It is not very often that a play moves from one theater to another. In som cases, for example “Million Dollar Quartet” which moved from the Goodman to the Apollo, it was a very long “lease”. The reason for these moves can be that the venue has another obligation, but there are times when a play moves from the city to the suburbs so that a larger audience gets a crack at seeing a sharp production. Such is the case with Theater Wit’s movement of their smash hit, “Bad Jews” as it left their humble home on Belmont and headed north to a place where the title has even greater meaning (or did in past years), Skokie. Skokie’s population has changed over the last several decades, with a percentage still remaining as others left for Northbrook, Highland Park, Deerfield and even as far as Buffalo Grove, but Skokie and Jews still are bound by its history.
Joshua Harmon’s comedy has been moved from a 99 seat theater to the much larger North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, a 318 seat theater, intact. Same set and same cast, a powerful foursome of actors who get into their roles with the heart and soul of the characters that have been brought to this special place in their lives. This is a story about family, tradition and adapting to the modern world. “Poppy” ( grandfather of three of the four characters) has died. We meet the youngest grandson, Jonah (well played by Cory Kahane, who handles underplay with great expertise) and his cousin Daphna ( a powerful performance by Laura Lapidus) who have just attended the funeral and are preparing for the mourning period they will face called “Shiva”.
Jonah’s older brother, Liam (an incredible tour de force for Ian Paul Custer who truly gets to show off his many emotions) arrives with his girl friend, missing the funeral because of a cell phone incident, a pretty lame excuse. It turns out that poppy had a Chai necklace ( Chai is the number 18 and also signifies “life”) that had a wonderful story connected to it. Daphna, feeling that since she is the “only practicing Jew” in the family, it should be hers, expresses her desire for same. Liam feels that since he is the eldest grandchild it should be his and it is his intent to propose to his gentile girlfriend, Melody (deftly handled by Erica Bittner).
This is 100 minutes of sheer comedy and honesty about how people interpret what is important to each. The title sort of misrepresents itself as it is not about Jews being bad, but rather about Jews who interpret Jewish law in a bad way. For example, eating a cupcake during passover, one might use the excuse, “oops, I am a bad Jew”, to let it slide. This story goes deep into the minds of these characters and deals with their own problems and what we find at the very end is amazingly handled. Director Jeremy Wechsler truly understands Harmon’s storyline. I has certain feelings about the show entering the theater as I had missed the earlier production. Those feelings were made stronger by the production and as the old saying goes, “you don’t have to be Jewish” to enjoy this show, but it wouldn’t hurt.The ending is truly what the story is all about. I will not spoil the effect of this moment, but it will stun you and make you see just how important tradition can be.
“Bad Jews” is scheduled to continue Through July 19th with performances as follows:
Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
NO SHOW July 4th and 10th
Tickets range from $20-$58 and can be reserved by calling 847-673-6300 or visiting www.NorthshoreCenter.org
The theater is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd. just south of Golf Road.
To see what others are saying (and have said) visit www.theareinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Bad Jews”