By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Bad Jews a family drama without parents, aunts, uncles and most especially in this case, without a grandfather. There is none of the usual equipment for a dysfunctional family drama: no kitchen table, no drunks, no terrible secrets. This is a millennial generation showdown: two "bad" Jews, one "good" Jew and one shiksa girlfriend.
On the night of their grandfather's funeral, Daphna Feygenbaum (Sofie Yavorsky, terrific fast-talker and owner of a sensational head of hair) and her cousin Jonah (Greg Fallick) "I really don't want to be involved," are waiting in an upper West Side aparatment for Jonah's brother Liam (David Raphaely in another fine performance as a grandson) to fly in from Aspen. He finally arrives, with his girlfriend Melody (Laura Giknis—who is just-right cute and can hold a high note for an astonishingly long time).
At issue is their grandfather's gold chai, a symbol meaning Life Jewish men wear on a neck chain; Liam has it and Daphne wants it. What is really at issue in this play is cultural legacy: the survival of the Jews vs. assimilation into Americans. They hurl birthrights, the Holocaust, and Bible quotations at each other in impassioned speeches; outrageous claims are made by four really smart people. Then the battle erupts into a brawl (the slapstick stuff is the weak element in the show).
Written in what the playwright, Joshua Harmon, called "total obscurity," Bad Jews, his first play, was a runaway hit Off-Broadway in 2012 – 2013, and is likely to become a darling of regional theaters. And no wonder: the play is laugh-out-loud funny and full of painful insights, and the production, at the Walnut's Independence Studio on 3 is, under David Stradley's direction, topnotch
Walnut Street Theatre Independence Studio on 3, 9th & Walnut Sts. Through Nov.30. Tickets $35-50. Information: WalnutStreetTheatre.org or 215-574-3550.