Thought-Provoking Comedy at Gablestage

Stage Play Has All the Ingredients of a Major Hit



Lexi Langs, David Rosenberg, Natalia Coego
and Mark Della Ventura

Natalia Coego and David Rosenberg


Lexi Langs, David Rosenberg and Natalia Coego


Mark Della Ventura, Natalia Coego, Lexi Langs and David Rosenberg

By Ron Levitt

As much as I was personally turned off by the title, I finally had to admit that Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon -- currently at GableStage has got to be the most thought-provoking, darkest comedies to open in South Florida in many years.

That’s because of the playwright’s keen use of words and tenacity of wit, the intense baton-wielding of director Joseph Adler, and one of the best quartets of acting to tackle a combo of reality, truth and poignancy seldom seen on a local stage.

It all takes place the evening after their grandfather’s funeral as three cousins engage in a verbal battle over a family heirloom -- a gold ornament of the Hebrew word “chai (life ) which “Poppi” had saved while in a concentration camp during the Holocaust .

You will meet all of the characters and will probably recognize in them people you already know, no matter what your religious affiliation. There’s Daphna – a “Super Jew” ( a terrific performance by Natalia Coego ). She is an unpredictable, self-assured, and unbending. Individual who prefers her Hebrew name. rather than Diana. She is fierce in her beliefs and in upholding tradition. Then there’s cousin Liam (a bombshell performance by David Rosenberg ) secular, entitled, and just as stubborn as the others in his family. . And in the middle, you will meet Liam’s brother Jonah ( the always reliable actor Mark Della Ventura ) who tries to stay out of the fray and honor his grandfather’s memory. Liam’s girtlfriend (Lexi Lange ) is also present.

Symbolism abounds in heaps in this dark comedy. The now deceased grandfather kept the family heirloom safe during his years in a concentration camp by holding it beneath his tongue. It is this memorable ornament with such deep meaning that is the topic of this family’s debate. But this is much more than a play or debate about an ornament. It’s a play about family values and its impact on the future. The result of meeting these grandchildren is a savage comedy about family, faith, and legacy.

There’s nothing like a death in the family to bring out the worst in people, and this unhappy truth is displayed with delectable force by this versatile cast

Meanwhile, observers including Liam’s girlfriend (beautifully played by Lange ) desperately hope not to take sides in this conflict. Liam’s arrival just after his grandfather’s funeral has put Daphna on edge already, as has the reason behind Liam’s absence: He dropped his iPhone from a ski lift in Aspen and was trying to find it. So he missed the funeral.

It may be difficult not to relate to members of one’s own family as you watch these actors let loose with a verbal barrage. It is obvious that the actors have been choreographed to get the most out of every line of this well-made script. That’s why so much credit must go to Adler, one of South Florida’s most honored directors. He selects plays which have meaning and directs his cast to get the most out of every line. Bad Jews is a comedy but it leaves with a powerful , thought-provoking message.

Technically, this play Is near perfect with a set by Lyle Baskin, lighting by Jeff Quinn, sound by Matt Corey, and costumes by Ellis Tillman. But the real show-stoppers are the playwright’s use of words, the excellent direction and an ensemble cast which becomes more powerful as the audience gets to meet them.

Bad Jews will run through Sunday, Dec. 21. But we suggest you call for tickets now. This looks like a hit show. Bad Jews was the 2014 Lucille Lortel Award Nominee for Outstanding Play and 2012-2013 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominee for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play! 2014 Lucille Lortel Award Nominee for Outstanding Play! ! Call 305 445-1109 for tickets.

Ron Levitt, a freelance writer, is a former United Press Staff Correspondent and chairman of a public relations firm. He served as Florida’s Assistant Secretary of State. He currently is president of the South Florida International Press Club and secretary of the Society of Professional Journalists (South Florida chapter). He is a theatre critic and a Carbonell voter, Vice President of the Theatre League of South Florida and serves on the Board of WLRN Public radio/TV in Miami and on the Executive Committee of the University of Miami Citizens Board.

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