Uncomfortable with the Odyssey’s “Bad Jews”

By Ernest Kearney Bad Jews at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble was hard for me to watch.

Hard in the same way I find it impossible to watch the British comedy The Office (BBC) by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

Don’t misunderstand me, I recognize the genius and talent behind the show. It’s just a matter of it ringing too true for me in its depiction of how brutal and insensitive we can be to others.

What can I say? I turn away from car accidents as I drive by them too.

And playwright Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews is one terrific car wreck.

Jonah (Austin Rogers) is sharing his up-scale New York apartment with his cousin Daphna (Jeanette Deutsch) who has come to attend their grandfather’s funeral.  They are expecting the arrival of Jonah’s brother Liam (Noah James) who, inexplicably to Daphna, had been away skiing when their grandfather died.

Daphna uses her time alone with Jonah to try to enlist his support for her claim to a family heirloom, their grandfather’s golden Chai, the Hebrew characters for “life” which he’d hid under his tongue the entire time he suffered the horrors of a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Daphna bases her claim on the fact that she is the most Jewish Jew in the family and she uses that sense of entitlement like a Ukrainian Cossack’s saber.

Enter Liam fresh from the slopes of Aspen with his uber-shiksa Melody (Lila Hood) in tow.

And now the fuse hits the powder.

Resentments, incriminations, denouncements, and other assorted abuses fly about, imbued with all the viciousness, as if the apartment had been sublet to Hurricane Sandy.   This is a take-no-prisoner comedy; funny, but brutally cutthroat.  Both Deutsch and James, as the two main antagonists, have moments of eye-gouging hilarity and Hood and Rogers fulfill the roles of collateral damage nicely.

Director Dana Resnick rides roughshod over the fury of Harmon’s play with admirable finesse and delivers intelligent reworking of the mayhem you’d expect from a Three Stooges short radio play.

Bad Jews is well-crafted, well-produced, extremely well-acted and superbly directed.

Entertaining?  Absolutely.

My only problem was that the most meaningful moment comes as an afterthought.

♦    ♦    ♦

(Featured Image: Pictured Lila Hood, Austin Rogers, Jeanette Deutsch, Noah James – Photo by Enci Box/Courtesy of Odyssey Theatre Ensemble)

Bad Jews
runs through June 17 at

Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Remaining Post-Show Discussions:
Fri., May 18; and Sun. May 27

For Tickets and Complete Information

Phone: (310) 477-2055 ext. 2

 or go to


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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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