GableStage opened its production of Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews on November 22, 2014.
In a New York apartment the grandchildren of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor fight over his religious heirlooms, bickering over who deserves them more -- and exposing long-simmering family feuds. There's nothing like a death in the family to bring out the worst in people -- and this unhappy truth is displayed with delectably savage humor in Bad Jews.
Joseph Adler directed a cast that featured Lexi Lang, David Rosenberg, Mark Della Ventura, and Natalia Coego.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
As if it was even needed, molten lava in the guise of scalding verbal acrimony ravages the apartment where incendiary family strife already was poised to detonate into devastation in GableStage’s uproarious and upsetting Bad Jews… Director Joseph Adler at his best, a superb cast of 20-somethings and the insightful playwright Joshua Harmon have crafted an alloy of intellectual ideas and excoriating emotions to open GableStage’s 17th season.
…honor that Adler and the actors playing the primary combatants, Natalia Coego and David Rosenberg, invest peaks and valleys in this 95-minute cage fight of long rants… Adler is a master of pacing, driving one moment, letting matters breathe a bit the next. This is crucial to keep this from seeming like one long spew of bile.
Nothing that Coego has done locally prepares you for her brilliant work creating this blazing comet with a fiery tail burning down everything in its wake... She keeps Daphna from being irredeemably obnoxious by revealing the agonized angst inside that is driving her. Coego’s Daphna is so clearly a slave to long-incubated rage.
Coego’s achievement is matched by Rosenberg whose Liam is just as tightly-wound and caustic. As someone who is rejecting traditional values, he still manages to keep Liam from alienating the audience as we come to understand his motivations and values.
Lexi Langs, last seen locally in Mosaic Theatre’s The Edge of Our Bodies, keeps Melody from being a lackluster object worthy of derision.
Mark Della Ventura has the least number of lines as Jonah, but he is absolutely just as effective playing the gentle soul who seemingly is a slacker disconnected from everything
For all the rollicking humor and scorching attacks, Bad Jews has a message about differing ways the upcoming generation pays homage to its past. Coming on the heels of its superb Mothers And Sons, GableStage has once again delivered a don’t miss production.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The first show of GableStage’s 17th season happens to be an example of what the company and artistic director Joseph Adler do best. A four-character recent Off-Broadway hit, Bad Jews is a rich if not flawless script with a quartet of great roles for young actors. Adler and his fine cast deliver every complicated twist and turn in Harmon’s emotionally volatile play about family, judgment and the permutations of faith.
Coego, sporting a cascade of unruly curly hair, crafts a Daphna who would make a first-rate sniper, if words were the weapons of choice. Daphna’s holier-than-thou attitude and condescending cruelty toward Melody would seem to preclude any empathy, but Coego allows many emotional colors to shimmer through her captivating performance.
Rosenberg’s Liam is wiry, tightly wound and every inch Daphna’s equal in slinging nasty verbal arrows — a formidable opponent for his loathed cousin. Langs’ Melody is sweet, observant and, as it turns out, a determined referee. Quiet Jonah, played in an utterly convincing and naturalistic way by Della Ventura, refuses to engage in the cousin histrionics. But still waters, as we learn in the play’s final moments, run deep.
…yet another excellent GableStage production.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Broadway World:
BAD JEWS is the kind of play director Joseph Adler relishes---the comedy, the drama, the moral dilemmas, the questions it poses to the audience---they're all right up his alley. He keeps the pace fast and furious, and has assembled a talented young cast to bring it all to life.
Coego, a real-life beauty, disappears completely into frizzy-haired, plain-Jane Daphna. In lesser hands Daphna could turn into a one-note caricature, but Coego gives her depth. Even when you want to strangle Daphna---and you will want to strangle Daphna---you find her fascinating. This is Coego's breakout performance, proving she's a force to be reckoned with.
Rosenberg matches Coego blow for blow with the dialogue as well as the passion each feels for what they believe is their rightful inheritance. Langs is perfect as Melody, the outsider forced to witness this family's dynamics. Langs also has her own spotlight moment when she tries to comfort Daphna that is beyond funny. Or sad. Or both. Della Ventura, an affable, teddy bear of a guy, delivers an understated performance that is key to the play's shocking ending.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
You can trust GableStage's Joe Adler to bring to town the most acerbic plays he can find, and this time, with Bad Jews, he's out Adlered Adler.
Daphna, in a brilliant performance by Natalie Coego, harangues the other three about their failures and her successes, their lack of faith and her total immersion in Judaism. When you read this it all sounds sort of boring, but Joshua Harmon's script, Joe Adler's direction and the skill of the four actors make this ninety minute one act a pure delight.
…Della Ventura's subtleness and presence is such that the merest twitch of a lip tells a story.
David Rosenberg is the pragmatic Liam, wound with a furious energy, matching Daphna's vile rantings with venom that would shame a snake.
There's a ton of agony in Bad Jews, but, believe me, you'll be laughing anyway.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Joseph Adler paces and stages the play for maximum audience involvement and impact, but his main skill in evidence here is his unerring ability to discover and cast new talent. Enough cannot be said of Coego, who gives a force-of-nature performance as Daphna, epitomized perhaps by her mushroom cloud head of hair. She heaves anger at everyone in her path, even those clearly not up to her talent for jousting. But Daphna saves her most incendiary barbs for Liam, and Coego shows the bitterness the character feels, a grudge match that has been a long time coming.
Rosenberg too bristles with intelligence and a confidence that Liam’s positions are the only rational conclusions. To paraphrase the Levy’s rye bread ad, you don’t have to be Jewish to recognize antagonists like Daphna and Liam from your own life.
As the play’s only non-Jew, Langs portrays a character in over her head, a pawn who refuses to be pulled down to their level. She also delivers a quite funny rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime” when Daphna goads her into singing. Della Ventura is silently reactive for much of the play, though he has the final (non-verbal) word on honoring his late grandfather.
Bad Jews plays at GableStage through December 21, 2014.