By: Sandi Durell





The staging should have been set as a boxing ring – no one is willing to take off the gloves as two cousins verbally punch each other viscerally; Daphna (born Diana), the soon to be award-winning wild-haired berater of all and everything, the excellent Tracee Chimo, is the ultimate down and dirty diarrhea of the mouth perpetrator who would need a needle and thread to sew up that orifice in order to keep her quiet.

In Joshua Harmon’s new comedy “Bad Jews,” three cousins come together to share a small studio apartment on Riverside Drive (with a view from the bathroom of the Hudson River), for their holocaust survivor grandfather’s funeral.  The apartment belongs to the meek and mild Jonah (perfectly played by Philip Ettinger) who doesn’t have much to say verbally, but says a lot in gestures and mannerisms.  The set is cozy and inviting for the young group, strewn with mattresses on the floor (by Laura Halpern).

Jonah’s older brother Liam (Michael Zegen) has missed the funeral because he was skiing in Aspen with his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Molly Ranson) and lost his cell phone on the slopes.  More fodder for the vicious, half crazed Diana as she fights for Poppy’s “Chai” (religious medallion meaning life) believing she’s the deserving one because she’s a good Jew and when she graduates Vassar, she’s going off to Israel to join the Army and marry a fantasized boyfriend Gilad.

Things go from bad to worse when Liam arrives with Melody, who is a quiet, non-confrontational blonde – just another deer in headlights as Daphna goes on the attack wanting to know where her people come from – no, she doesn’t mean Delaware (Melody’s response).

Or why does Melody have a large Treble Clef tattoo on her leg?  Oh, because she used to sing opera as a kid and loves music? Daphna keeps hammering away, barely a  breath getting through. Yackety, yackety, yack! Mean, nasty!

Liam is not going to give up the Chai which Poppy gave him, says he, nor is he going to put up with her rants as he gives it back in spades. As he so succinctly says: “she takes details, spins them in her web and throws it back with venom.”

At times the 95 minutes was akin to watching a cartoon unfold.  Along with Harmon’s unbelievably good comedic writing skills, is the mix of pathos that balances beautifully.  With Daniel Aukin’s superb directorial skills, this cast kept the knock outs going.  The audience audibly gasped at various instances, one lady behind me actually yelling out oy vey!, basically stopping the show for a moment as Chimo dealt with it.

My only qualm was wishing there was a stronger finish.

This is a must see at the Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre on West 46th Street, NYC thru Dec. 15th

212 719-1300