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Cast of Bad Jews

Melody (Antonia Kinlay), Liam (Daniel Boyd) and Daphna (Ailsa Joy)

Bad Jews

Malvern Theatres

****

PROMOTION of this tantalising American play has focused heavily on its hilarity, giving a nod to high praise from the New York Times as "the best comedy of the season" when it first surfaced in 2012.

But while it's a fine, thought-provoking piece of theatre, Bad Jews imerses itself in dark wit rather than laugh a minute antics and demonstrates the real differences in comedy between America and Britain.

It's a bolshie and, at times, angry piece of work, laying bare the extremes of religious belief and culture within one Jewish family following the death of a much-loved grandfather and Holocaust survivor.

This Off-Broadway hit by Joshua Harmon transferred over to the UK last year to Theatre Royal Bath and now tours the UK after a stint in London's West End.

At only 1h 40 minutes long, it has no interval but seems to fly by despite an initial slow start. It picks up from a third of the way into the production as the small strong cast of four - three cousins and a fiancé - come to blows over a treasured family heirloom and who deserves it the most.

Ailsa Joy as the manipulative, over-bearing and fanatically religious Daphna is superb with her long rants and sarcasm, while an excellent Daniel Boyd plays her cousin Liam at the other extreme of the religious spectrum, but just as enraged.

Caught in the middle are Liam's non-Jewish girlfriend Melody (Antonia Kinlay) and brother Jonah (Jos Slovick).

Don't get me wrong, there's some wonderfully witty moments in this play but its assets are in its clever, memorable lines.

Bad Jews is ultimately a social commentary on religion, legacy and Judaism in 21st Century America that will leave you with plenty of food for thought.

Until Saturday, 31 October.

Alison Brinkworth

26-10-15 

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