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A CurtainUp NJ Review
It is now getting a superbly acted and directed production at the George Street Playhouse where I was able to once again laugh aloud at the viciously contentious infighting between the grandchildren of a Holocaust survivor. Two of them feel they deserve to take possession of the small religious medallion —a chai, with its two golden Hebrew letters — that their recently deceased grandfather treasured and managed to keep hidden during his captivity in a German concentration camp.
Under the terrific no-holds-barred direction of Jessica Stone, the play places its three blood related first cousins and one outsider into an unsettling situation that involves one's faith, family traditions and loyalty to one's cultural identity. From the start, we are inclined to give our sympathies to the neutral and nebbish-y Jonah Haber (Amos VanderPoel), a sometimes college student who is caught (" I'm not getting involved. Just leave me out") in the cross currents of the quarreling between his cousin Daphna Feygenbaum (Laura Lapidus), his brother Liam (Alec Silberblatt) and his mostly stunned Gentile girl friend Melody (Maddie Joe Landers.)
The scene, or rather the arena, is the snazzy (great set design by Charlie Corcoran) Upper West Side co-op studio apartment with a view of the Hudson from the bathroom window that has been purchased and given to Jonah by his wealthy parents who live in their own apartment down the hall. Familial discord turns fierce with a vengeance despite it taking place at the start of the week of mourning or "shiva." For more plot details check out the original reviews linked above.
. As played with a blistering ferocity by Silberblatt, Liam, is more than a match for Daphna's fiercely vindictive verbal assaults. Incorrigible incivility may be a good way to describe what happens in the apartment during this one evening but your attention will be mostly riveted by the performance of Lapidus as Daphna, an impassioned keeper of the faith who plans to emigrate to Israel. With her lengthy mop of curly, disheveled hair and her glaring gaze, she is, as is every actor assigned the role, designated to turn any contender for our attention into stone at will.
At first VanderPoel fools us with his constantly retreating response, but soon this fine young actor makes us understand and see how his relatively benign posture has been always been a part of his survival. It would also be easy to misread the benign performance by Landers as Melody, a " shiksa" in a strange world, whose defenses don't prove to be as down as we might think.
This is a play that becomes richer and riper as it creates both laughter and pathos through the exploration of its four complex characters as they withstand venomous attacks and sorrowful withdrawals. Harmon has created a situation that needs no more than a little dramatic kindling to ignite. His subsequently written Significant Other is currently playing on Broadway. (review )
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Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon
Directed by Jessica Stone
Cast: Amos VanderPoel (Jonah Haber), Laura Lapidus (Daphna Feygenbaum), Alec Silberblatt (Liam Haber), Maddie Jo Landers (Melody)
Scenic Design: Charlie Corcoran
Costume Design: Sarah Laux
Lighting Design: Christopher J. Bailey
Sound Design: Drew Levy
Fight Direction: Gerardo Rodriguez
Production Stage Manager: Libby Unsworth
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, no intermission
George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, N.J.
Performances: Tuesday through Saturdays (except Thursday, 12/8) at 8 pm Thursday, Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m. Sundays at 7 p.m.
From 03/21/17 Opened 03/24/17 Ends 04/09/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/24/17
NJ Theatre Alliance
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