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From the author of Admissions (Gamm 2020), a deliciously savage comedy about family, faith and the complications of identity. A beloved grandfather and Holocaust survivor has died, leaving a treasured heirloom with religious significance up for grabs. But who should get it? Volatile, self-described “Super Jew” Daphna, who plans to move to Israel after college; or her wealthy, self-absorbed cousin Liam, an ethnic studies grad student with a secular worldview and a shiksa girlfriend? Then there’s Jonah, Liam’s younger brother, forced to play peacemaker as the rivals argue, insult, and try to outwit each other to the play’s bitter, hilarious end.
“Delicious, nasty fun…. Equal parts brains and brawl, Joshua Harmon's play isn't a textbook comedy of hostility, but a smart, divisive conversation starter.” New York Post
“A radioactive brew of neuroses and glee for audiences of all stripes.” Los Angeles Times
Run Time: 1hr 40m with no intermission
Director Tony Estrella+
Set Designer Patrick Lynch△
Costume Designer Jessie Darrell Jarbadan
Lighting Designer David Roy
Sound Designer Peter Sasha Hurowitz
Production Management Jessica Hill Kidd
Stage Manager Kelsey Emry*
Assistant Stage Manager James Kane*
Assisant to the Director Autumn Jefferson
Production Assistant Omar Laguerre-Lewis
+Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical union.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
△Member of IATSE, the union representing Scenic, Costume, Lighting, Sound and Projection designers in Live Performance.
INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES, & REVIEWS
Jewish Rhode Island preview
"I definitely relate,” says actor Hillel Rosenshine, 23, who plays Jonah in the Gamm production. “At times in the play, it feels like characters are talking past each other because one person is arguing about cultural Judaism while the other is arguing about religious Judaism. It can be a worthwhile distinction to make." Read the JEWISH RHODE ISLAND preview
Q & A with "Bad Jews" playwright Joshua Harmon by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Alfred Uhry
Alfred Uhry: If my mother were alive, she’d say, “Couldn’t you change the title to Good Jews?”
Joshua Harmon: My grandmother asked the same thing. We got that a lot during the show. I didn’t invent it. The title refers to a very particular generation, and I think it makes some people uncomfortable. Read the AMERICAN THEATRE interview
"Bad Jews" Review
"Harmon's script is so psychologically astute. He gets exactly right the kind of mutual antipathy that only Jews with different kinds of Jewishness can feel for one another." Read the JEWISH CHRONICLE review
Jewish playwright Joshua Harmon on what inspired him to write his emotionally complex, provocatively titled, and fiercely funny play "Bad Jews."
"I don't think [the characters are] talking heads, but if you're a young Jewish person who's engaged at all with your religion, you've met people from all sides of the spectrum. You've met people who are incredibly invested in it, and people who are incredibly dismissive of it, and everything in between. Those are things I've been around." Read the WALL STREET JOURNAL interview
"Bad Jews" Is More Than Provocative Title
Let’s get right to it: the play bearing the title “Bad Jews” is likely to elicit some raised eyebrows. . . . “But it’s not at all what people may think — it’s definitely intriguing, but the play is not insulting or pejorative,” says Sofie Yavorsky, who plays Daphna in this piece of stagecraft that has been winning accolades wherever it plays. The New York Times raved about “Bad Jews” and called it “The best comedy of the season” in 2013. Read the COURIER POST article
Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews is an irreverent, provocative and ironic title for a powerful, dark comedy about faith, culture, and the nature of our debt to both family and history. In a Wall Street Journal interview, the author talked about his inspiration for the play:
"When I was in college I went to a Holocaust memorial service. I had been to many growing up, but the theme of this service was grandchildren of survivors. So instead of having a survivor speak, it was my peers at college talking about their grandparents' experiences, and I found it really unmoving. I think there's just something that happens when you're an eyewitness to something that imbues you the power to tell that story, even if you're not a natural-born storyteller. So to hear the story from someone who wasn't there. It just didn't carry the same kind of weight, and it scared me. So I left feeling a little shaken up."
This play was written and premiered 10 years ago at a time of relative stability compared to the increasing waves of anti-Semitic violence and attacks both here and around the world over the intervening decade. There's a line late in the play where the devoutly religious and stridently committed Daphna says to her decidedly secular cousin, Liam, "And so now when it's easier to be Jewish than it has ever been in the history of the world, now when it's safest, now we should all stop?"
That line resonates very differently in 2023 — its potent irony making the play even more powerful today than it was a decade ago. It is impossible now not to hear history's stark warning against moral complacency. The potential for the darkest in humanity never quite disappears. Its shadow lingers and looms larger the more we ignore it. But rather than date the play as irrelevant, Daphna’s naivete makes Bad Jews even more resonant and reminds us of the vigilance necessary to keep the worst in us at bay.
Despite the deliberately provocative — and ironic — nature of the title, Bad Jews is a testament to the fact that no one person is a monolith; that there is little agreement in any culture about who or what constitutes the "good" or the "bad." There is no consensus on either the nature of our debt to the past or our aspirations for the future.
Bad Jews is a play about the power of identity, both its obligations and its limitations. The characters, as in life, are unpredictable and a mystery even to themselves. And they are not always likable, even as they make us laugh. Like all of us, they are complex, deeply human and struggling to understand and be understood.
Like the best of comedies, Bad Jews uses uproarious humor to both entertain and unsettle. The play remains, 10 years on, a moving and deeply sensitive work — all the more so because it is unafraid to ask what makes us "good" and "bad." Bad Jews suggests that, for most of us, that is a vexing and open question.
Tony Estrella, Gamm Artistic Director