There’s something Kitchen-Sink about the setup of this script and its characters – take out the greying doilies and the 1948 Bush Model and replace it with The Hudson River and a fridge that spits out ice and there you have it – Joshua Harmon’s Jewish version of Abigail’s Party.
There’s usually one black sheep of the family, one stray or disappointment, but played through his comedic script Harmon proves that we are all indeed that stray, the disappointment or the black sheep – blame suits others far better than it suits ourselves.
The play focuses on four young adults – three of whom are cousins and grandchildren of a Holocaust Survivor and they gather together after the funeral of the patriarch.
As the night unravels so do relationships and the script’s two main characters Daphna and Liam wrestle over the ownership of a gold ornament their grandfather had retained throughout his time in the camps.
Spectators to Harmon’s bickering antagonists are Liam’s mild brother Jonah (who would rather sit in his underpants playing videogames) and Melody, Liam’s sweet gent(i)le girlfriend.
Proving that there’s no ‘ish’ when it comes to her approach of being Jewish, Daphna is quick to damn Liam and his non-traditional ways. Not afraid to fight against this status of ‘bad Jew’, Liam and Daphna enter into an almighty battle in the knowledge that the victorious will walk away with ‘Poppy’s’ treasure.
‘Hate comes from deep love’ says Harmon in an interview with John Good. ‘They loved their grandfather, and they hate the idea that his legacy would fall into the wrong hands. But the underlying motive is love, weirdly, which makes people act much more intensely than if they were just fighting from hate.’
Daphna is played by Ailsa Joy who along with Liam played by Ilan Goodman set the stage alight with tantrums galore. It’s no easy feat performing as two antagonists who flit from one mood swing to the next, but both actors maintain extraordinary energy levels throughout.
In supporting roles are Antonia Kinlay as Melody and Jos Slovick as Jonah who prove that meek isn’t always mild as they attempt to diffuse the battle of the bad Jew.
By the end of the piece the audience look as drained as the actors must feel – we too have laughed and cried in turn.
Harmon suggests that the intensity with which one might practise religion, evoke faith or pursue tradition doesn’t make for a bad Jew but it can make for a crappy cousin.