“Bad Jews” playing at Dow Arena Theatre
If you are interested in a play about modern Judaism and its affect on four young people, make a beaten path to Joshua Harmon’s “Bad Jews” playing at Dow Arena Theatre at Los Angeles Pierce College Theatre in Woodland Hills, CA through April 2nd.
This is the story of four young people, three of them Jewish, and their meeting at a studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The clash of personalities, opinions and methods underscores a large problem with organized religion.
Harmon does not merely invite you into the studio to watch and listen to four different points of view about life and existence, he drags your head under a buzz saw and confronts you with a Quartet Tango of religious, political and personal issues that demand a resolution on one long and eventful night.
And what a resolution it is.
One that will be hard not only to forget, but not to feel.
For if it is one thing a playwright of Harmon’s talent can do, it is make the problems and crossword puzzles of his day remain the same ones crossing your desk in the morning.
The direction by Anna Steers is universal.
It is what it is because it will not be forgotten 100 years from now nor would it slip from memory 100 years ago.
Steers has a deep and abiding understanding and comprehension of Harmon’s language and the words falling in between the lines and cracks.
She helps run a feministic theme or thread throughout the evening that allows the audience the chance to recognize and reward the strength and beauty that is a woman.
In her brilliance, the veteran teacher, actress and director puts us, the audience, in the middle of the action not only physically, but intellectually and artistically.
The longtime San Francisco actress (“Angels in America,” “Blue Room,” and “Blind Spot”) asks all the right questions in helping the audience sort through all things Jewish.
What comes out of the fray and sturm und drang is a deep understanding of the isolation, alienation, suffering and self-consciousness that the Jews have had to endure not only since the days of Jesus Christ, but especially over the last 70 years when you include the Holocaust during WWII and the formation of the country of Israel directly following it.
Simply put, Steers compliments not only Harmon’s instinct and intention, but also what he does not put on the written page and merely asks the audience to take on faith and imagination.
In so doing, she assembles a gifted cast which fully comprehends the complexities and difficulties of bringing the proceedings to life.
The sole stand-out is Jeanette Deutsch (Daphna) who steals the show.
The Bay Area native and CSU Long Beach BA in Theatre Arts gives a startling performance of such presence, depth, strength and sensitivity that the entire play rests in her more-than-capable hands and lungs.
As the lynchpin of the play, the Shakespearean actress owns the role in such a manner that she is equally adapt at drama and comedy and does not let you forget it.
She inhabits the character with such ferocity, power and finesse that many male feet in the audience were seen nervously tapping and this critic’s skin had goose bumps during her most important monologue of the evening aimed bitterly yet genuinely at Ryan Phillips (Liam).
I hope to see Deutsch in many more plays on stages in Los Angeles again soon.
All in all, “Bad Jews” succeeds because of its honest, authentic and raw depiction of the strong yet often misunderstood relationship between Judaism and America, not despite it.
The work, which had its World Premiere produced in New York City by Roundabout Theatre Company in October of 2012, cannot seem to decide whether it is a drama or a comedy, so it very skillfully traverses the line between the two.
In the end, it is the very humanity of these four characters and the language they speak that makes this play so unerringly electric, engrossing and profound.
Go see it alone or with a friend. But check it out especially since there is but one more weekend to do so.
Who knows, it might just change your life.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
General Ticket: $18
Senior Ticket: $15
Student Ticket: $12
Admission and Information: (818) 719-6488
WHERE: Dow Arena Theatre at Los Angeles Pierce College Theatre,
6201 Winnetka Avenue,
Woodland Hills, CA 91371