"BAD JEWS" PROVOKES FROM THE TITLE ONWARD AND UPWARD


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Imagine two sisters who didn't speak for ten years when their mother gave a quilt she had made to one sibling, forgetting she had promised it to the other. Meet a daughter who devotedly cared for her mother for years who was heartbroken when her father gave away her mom's prized diamond ring, in what he thought was a fair distribution of her jewelry. Her brother got the ring and gave it to his wife. Neither the brother nor his spouse ever helped during the mother's lengthy illness. Another brother and sister fought over their mother's prized china. The sister won it and spitefully kept it in boxes in the attic. They haven't spoken in years.

Do you know any similar tales of controversy where the desire for a family's prized possession caused chaos and a mad scramble to establish bragging rights? Enter Joshua Harmon who has crafted a provocative look into family dynamics in "Bad Jews" being harpooned with wit and barbs at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II until Sunday, March 29.

A beloved grandfather, Poppy, has died and the family is about to sit shiva, a period of mourning Jews observe to help adjust to their great loss. Poppy's grandchildren arrive to stay with Jonah at his New York City apartment, one that even commands a view of the Hudson River from the bathroom. His cousin Diana, now calling herself Daphna in preparation for her aliyah, a permanent move, to Israel arrives with an agenda carved in stone: she is the only one worthy of inheriting Poppy's necklace, a chai meaning life, which he kept hidden while in the death camps during the Holocaust.

Keilly McQuail's Daphna is outstanding in her combative stance, a David ready to take on any Goliath, demanding and compelling, judgmental without the fairness of a King Solomon, equally parts selfish, offensive and admirable in her righteousness. Max Michael Miller's Jonah is mild mannered and basically neutral like Switzerland. He needs to mourn his grandfather in peace and wants to avoid conflict at all costs. When his brother Liam, a defensive Mike Steinmetz, arrives, after the funeral is over if you can believe it, bringing his non-Jewish girlfriend Melody in tow, Jonah is suddenly the judge and jury between the two cousins. In his own mind, Liam believes Poppy had decreed the chai to be his. He plans to gift it to Melody, a sweetly naive Christy Escobar, as an engagement present, just as Poppy had given it to his wife decades before. Pick a side as tempers flare and fire and Oliver Butler directs this thought stimulating comedy with a golden chain of darkness.

For tickets ($74.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Whatever your family or religious observances, "Bad Jews" will speak to you, as it escalates from sympathetic remembrances to venomous attacks, all quicker than you can spread cream cheese on an onion bagel.


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