sometimes striking, occasionally funny, often agonizing strife of what lies in the subconscious to life with a flawless production that is leaving audiences mesmerized, intellectually as well as spiritually stimulated, and often breathless.
Former Montrealer and current Hollywood and Internet television rising star Jamie Elman brings Harmon’s pivotal protagonist character, Liam Haber, to life with unrelenting fervor as he gathers with his younger brother Jonah and diametrically, as well as philosophically and spiritually, opposed cousin Daphna to debate who should inherit a priceless family heirloom following the death of their beloved grandfather.
As young Jewish adults dealing with the challenges of growing up in the millennium, where cynicism and the questioning of what was once held sacred by most cultures and societies in previous generations is considered commonplace, they are three completely different people. Daphna, given hurricane-like emotional strength and force of will by the extensively talented and versatile Sarah Segal-Lazar, is a fiercely proud Jewish woman who questions little of her faith and place in the world, standing in stark contrast to Liam, while Liam’s younger brother Jonah (played to peacemaking perfection by a performer with pedigree, Jake Goldsbie) prefers the neutral path and would prefer everyone simply get along. Liam has chosen to distance himself from cultural conformity, even bringing along his girlfriend Melody from outside the faith for good measure – given life in as good a performance of an outsider character that one could fathom by the nuanced performing abilities of the talented Victoria Diamond – but has distinctive plans for the heirloom.
It is hypnotic to witness as the three combatants then assume their divergent positions. Three ways of thinking, three distinct personalities, and one heaping irresistible dose – for the spectators – of legacy, family ties, and coming to terms with who we are and perhaps how we got that way.
This is a Segal Center production not to be missed, with Rubin leading the charge and hitting one out of the proverbial park for excited audiences. Luckily, one will have extra opportunities to join the throng of theatergoers who’ve already been fortunate enough to experience it, as the Center has announced extended showings of Bad Jews until May 29th.