“Bad Jews” Rages Bright, Tight, Hot, Disturbing – What’s Not To Love?

Josh Harmon’s play has an amazing production history; a total home-run first-time outing for a young, talented playwright who scored big with this chamber play getting not one, but two Roundabout Theatre productions for this study of young American Jews mourning the loss of their “poppie” and practically gouging their eyes out in the process. I struggled with this play when I first read it 3 years ago in spite of all the talent bounding off the page. But by the time I made my peace with the excoriating portraiture and the horrid behavior we see on stage, the play’d become a bonafide hit and Studio Theatre landed it before we could get a response from the agent. Our loss. Studio’s winner. Congratulations to Serge Seiden once again. I think our student subscribers were quite taken by all the onstage viciousness and, more importantly, the negotiation of religious identity and family legacy. Should be fun to read these responses.

Alex Mandell, Irene Sofia Lucio, Joe Paulik and Maggie Erwin from the Studio Theatre production

Alex Mandell, Irene Sofia Lucio, Joe Paulik and Maggie Erwin from the Studio Theatre production

And from the New York production at Roundabout Theatre.

From left, Tracee Chimo, Molly Ranson, Philip Ettinger and Michael Zegen in a studio apartment setting in "Bad Jews," at the Black Box Theater in Manhattan.

From left, Tracee Chimo, Molly Ranson, Philip Ettinger and Michael Zegen in a studio apartment setting in “Bad Jews,” at the Black Box Theater in Manhattan.

47 thoughts on ““Bad Jews” Rages Bright, Tight, Hot, Disturbing – What’s Not To Love?

  1. “Bad Jews” at Studio Theater portrayed a struggle that many Americans can relate to. Diana’s perspective was on holding onto cultural and religious values in order to honor her past and pass it down through generations. Her cousin Liam’s side was that it is more important to do what makes you happy and live how you want than to hold onto questionable values. I think equally important to this debate, which is so crucial to the American experience, is Melody’s perspective. Many Americans today don’t struggle about whether to hang on to their cultural identity or not because their families immigrated so long ago that they don’t have those cultural identities to hold onto even if they wanted to. I think that what made this production so funny and thought-provoking was how each of its characters had a different perspective on this, making it so most audience members had a character they could relate to.

    I could relate to both Liam and Melody. Liam reminded me of my grandfather’s experience. After his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe he distanced himself from their traditions and stopped speaking their native languages. It wasn’t because he dis-respected his background, but because his lack of beliefs made it unimportant to him. He had a great interest in French language and culture, leading him to study at the Sorbonne, which reminded me of Liam’s pursuing studies in Japanese culture. The similarities I saw with my grandfather’s experience made me sympathize with Liam. The fact that he had privilege did not bother me (since when is privilege considered such a bad thing??), and the terrible things he said about his horrible cousin Diana only led me to like him more.

    Personally, I could really relate to Melody’s situation regarding her background. When she says her family has always lived in Delaware, and describes their background as a blend of various Western European nationalities, she definitely sounds dumb, but this is the experience for so many of us. One side of my family has been in California for generations and no one knows for sure where they came from or when they came here. In the post-show discussion, someone said something negative regarding Melody’s lack of knowledge of her background. This really bothered me, because there are so many of us, especially those of European descent, who have no way of knowing what that background is. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just being “American.”

    • Hi Sera,
      I totally agree with your comment on knowing about our family history. I related to Melody’s “Delawarean” association because all of my family members live in California. I don’t know much about my family history before my grandparents, both sets of which were born in the U.S. Now that all of my grandparents aside from one have passed, I don’t really know who to ask about my family’s history, although I wish I did. I think this phenomenon is true for many Americans today, especially in our generation. This lack of knowledge can be the result of people who simply don’t care about knowing their family’s past, but also of people who just don’t know how to find that information.

      • Genny, thanks for your response. For a lot of people there can be so many barriers to finding information about their past– deceased grandparents, mis-information (my great-grandpa told all kinds of tall tales about our background– no one was ever sure what was true and it became a game of Telephone), adoption/sperm donation/egg donation, lack of resources (though we could use ancestry services it would cost money and take time), and for cases like yours and so many others’, having a common name could make it hard to narrow down on your family through public records. As Molly mentioned too, records from the countries that people came from originally could have been destroyed due to conflict. Though it would be interesting for more people to know about the histories, there are a lot of practical barriers for many people.

    • Sera, to be completely honest, I found some of your comments a bit hurtful. The argument isn’t that there isn’t anything “wrong” with having privilege; it is that those who have it tend to misuse it and are insensitive to those who don’t have it. For example, your statement: “there are so many of us, especially those of European descent, who have no way of knowing what that background is.” You said yourself that your family has been in California for generations, meaning you and many others can trace your family history through historical records such as obituaries, birth and death records, and other archives possibly saved by your family. I, unfortunately, don’t have that privilege. On my mother’s side, we only have record up to my grandparents who moved to this country and the only way we were able to find any information further back was through oral histories from extended relatives in the Philippines. On my father’s side, the best we know is that before fleeing to America to escape persecution shortly before World War II, my great grandparents lived somewhere in Russia. The rest is unfortunately destroyed. I don’t mean this as an attack, just for you to understand that when you say “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just being ‘American’ ” it reflects a comfort that many of us don’t have. Because your family has been here for so long over so many generations and, as you said, most people in America are of European descent and have an experience similar to your situation you feel a comfort in the idea of being “American” because you are in the majority. I do not find comfort in that because I am not able to trace either side of my family past two or three generations and am struggling to build an identity out of what I do not know. I recognize what you and many others have just as I ask for you to recognize what I and certain others do not. That is where the criticism of “privilege” is coming from.

      • Molly–

        In my blog post, I made an effort to play devil’s advocate for the privileged and the plain Americans because I felt they had been undeservedly attacked both in the play and in the post-show discussion. Without meaning any offense to other groups, I do stand by my points:

        While privilege can be abused, my point is that I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being under-privileged either. The reason I brought this up was that I felt that Liam was stigmatized for his privilege alone, and not for abusing it.

        People who don’t know what their background is could certainly put in an effort to look into public records, ancestry databases, old phone books, etc. and learn some things about their past. However, most people are content without doing so. I don’t think that those people should have any obligation to others explore their roots if they are happy with the identity they have.

    • Interesting post, Sera. Though I cannot relate to what it is like to be “American” in the sense you use the term, there is of course nothing wrong with having that background and identifying as such (and anyone who would challenge your identity as such is being unfair). I think the term “American” is perplexing because what it means to be “American” is endless (couldn’t one argue the second generation Puerto Rican is just as “American” as you?). I understand what you mean, but think the way that society uses the term is in a much broader, all-encompassing sense rather than just describing people of Eastern and Western European mixed background who are separated by several generations from their European culture. Because I do not have this dilemma, I have not given it much thought. Do you personally ever introduce yourself as a Californian, given your family’s history? How does the rest of your family identify?

      On an unrelated note, I do not believe privilege is a bad or good social factor. It exists. Period. The important point to understand is that privilege exists and it leads to unfairness in our culture. By recognizing that people with white skin (like you and me) can enter a convenience store and not draw as much attention as a black girl or guy is important because by recognizing these subtle forms of racism we can try to catch ourselves from doing it again and teach our children, family, and friends to amend their behavior as well so we can live in a more just society one day. This sounds idealistic, but this is how the world changes. Just like cancer research, social unfairness is a slow, arduous process, but one day things will be better for more people if we do our part to help move it along.

      • Juan,

        Thank you for your response. “American” is definitely an extremely broad term that means a lot of different things to different people. I think that’s what is cool about it– I could identify as American, and you could identify as American, even though our backgrounds are pretty different. That’s a pretty unique thing about this country. I think that it’s up to everyone to define their own identity, and that there’s no such thing as doing it wrong.

        It’s also interesting that you ask how I identify and how my family identifies. To be quite honest, we don’t–it almost never comes up. On standardized tests and college applications when it asks for race and/or ethnicity, I always choose not to disclose. The way I grew up, culture/heritage/religion weren’t important– we didn’t celebrate holidays much, we didn’t know what our background was, and we didn’t identify with organized religion. I know that to many people, these aspects of life are much more important.

        I agree with what you’re saying about privilege. Social justice issues are slow to change, but I think our generation is extremely sensitive to them and will only be an improvement upon our parents’.

    • I want to weigh in on this conversation as the type of American Sera describes above. Based on my family’s history, my father’s family (Dutch) came to the United States as one of the first non-native fur traders in the American Midwest. Based on Melody’s definition, I am the epitome of “American,” and as an American, I was taken aback and offended by Melody’s comments about being “just American.” While there is nothing “bad” about having privilege, as Sera mentions, it certainly comes with increased responsibility. This means both acknowledging and respecting others’ cultures and their value to those who come from and/or
      choose to practice them. With that said, I found Melody’s character – albeit played wonderfully by Irwin – to be a naive and unapologetic version of the atypical American who does not recognize her privilege. This is particularly revealed at the end of the play, when Daphna rips the Chai from Melody’s neck and Melody insists on going to the hospital because the Chai had been in someone’s mouth for two years, showcasing her own ignorance to the importance of the Chai and its story, despite being told moments earlier about the deep significance by Daphna (to Liam’s chagrin). In this moment, we see Melody as the “American” she claims to be and protects: the type who does not appreciate and ultimately rejects a symbol of culture of a population she is not a part of and does not understand. As Americans, I stand by the idea that we have a responsibility to encourage the preservation of culture while also promoting an equal world, and Melody’s beliefs simplify that to a “beliefs and culture shouldn’t matter for the purposes of inclusion” argument, which eliminates the diversity of the American foundation we support so fervently as “Americans.”

  2. What struck me the most about “Bad Jews” was how much the character Jonah reminded me of my own brother and how elements of the relationship between Daphna and Jonah reflect aspects of my relationship with my brother.

    I made the connection between Jonah and my brother from the very beginning of the play. From the posture of the actor, his shoulders perpetually shrugged and always seeming to be slouched silently in a corner instantly reminded me of my brother. They even have vaguely similar Jewish names, Jonah and Jacob. As the play went on I began to notice they had similar personalities as well. Like Jonah, my brother never wants to get involved in family discussions or when we ask for his opinion he often tries to make an excuse or shrug it off with an “I don’t know.” I often see him back down when he starts to speak up, much like Jonah did when talking to either Daphna or Liam.

    Something I found incredibly interesting was how much the relationship between Jonah and Daphna in the opening of the play when it was just the two of them onstage invoked feelings of my own relationship with my brother, Jacob. I saw elements of myself in Daphna in the opening scene. I have the crazy curly hair, I’m stubborn, opinionated, and I can be standoffish, especially with my family. The way Daphna was trying to rile a reaction of Jonah about Liam and the chai reminded me a lot of how I constantly try to bring out reactions in my brother when I feel strongly about something or talk him into sharing my opinion when he doesn’t want to get involved or expresses no interest in being involved in a situation. Watching that really made me reflect on our relationship and how my family and I treat my brother. As I watched Jonah stuck in between these strong voices and often being silent in the corner of the room, it was almost like getting an outside perspective on my own sibling dynamic.

    I was intrigued because the family dynamic of this play can appeal to anyone, regardless of if you are Jewish or not but the relationship between these two Jewish relatives captured not only the sibling relationship but also the physical look of my brother and I who are Jewish siblings.

    • I had also not considered how similarly the staging in “Bad Jews” and “Belleville” were. I think that the staging in each play added to the repulsiveness of the characters’ actions. For example, in “Belleville”, the staging was very important when Abby pulled off her toenail. Almost everyone in the audience jumped with disgust after her seeing her with the knife, center stage, and in clear view. In the same way, in “Bad Jews”, the staging becomes very important when Daphna rips the chai off of Melody’s neck after jumping on her on the couch. Again, everyone in the audience seemed to jump after such a vial and visceral moment. The staging in both felt very open with just a single room. Accordingly, there was nothing to distract the audience on the set. As such, when moments like Abby pulling her toenail off and Daphna grabbing the necklace around melody’s neck happened, there was nothing available for the audience to focus on but the act.

  3. I enjoyed returning to Studio Theatre for the production of “Bad Jews.” When I first sat down and observed the stage, I said, “Wow, this set reminds me a lot of the one from Belleville.” Then I remembered that this was likely because Belleville was also shown in Studio Theatre. Still, I noticed a large amount of similarities between the two plays. The plays both had settings that took place in an apartment, both had a small cast of only 4 people, and both involved a lot of arguments between the characters. The utter cruelty that these cousins lash out at each other was hilarious at times, sorrowful at others, but overall they seemed full of passion and brilliantly resembled the realness of family conflict (which is what I admired about Belleville as well).
    What made this play really unique (and amusing) to me was the dynamic between two very outspoken characters: Daphna (or “Deevna,” according to Melody) and Liam. Daphna’s character is loud and speaks her mind – that is made clear from the very beginning when Daphna and Jonah are alone together and she keeps pestering him about visiting her at school. Once Liam and Melody arrive, however, people begin to lose their tempers. Liam, unlike the other two, doesn’t put up with any of Daphna’s insults or arrogant comments (especially those directed at Melody), and this creates a lot of tension between the two. I enjoyed watching the longer, insult-filled monologues of these characters – Liam about Daphna and Daphna about Melody – because they let out all of their pent up feelings without a filter, some funny and some crudely offensive. I think it’s sometimes nice to hear people speak this brutally honest.
    One of the questions asked during the discussion was, “Who do you think deserved to have Papi’s chai?” Both Melody and Daphna’s actors believed, perhaps biasedly, that they should have ended up with the chai. However, in my opinion, I think it should have gone to Jonah. Throughout the play I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Both of his cousins despise each other and are constantly tearing at each other’s throats, especially in regards to who should have the chai. But no one even asks submissive, quiet Jonah if he wants it. And in the very last minute of the play, Jonah reveals a fresh tattoo of the numbers that Papi was branded with during the Holocaust, demonstrating to the surprise of his cousin how much Papi must have meant to him.

    • Genevieve,
      I like that you pointed out some of the similarities between “Bad Jews” and “Belleville” because it was not something I had thought about. Besides both plays being held at the same theater, which was my only original thought about their connection, there were many other similar aspects. For example, in both plays I did feel like a fly on the wall in each apartment because you got to witness such intimate moments and arguments between the cast members. I also agree that it was almost nice to hear Daphna and Liam being so honest in their rants. It definitely made the play more enjoyable, especially in the way they presented it, such as changing their voices to imitate the person they were talking about.

    • I had also not considered how similarly the staging in “Bad Jews” and “Belleville” were. I think that the staging in each play added to the repulsiveness of the characters’ actions. For example, in “Belleville”, the staging was very important when Abby pulled off her toenail. Almost everyone in the audience jumped with disgust after her seeing her with the knife, center stage, and in clear view. In the same way, in “Bad Jews”, the staging becomes very important when Daphna rips the chai off of Melody’s neck after jumping on her on the couch. Again, everyone in the audience seemed to jump after such a vial and visceral moment. The staging in both felt very open with just a single room. Accordingly, there was nothing to distract the audience on the set. As such, when moments like Abby pulling her toenail off and Daphna grabbing the necklace around melody’s neck happened, there was nothing available for the audience to focus on but the act.

  4. Josh Harmon’s “Bad Jews” was well executed by the actors behaving badly on stage at Studio Theatre. Although, it was not difficult to be distracted by the abrasive language and behavior between Daphne and Liam; my curiosity stayed on Jonah. There was so much dialog about “Poppie”: his legacy, his heroism, his life, that I couldn’t help wondering which of his grandchildren mirrored him most.

    I have no doubt Poppie taught Daphne to reverence Jewish traditions, and the rich heritage being misplaced by some modern Jews. And Daphne exhibits traits that her personal memories of Poppie were lasting and meaningful. I also tend to believe Poppie and Liam had private conversations about young, Jewish men migrating into another culture, especially when love is involved. However, it is difficult for me to envision Poppie ever arguing with his family.

    I imagine the impact of being orphaned because your entire family is murdered could have possibly heighten Poppie’s sensitivity to senseless beratings. I imagine Poppie was the proud, family patriarch, who beamed at the sight of his family gathered around the table to partake in a ceremonial Jewish custom. I imagine Poppie pouring himself into each of his children and grandchildren uniquely and individually because he understood the importance of family bonding.

    And while we are all aware there are no perfect families, I imagine Poppie’s heart ached silently when his family ranted about trivialities. I am lead to wonder if Jonah learned how to remove himself from heated conflict, by immulating his Poppie. I wondered if Jonah knew this conflict between Daphne and Liam would eventually smoothe out, as did many others he may have witnessed. And his silence in the last scene as Daphne is realizing how irreverent her emotional tidal wave has injured an innocent life, even as her beloved Poppie’s life had been damaged by the rage of another’s hatred, leaves me with chills.

    Jonah’s lines were few, but potent to the careful ear listening. Through his character I saw Poppie’s aged face mouthing “I don’t want to be in the Middle” of anything that will sevre the family I love more than anything. And if Daphne and Liam could have learned their Poppie’s characteristics of listening and speaking carefully, they would have concluded that Jonah deserved their Poppie’s most memorable heirloom.

    • Ruth I love you blog post! It makes me think about the same things as you are. What would Poppie have wanted? Who was most like him? I completely agree that Jonah had few lines, but when he did have them they were interesting. However, I think that Jonah frustrated me more than anything because of his lack of “taking a side” for lack of a better word. Not because he decided that he did not want to be in the middle – because that is completely understandable and respectable. The reason I have an issue with him is because he gave his word to both Daphna and Liam and then went back on his word. If you don’t have your word then what do you have?!

    • Ruth,
      I agree with you that Jonah deserved the chai, because although he did not vocally fight for it, his understated appreciation for Poppie’s story tells us how much respect he has for not just Judaism or marriage, but for Poppie as a person. I also appreciate that you brought up the issue of hate and love in this play. Because, if anything, culture should be something that brings us together, not divides us. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to bond with someone with the same culture as you, just as it’s a beautiful thing to live in a nation that blends all cultures and is simultaneously all cultures and no culture.

    • Wow, Ruth!
      What an insightful comment. I personally became uncomfortable with the idea that the issue of heirloom was being debated the night of Poppie’s funeral. Even after the play, i didn’t want to decide who should get it, because I felt as though if I did, I would be joining them in forgetting that this was a time to be nursing the fresh wound of their loss. It was neither the time to be debating heirloom, nor was it the time to tear each other apart verbally. That all made me uncomfortable, but after reading your comment, I was forced to ask myself who, outside the situation, I really would have loved to get the Chai. I agree that Joshua should have gotten it. I am, however, not sure I would still think that if I hadn’t witnessed his neutrality in the face of the verbal battle between Daphna & Liam. I think after witnessing that episode, I do, of course, see that he deserves the chai, but otherwise, I would have struggled to see it.

      Also: the connection that you made between Daphna’s hurtfulness and the hurt that affected Poppie brought a certain stillness to me. It makes me relive that silence on stage, and it calls to mind the times i, myself, have sat to realize areas that i might have caused pain instead of soothing it.

  5. “Bad Jews” was an incredibly written and performed play that I enjoyed every second of. The play was incredibly humorous as I was laughing throughout the whole play especially at Daphna’s comments. I really enjoyed the fact that this play was so modern and believable. This play also explored the themes of family and identity and I found that much of what was being portrayed on stage also had relevance in my life.

    One comment that really stuck in my mind was when Melody told Daphna that her identity didn’t matter. This really offended me because as a person of color, I’ve been told this several times along with ‘I don’t see color’. Usually, the person has made this comment in order to empathize with me and make me feel better by trying to come off as ‘accepting’. However, by saying that identity doesn’t matter the person is doing the complete opposite. I feel that people’s identity should be acknowledged so that you can be more knowledgeable about other cultures and actually accept lifestyles that are different from your own. Melody was pushing the idea that Daphna should identify as an American which I felt was a bit ignorant (though I know she didn’t mean to be). Someone’s culture shouldn’t be ignored just for the sake of peace in homogeneity; I’m different and I’m proud of it. Everyone’s identity has generations and generations of important figures and culture and I agree with Daphna that it is very important to remember it and be proud of it.

    Another aspect of play that interested me was Jonah’s character. At the beginning, I was upset with his character because of his nonchalance and his inability to speak for himself. I thought that he would be another silent unopinionated character like Myron Berger in “Awake and Sing”. Thankfully, we got to see more of Jonah’s character during the end especially during that emotional scene when he reveals his tattoo that he got in remembrance of his Poppy and his tribulations in the Holocaust. I felt so bad for Jonah because he never got the opportunity to speak up though he had every right to. From his interactions with his brother, I could tell that this was a common occurrence and he was always dominated by Liam. It was so bold of him to get the tattoo of his Poppy’s numbers in remembrance of him instead of fighting over the ‘chai’ which showed how much he truly cared about his grandfather.

    • Hi Udechukwu,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I, too, cringed when Melody said that identity does not matter. Where people come from and the experiences they have is so important, because these are what makes a person who they are. The fact that Melody was trying to brush all of Daphna’s experiences under the rug and imply that she should, like Melody, identify simply as American was particularly offensive. While I can sympathize with Melody in that moment, only because Daphna is a strong personality and was grilling Melody pretty badly about things she clearly had no clue about, they were comments that should not have been shared. The fact that Melody was willing to share them with Daphna of all people shows that Melody probably has said far worse things with far worse (and even more ignorant) people. Someone mentioned in the talk-back that Melody was the most innocent, nicest character onstage. However, I found her to be ignorant and offensive, leading her to be right in the ranks alongside Liam and Daphna’s poor behavior.

  6. Joshua Harmon’s “Bad Jews” as produced by Studio Theatre was amazing. The comedy the actors were able to produce around a rather sensitive moment in the characters’ lives was truly wonderful to experience as an audience member.

    Although I am not Jewish, this play reminded me of intense arguments that I often found myself in with relatives, particularly siblings, in the past. Most of the time, the arguments between Liam, Daphna, and Jonah were presented humorously, but the very LOUD screams and frequent use of profanity would often leave me feeling uncomfortable or as if I should not be watching. In fact, many times throughout viewing, I, along with the majority of the audience, would gasp at parts that were especially vulgar. These cringe-worthy and uncomfortable moments were so vital to the success of the play. After all, we were dropping in on a very long and passionate argument among family members, so in order for it to seem authentic, we need to see and hear things that people normally wouldn’t do or say unless they are saying it to their family members. I think Irene, the actor in the role of Daphna, put it best when she said that she had to give herself permission to say some truly awful things because of the family dynamics presented in the play.

    Another aspect that I found to be interesting was quite simply how the play was structured. There was no intermission, no more than one Act, and no real scene changes. We quite literally dropped into this studio apartment in New York and watched a family argument ensue over the entire 90 minutes. The lighting would shift on stage to either draw attention inside the apartment or outside in the hallway, and the bathroom was used as a place where one character would retreat to, while the others stayed in the living room and told us their true feelings of that person. This last part is common to almost all of the productions, but it ties so well to family, because the bathroom is usually where one will storm off to for a quiet moment away from all the chaos of arguing.

    • Timothy,

      This play also reminded me of my family but in a different way. My father and I always have discussions on identity which really sounded like Daphna and Liam’s arguments (minus the strong cursing and raised voices). My Nigerian father is a strong nationalist and reminds me daily that I am primarily Nigerian and not American for the same reasons that Daphna gave. I have to remind him that since I have spent most of my life in America a large part of me is also American which angers him deeply. We go back and forth and argue just like Daphna and Liam so I found myself understanding both of their points of view.

  7. The production of “Bad Jews” by Studio Theatre was brilliant. All of the actors did a phenomenal job – I never once found myself thinking about these characters as anything but their characters. The play was highly relatable because it explored identifying with culture, which in one way or another is something everyone can relate to. This play actually brought up an anxiety I have reflected on extensively which is: how do I ensure my children are familiar with Cuban culture, especially if I marry a man who is not Cuban himself? I have not quite figured it out, and the play does not resolve this question either, but that is because the answer changes over time, and that is okay though it a tough answer to accept.

    The most fascinating and also broken character in this play was Daphna. She exceedingly militant about her culture in that she criticized and passed scathing judgement towards Liam because he did not fall in line with her idea of how he should identify as a Jew. I wish she would have had more balance in her love for her culture because it impeded her ability to be more open to befriending Melody. The moment she found out Melody’s background was…”Delaware” and not Jewish, Daphna shut down and saw her as a threat to the Jewish genes and culture Liam should be passing down, according to her. Though I understand what Daphna is saying (culture is important to share and pass on), she should have respected Liam’s decision to do what makes him happy. As his cousin, she should want him to be happy, which as far as the audience could tell, Melody made him happy. The somewhat strange aspect to this scenario was how invested and adamant she was about him being with her. They do not have a very strong relationship, they do not live in the same city, and she will be moving to Israel soon, so why would she care so much? It makes no sense. I suppose it does add to the irrational, erratic character she is.

    • Juan I too struggle with the same thing as well. How do you pass down the culture you grew up in? How can you shape that identity for the generations that will come after you? It’s also hard because I can only teach my children how to be a Korean American not a Korean. This is a very tangible yet subtle conflict I think many people can relate to, and I think this play captures it so wonderfully, so perfectly.

    • Juan,

      I hadn’t thought about Diana/Daphna’s motivations for not welcoming Melody before you brought it up. The reason can’t be that she’s worried about the Jewish tradition dying out, because I think that no matter who Liam married he doesn’t seem like he is very invested in Judaism.
      I thought it was interesting when in the play, Liam compared Diana/Daphna’s desire to ‘keep the gene pool pure’ (or something like that) to the Nazis. While Diana/Daphna’s desire to keep her Jewish traditions going may be coming from a good place, it also seems a bit xenophobic.

  8. The family dynamic in “Bad Jews” really made me think about my own family and my heritage. First, I do not think it was bad that when Melody was asked about her heritage, she just responded by saying she was from Delaware. I understand that it is important to know your family’s heritage and where you come from, but is there a point when someone can claim that there heritage is simply American? For example, I am a fourth generation American and all my family members I have ever known were born in America. Does that mean I can claim my heritage as American or will some people still find that offensive?

    The play also made me think about my family because the dynamic between Jonah, Daphna, and Liam was similar to that between me and my brothers. Of course, I am not as crazy as Daphna was, but I definitely embrace my family’s religion more than my brothers so I can relate to her on that level. Also, although the characters were fighting most of the time, I thought the playwright did a wonderful job of incorporating small moments that reminded them that they were family. For example, when they were telling the story of how they went to a Japanese restraint one year for Liam’s birthday, they could not stop laughing and for that small moment, they forget everything they hated about each other. However, I hope my brothers and I would never get into such a large fight over a family heirloom. Although it is sometimes hard to decide who in the family deserves what, I was hoping that Daphna would realize how genuine Liam’s intentions were with Melody. Liam did not want the Chai just to take it away from Daphna, he just wanted to show Melody how much she meant to him. And if Melody was going to marry Liam, she would become family, thus ensuring that the Chai would still remain within the family.

    • Word, sister Meaghan: “For example, I am a fourth generation American and all my family members I have ever known were born in America. Does that mean I can claim my heritage as American or will some people still find that offensive?” As our class has grappled with this a bit in the post-show discussion and in response to my blog post, your comment here really resonated with me. In my personal view, I think people should be able to identify however they like, independent of others.

    • Meaghan and Siera,
      I agree that everyone should be able to identify their culture in whatever way they feel comfortable. I was personally not offended when Melody identified as “just American” because I see that as a totally legitimate answer. However, I understand why Daphna is so determined to hold on to her heritage, I just don’t think Melody grew up with a similar cultural identity and therefore sees America as her families’ heritage. I agree with Daphna that traditions need to be held on to if you have them, but not everyone has those things to embrace.

  9. I really enjoyed the dichotomy between Daphna and Liam’s views on religion and wealth in “Bad Jews”. I have struggled with how to carry on the traditions and beliefs of my forefathers, like Daphna, and have also struggled with how to carve my own path and make my own belief system, like Liam. Many of the arguments that Daphna and Liam had on stage are arguments that I have had with myself over how influential I should let tradition and legacy be in my life.

    I have also considered how wealth contributes to one’s values and beliefs. I found it interesting how wealth seemed to influence Daphna and Liam’s values in the play. Daphna held great value in the religious reasons for receiving the chai while Liam seemed to find value in it for its aesthetic beauty and use as a substitute for an engagement ring. I wondered how significant wealth may have been in shaping each of their beliefs towards the chai. Maybe Liam thought the same of the chai as he did of the apartment, something nice but not important. Maybe he just took things like the chai and the apartment for granted because he was too used to receiving gifts like these. It seemed like Liam’s mother acted very similarly in her observance of the religious meaning of the chai. Her mailing such an important possession of “Poppie” across the country displays how little she thought of the religious importance. It seems like the distinct lifestyles of the two sides of the family had heavily influenced their thoughts towards the chai and the apartment.

    There was, however, an exception. Jonah, in the end, seemed to be the most observant of the meanings of the chai and his grandfather’s death. Unlike Liam, he understood the great importance of the chai and, unlike Daphna, he remembered his grandfather in his own personal and meaningful way. In the end, Jonah didn’t need the chai to carry on the legacy of his grandfather; he didn’t need to quarrel over the chai with his brother and cousin to remember him. While I criticized Daphna and Liam for overlooking things throughout the play, I was the one overlooking the most important thing in the play. I had never questioned why the chai seemed to be the only way for the grandchildren to carry on their grandfather’s legacy. Jonah offered an important lesson on how each of us must find our own personal ways to translate the legacy of our forefathers into our lives. It is not necessary to have the chai or other important objects to remember our ancestors. We must, however, find a way to remember them and respect them for ourselves.

  10. This play was super authentic and seemed flawless in terms of creating the sense of familial bonds and arguments. I constantly saw myself reflecting on my experiences with close friends, family, or situations where I was the “outsider” – as Melody was.

    When Daphna and Melody were together in the room I found myself reminiscing on my experience with the Michigan in Washington (MIW) program – the program that allows me to study here in D.C. this semester. When Melody arrived she had high hopes to have a good time, get to know the family, and be a strong support for her boyfriend Liam. This was how I thought my experience in the MIW program would be as well. I thought that I would come into this program have a great time in the capital, get to know people from Michigan and other universities thus creating a strong-ish bond, and have the other Michigan students be a support for me and vice-versa.

    However, when Melody arrived she was attacked and put into an awkward situation because Daphna called her out for how little she knew about Jewish culture and Liam. Similarly, when I came to D.C. I felt out of place. I did not understand politics, I have/had no interest in politics, or any form of political processes. I think that politics are corrupt and purposefully choose not to get involved or follow them. I also felt out of touch with the people in my MIW cohort. We come from different backgrounds and have vastly differentiating interests that became apparent just as immediate as Melody and Daphna’s differences.

    Sure, the play and my experience have different endings, but the fact that this play could bring me into my mind and reflect on a recent memory so vividly is amazing and speaks to the power of theater. On the surface the play and my situation are different, but going deeper allows similarities to be revealed. This has taught me that nothing is surface level with plays. I have said it before, but I continue to add on to the fact that everything is intentional and purposeful in theaters.

    • Hey James, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the play. I thought you brought up some really good points about family dynamics in the play, ones that definitely didn’t really occur to me at the time. I particularly like how you emphasized Melody’s outsider status. Though it was difficult for me personally to relate to much of what we saw in the play, I think in some ways both Melody and the audience functioned as outsiders and observers on an intensely personal family drama. That being said, I don’t think anyone had a problem getting into the play or enjoying it! I also appreciate the fact that you could relate it directly to your experience here in D.C. I think factors like that only help us enjoy these plays even more.

    • Hey James,

      I appreciate your comments about how you were able to relate the experience of Melody in the play to your own experiences living in D.C. through the MIW program. I agree with you that the theatre’s power to connect our lives and experiences to those we see performed on the stage cannot be overstated. As we discussed in class, I too have come to understand that virtually everything that we see performed on stage is intentional by the actors, directors and crew. They are often meant to evoke powerful feelings and reactions from us, and thus even when we are going to see a play that, on the surface level, does not seem to relate to our lives at all, we should take a moment to more carefully consider what the actors and directors have done with the performance – for in those decisions, there is surely something that is meant to strike us. I am looking forward to keeping this in mind as we see our last couple of plays this season.

  11. “Bad Jews” explored many issues relating to what culture means in America. I felt sad for Daphna because she really seemed to struggle with fitting into “American” culture. When she brushes her hair and says that she’s always wanted straight hair, I realized that having a Jewish heritage may be preventing her from completely blending in with what America has decided is pretty or desirable. And although Daphna is proud of her religion, I also don’t think that gives her the right to judge anyone who is not religious. Particularly, when Daphna passive aggressively insults Melody for getting a treble clef tattoo, I thought that she should not judge others for making individual choices.

    This play made me question what “American” means and question what culture means to me. I suppose we can look at it in two ways: America as a melting pot or as distinct cultures coming together. Or, perhaps, American culture is something unique and independent of these ideas. Ultimately, the play does not advocate for culture as an important or irrelevant part of the American experience. There is something to be said for Daphna saying Liam only calls himself a Jew when it’s convenient for him, and it’s also worth noting that Liam may be guilty of preserving only a watered down version of Judaism. So what is the role of culture in America?

    I think America has created its own culture. Consider this – America is an epicenter for film making and television and music. All that we create is spread in all forms of media all over the world. So it stands to reason that as a person being raised in America, you are a part of American culture. However, I cannot emphasize enough the impact that combining other cultures plays in the formation of American culture. We are truly a product of people all over the world, so even as “Americans,” never forget the importance of our roots.

  12. Bad Jews was one of my favorite performances this semester. I was able to identify with and relate with all of the characters in different ways. It was refreshing to see the gritty details of a family argument with no sugar coating. I’ve definitely had some similar arguments in my own family and seeing it up on stage helped to put things in perspective. Sometimes it can be easy to feel entitled to something, like how Daphna felt she had the closest relationship to Poppy, without realizing that her cousins had their own personal and special relationships with him. Relationships are not always quantitative and it’s very hard to rank them. I was shocked when the quietest of the group, Jonah, revealed his tattoo. That’s just an example of how people react to loss in different ways. Although he never spoke up about it, Jonah was just as invested in preserving his grandfather’s legacy as much as Daphna was.

    In the end, I really wasn’t set on who I thought should have the Chai after everything that had happened. If I was in Melody’s position, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to accept it after learning how much it meant to Daphna. After all, she never met Poppy and wasn’t immediate family. On the other hand, it was an amazing and thoughtful way of Liam to propose, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up taking it. If I had to choose someone to have The Chai, I would probably choose Jonah.

    I thought Daphna was being kind of mean to Melody and that it was unfair of her to criticize her for being “just American”. America is an extremely diverse country, but there are many people whose families have been rooted in a certain area for so long that they associate that with their culture. It’s also fine to be extremely connected to a culture that you identify with, like how Daphna is so strongly passionate about her Jewish culture. I don’t necessarily think either view is wrong.

    • Your analysis of Melody identifying as “just American” is very interesting. I think the question of being “American” throughout the play was integral to its development. For so long, being American meant that you came from humble beginnings and from different backgrounds and you now had incredible opportunities to better your life; truly, a melting pot. The idea that you cannot be “just American” is somewhat true, but I think identifying as American is not a problem at all. As long as you do not lose sight of where you came from, being American is just a way to celebrate your past and be hopeful for your future.

  13. One of the elements of this play that I found to be most interesting was the way in which it portrayed family dynamics. In our discussion after the play, it was suggested that it might be easier for one to get away with saying or doing certain things in a family setting than it is elsewhere. Similarly, there was some brief discussion about the way in which the family dynamics reflected in the play were symbolic of either our individual family situations or told us something about families universally. Both of these things are something that Bad Jews prompted us, and the rest of the audience, to consider. More interesting to me personally was the idea proposed by both Liam and Daphna at various times—that despite their differences, they were bound in a particular way not only to each other, but to past generations of their family and the Jewish people. This reminded me a lot of the various ways that the social contract has been articulated in modernity. One of the key ideas there is that there is a sort of contract not only between our generation and future generations, but also past generations. In this way, we might consider that sort of connection to exist between all members of a civil society. It might also exist in a particular way between members of the Jewish race, for reasons having to do with their religion and culture, and also the historical events surrounding their race. As mentioned several times in the play, the history of the Jewish people hasn’t been an entirely easy one. To the contrary, they have experienced some of the worst things human beings can be subjected to. I think this play forces us to examine the relationship between culture, religion, race and circumstances. These elements are all present in Bad Jews, and are some of the reasons it was both one of the most intense and enjoyable plays we have seen this semester.

  14. I am very impressed by how well Bad Jews was able to balance being very entertaining and thought provoking, simultaneously. I heard so much laughter from the audience, but at times when I looked around, I also saw looks that suggested that folks were picking their minds on the situation.
    Right after the play was over, I was talking to a few people about their experience, and somehow we ended up contemplating who should have gotten the Chai. In that moment, it occurred to me that not only did these three cousins deviate so far away from the biggest issue at hand (the passing of heir grandfather), but so did the audience. It was hard to not become invested in their triangular feud, but at the end of the day, I thought it all could have waited until the freshness of their Poppie’s passing had worn out.
    In response to Prof. Roth’s question on whether the stream of privilege obstructs our appreciation of the characters and their situation:
    I personally find it frustrating when people refuse to acknowledge privilege, but I find it equally frustrating when privilege becomes something that people feel the need to erase in order to validate their stories. Our stories are ours, and they matter regardless of how polished/ unpolished they began. The fact that they have this spare apartment overlooking the Hudson River, go on expensive ski trips, drink Fiji bottled water, etc does not make me uncomfortable, it just alerts me to how differently they might have experienced life from a majority of people in society. It also does not stop the flow of the story for me, because as theater especially, has taught me: we can see ourselves even in settings that seem very different from those in our lives. Beyond the privilege, they were family, and they had issues to fix. Family issues are things that people on any rung of the socioeconomic ladder experience.

  15. This production of Bad Jews brought out so many emotions while still doubling me over with laughter. In a hilarious production, it is always difficult to have a serious discussion about tough, real issues. In Bad Jews, it was no problem. The entire performance became an extremely focused look at one’s own religion and degree of faith, something that the characters believed to be a competition. Daphna and Liam were constantly competing, trying to show how their grandfather was more important to them than the other. For such a deeply personal question, it seemed ridiculous to me that the two of them were fighting about who was impacted more by their grandfather and his recent death.

    I was also extremely intrigued by the presence of Jonah throughout the performance. He was onstage for almost the entire play — except when he was with Liam in their parent’s room — and yet he rarely said anything, except to say he wanted nothing to do with the argument. Jonah absolutely refused to take sides in Liam and Daphna’s argument, but he was always a part of the scene. Only at the end of the play did it become apparent why he was there and why he did not take part in the argument: he was affected just the same as Daphna and Liam, yet he understood that the loss of their grandfather was not a competition about who felt it more.

    Jonah was deeply affected by his grandfather and his grandfather’s death, but he kept those feelings to himself. He immediately saw the competitive nature of Liam and Daphna’s argument and made sure to stay out of it; when he revealed his tattoo to Daphna at the end of the performance, it was clear that Daphna understood that the life of their grandfather was important to each of them in their own ways. His chai was no longer his most lasting impact; rather, his experiences and the shared experiences among their family are what have influenced them the most.

  16. “Bad Jews” covered a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time from family dynamics, to religious devotion, to growing up, to identity. As class we have begun to explore the implications of privilege in relation to this show, as well as the idea of varying levels of religious devotion. What struck me the most, however, was that these characters were essentially our age. Daphna is about to graduate college, while Jonah is presumably at least a year behind her. Melody and Liam are recent graduates, pursing the two paths you can take after graduation: face the world or continue in school.

    Everything that happened on stage felt so incredibly important, almost life or death. And to the characters, at this time in their life, that’s what it was. Finding your identity, dealing with major changes in your life, taking stock of your lot in life, everything these characters went through we will be going through as well. This made it incredibly familiar, even if I have a different relationship with my family and with my faith than was depicted.

    However, I also found it hard to believe that this is the way it will be, always. These characters are young, bound to change their minds about the direction their life will take. Eventually, I believe the’ll be able to find a middle ground between their fresh out of school, emotionally charged decisions and the life experience they’re bound to have. I had to remind myself that this was the way they felt, in this moment, at this specific time in their lives.

    So often with these shows, the ending has felt like the characters were moving towards a new phase in their life. Here, it felt as if they were just in the middle of one, which I appreciated. Almost nothing in life is as closed-ended as we would like it to be, and I enjoyed seeing that manifested on stage.

  17. As most people have mentioned so far, “Bad Jews” is a play that speaks to the struggle of many Americans today regarding culture and religion. I appreciated this play for that element. People fall on different ends of the spectrum of how religious one chooses to be, and how attached one is to his or her culture. It’s sometimes hard to figure out where I fall. For the most part, I felt like I could identify with Daphna. She was right to want to preserve her culture and her faith. Those things do matter, and I think they are very important in shaping the way you live your life, and what you value. However, sometimes she came off as overbearingly sanctimonious. I could also understand Liam’s point about love being the ultimate deciding factor for who you chose to spend the rest of your life with. When he was refuting Daphna with this point while also asking her why she was choosing a faith that hasn’t been particularly kind to certain groups and certain behaviors I felt like he was addressing everyone in the audience who identifies with one faith or another. It definitely made me ponder these questions because it’s questions like these that I think we should all be open to and actually strive to answer. If you don’t understand the reasons why you are adhering to a certain faith besides the fact that it was what you were raised in, then it becomes blind faith, and I would rather not live that way.

    Another point that stuck out to me was the dispute over the Hai. For something that holds such sacred meaning to the family, I found it highly inappropriate that Liam would actually use that in lieu of an engagement ring to his girlfriend. I was also annoyed by the fact that Melody didn’t seem to see anything wrong with that as she was more than willing to accept it.

    Jonah was the most reserved in the show, but his actions spoke very loudly. He definitely revealed to us in the end how dedicated he was to his grandpa’s memory, and it was beautiful.

  18. What struck me the most about this play was about the idea of a melting pot and where that balance lies. People can choose to decide how they are going to identify but what Melody did was ignoring the possibilities of how people could identify by saying religion, nationalities, cultures don’t matter as an American. The playwright, Josh Harmon did such a terrific job at creating this character Melody, who is representative of the overall narrative of what an American is and should be. As much as the characters were in their own extremes — writing to the stereotype to a certain extent — I was baffled by Melody’s ignorance on what constitutes an American, to say the least. But I was also alarmed by the lack of response I felt. I thought a lot more people would have been offended by Melody but I didn’t feel that was the consensus. That was very interesting to me. As written earlier in my response to Juan’s post, the struggle of preserving culture and recognizing that your culture will be watered down, and finding the balance between the two is a hard one to swallow and a hard one to understand. This play however captured that precise, subtle, conflict so perfectly.

    I also want to bring up the last scene where Daphna yanks the Chai from Melody. Blinded by her obsession, she loses respect from her cousins because she wanted that Chai so badly. In a way, it seems like that Chai was a validation for all her actions. I believe her action in that scene is consistent with her character and was not out of the line. But I do want to ask, to what extent is one’s obsession justified?

  19. “Bad Jew” was a very interesting play that highlighted the struggles of Americans to either preserve their family culture or jump into the melting pot. All Daphna and Liam are wholly unlikable characters, but do a great job of highlighting the two viewpoints of this debate. First, there is Daphna, a young woman who is very attached to her faith but also excessively judgmental and sanctimonious. She presents very appealing arguments for the preservation of culture and the importance if remembering your origins. Unfortunately, her ideas veer into the extreme when she advocates for ethnic purity and holds intermarriage as a crime. The way she treats her cousins for not being as devout as she is is downright hurtful and negates all the beauty that came with her religious convictions. Her devoutness means nothing when she acts so hateful towards Liam and Melody. Liam, an arrogant, selfish prick through most of the play, did occasionally earn my sympathies when he spoke of hid love for Melody and his desire to honor his grandfather’s Hai by using it as a token of engagement. I would find myself agreeing with his assertions that Daphna was annoyingly self-righteous, but then feel nothing but disgust for him as he ranted hateful, horrible things about her. Both those characters inspired me to think about the culture vs. melting pot debate, but I hated them both the entire time. I did not connect much with Melody either; she seemed very superficial and dull. I also thought it was inappropriate of her to accept the Hai after being witness to the debate Daphna and Liam had about it.
    The only character I did not detest was Jonah, but I think that was only because he so actively avoided conflict and involvement. There were many moments in the play that I would look at Jonah’s face and feel sorry for him, but that was the extent of my connection to him. However, I did enjoy the reveal of his tattoo at the end of the play. He showed Daphna and the audience that he found a way to honor his grandfather without causinf a huge family controversy, I believe Daphna saw that. Even though Jonah’s minimal involvement in the play left me without a clear pinion of him, that gesture at the very end made him a much more complex and sympathetic character than he had been the entire time.

  20. For numerous reasons, the performance of “Bad Jews” at Studio Theatre this past Thursday was one of my favorite theatre experiences this season. It was clever, funny and quite often shocking, and I believe it gave everyone in the audience something to think about after the show.

    I found the character of Jonah to be particularly interesting. Throughout much of the show, I actually liked Jonah the least of all the characters. I originally found it annoying that he never voiced any opinion concerning poppie’s death and heirloom, and that when asked for an opinion by Daphna or Liam, he fell back on the same line again and again: “I don’t want to be involved.” While I can respect someone’s decision to not get involved because they don’t want to add fuel to a pointless and hurtful conflict, I had a harder time respecting Jonah’s reactions because it at first seemed to me that he simply did not care. To me, it seemed that he did not want to voice his opinion because he simply didn’t have a fully formed one, and didn’t care about putting in any effort to think about uncomfortable topics like poppie’s death or Liam and Daphna’s arguments in order to form an opinion (he would rather stay in his pajamas and play video games, like in the beginning of the play). For these reasons, I found the end of the play to be particularly beautiful: Jonah reveals, through the tattoo on his arm, that he does, in fact, care. In his own, quiet way, Jonah demonstrated that he had in fact thought about poppie’s death and cares tremendously about his family. Unlike the other grandchildren who seemed to make a spectacle out of their mourning, Jonah respected his grandfather in a more personal, silent way, and in doing so made the loudest statement of any of the characters.

    • I think you make a great point about Jonah making “the loudest statement” in the play. There were a number of times throughout the play when all the characters in a scene would fall silent and turn to Jonah to hear what he had to say. The seconds as Jonah was deciding how or whether to answer a direct question were the only times in the play where there was voluntary silence. I agree that I was often annoyed with his inability to commit to an opinion, but I was also very satisfied with the ending.

  21. After my second viewing of Bad Jews, I was struck again by the hostile relationship between Daphna and Liam; however, I began to increasingly notice the important role of Jonah in the struggle. Jonah, the determined to-be bystander of the conflict who “doesn’t want to be involved,” essentially acts as the audience’s window into the play. As the most present character who is implicated in the decision of Poppy’s chai by both Liam and Daphna, his unwillingness to be a part of the conversation opens a door for the audience to jump in with the deciding opinion of who should or should not receive the chai. When Daphna finally pushed Jonah to find out if he would be okay with the chai going to Melody, Jonah’s eventual yet definitive “no” resounded with me as my opinion, even though I had not yet previously picked a side. This moment forces the audience to reconsider whom of the two – Daphna or Liam – should rightfully receive the chai, and eliminates Melody from the equation as a possible recipient. Through the unobtrusive eyes of Jonah, we are empowered to choose “Team Liam” or “Team Daphna,” instead of being swayed by a majority vote that might have taken place on stage.

    Beyond being the intermediary presence between two character extremes, Jonah also serves as the slowing mechanism on stage. Compared to Liam and Daphna, he seems to always be a mental step behind, and his pauses allow time for the audience to breathe in between the incessant ranting of his family members. He truly embodies this role in the very last scene, when he reveals his new tattoo of Poppy’s Holocaust concentration camp serial numbers. After the climax of Daphna attacking Melody, this moment embodies the play’s resolution as we are all drawn back to the root of the situation: Poppy’s death and how it impacted his family. Jonah, in this silent moment, becomes the character hit most by the death.

    • I agree that Jonah’s part in the play was absolutely crucial. I had a much better sense of this after I actually saw the play, as opposed to right after I had read it. While watching the performance, Jonah’s non-commitment annoyed me a bit at first, but as the story progressed, his indecision helped to build suspense over who should actually receive the chai. This question seemed to be answered all at the end, first when Jonah said it should not go to Melody, then when the chai was ripped off of Melody’s neck, and finally when Jonah revealed his tattoo. His powerful action of remembrance particularly struck me, because while Liam and Daphna openly fought over who deserved the chai more, and who was more affected by the death, Jonah silently grieved for his grandpa. This helped to center the message on the death of a family member, and the sadness and grief that ensue.

  22. Bad Jews was an amazing theater-going experience. I laughed constantly, often at jokes I felt uncomfortable laughing at but the play some how made me at east in its horribleness. It moved at such speed that I could barely question my own reaction before I was swept off into another room, another interaction, another ranting monologue that ended in uncomfortable silence. I was unable to take notes, as I typically do, because I found myself looking up feeling far behind the plot.

    A theme I noticed consistently throughout the play was that of superiority and inferiority. The title “Bad Jews” sets the stage for the fight that carried us through the full hour and a half production. The quote comes from an anecdote recounted by Daphna in which Liam eats a sugar cookie after the pass over feast, flaunting his disregard for the sanctity of the jewish holiday. In that same story, Daphna talks about a look of complete superiority put on by Liam during prayer at the seder to express his boredom with the spiritual ritual. Similarly, Liam recounts an example of Daphna’s look of superiority while giving a prayer during a Jewish holiday. They are both “superior” but also “bad.” Daphna believes Liam is a bad Jew for ignoring his religion and culture, and Liam thinks Daphna is a bad Jew for picking and choosing the pieces of Judaism she chooses to identify with.

    The tension between Liam and Daphna pushed back and forth between the idea being a “good” Jew and a “bad” Jew. However, throughout we see both characters are guilty of the superiority they find so annoying in the other. The flaw in their relationship is their competing similarity that drives them to butt heads.

  23. My experience with this play is different from that of the previous commenters, because I read the play, and have not seen it yet. However, I am sure many of the same things that resonated with those that have viewed it have resonated with me. For example, the quick back and forth between the characters was still very apparent while reading the play, and I am sure it was excellent to see live. Also, the stage directions in the play not only allowed me to understand the movement of the characters, but it gave insight into the character’s backgrounds, personalities, the mood of certain scenes, and more. This helped me to grasp the witty, quick, and often offensive conversations and exchanges. Besides the actual feeling of the performance, reading the text still allowed me to understand the struggles of the characters. For example, I felt bad for the berating that Melody received from Diana. Yes, I realize that Melody is dating Liam, and yes, I understand that she may not come across as intelligent or as driven as others, but the treatment she received from Diana is ridiculous. It shows the arrogance that some people have and how they can try and belittle others. Diana felt superior because of her intelligence and dedication to her background, but this made her no better than Melody. It’s a great thing when people are strongly connected to their past, but it is unacceptable to use this in such a way as to hurt others. Besides Diana, the other character that I felt strongly about was Liam. Not because I necessarily liked him, but because I understood his struggle with culture and religion. My family is very religious, and sometimes it can actually feel good to break away from this and be a ‘bad Catholic’. This departure can allow someone to feel unique, and to gain his or her own identity. Juxtaposing Liam and Diana in this play allowed for an interesting dynamic, illustrating the passions that go along with faithfully devout and faithfully devout religious people.

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