Any play that is described as a “savage comedy” gets us here at L´Chaim immediately excited. Even more, when the play is described as “The funniest play of the year” by The Washington Post.
Bad Jews is coming to San Diego, with its cast of cousins battling over a family heirloom -their beloved grandfather´s Chai. The night after Poppy’s funeral, his millennial grandchildren engage in the mother of all squabbles over the heirloom. However, they are not only fighting over an object but over its personal significance. And what the Chai means to each of them varies so greatly, that the play ends up tackling the questions of a generation.
We had the opportunity of talking with the talented and delightful Rob Lufty, who will be directing the play at Cygnet Theater.
Here´s are some tidbits of our conversation:
Tell us a little about Bad Jews, what is it about?
It is important to note that [ writer ] Joshua Harmon is asking questions of a particular generation. It is intentional that our playwright has left the millennials alone to work things out. The fact that Poppy, the grandfather, was a Holocaust survivor, also puts forth significant questions. Millennials are the last generation that will have known a survivor of the Holocaust
It´s also a play about labels, about how quickly we label one another. What does it mean to be a good Jew? Does it include or superseded by being a good human?
I mean, the title itself is a label…
You are right! We were wondering if you were Jewish…
No -I am not Jewish. I am a goy [ laughing ]. I am very open to the fact that this is a play about a minority group which I´m not a part of.
Oh, but with the success of shows like Amazon´s Transparent, you would think that there is a fascination with Jewish culture… Or is it something else? What elements of the play do you think resonate with the community at large -and not just the Jewish audience?
Well, this play is about the family unit, which is something everyone can identify with. The Chai itself is a symbol. Do you preserve the memory of what that symbol means to him? Or has it got more to do to what it means to you…
All people are born with some cultural, ethnic, or religious inheritance. What they choose to do with that inheritance is up to them. More often than not, what happens is that different members of a family feel differently about their shared legacy, which makes for a lot of painful interactions.
Also, there are traits of the Millennial generation, which can be kind of selfish…
[Laughing] Technically you are a Millennial yourself, you know?
Yes, and I can see myself reflected on the characters [Laughing as well, whew!]. There is also a question about what it means to be American. My grandparents were Lebanese, but it was a pure assimilation to our country. I really had no connection to those roots, because my father, when he grew up, his parents would only let him speak English. My past is… I don´t know much about it. In a way, I´m jealous of Jews because they know, there is a real connection to the past.
You have talked about your experience as a member of the audience, when you saw Bad Jews for the first time
Yes, I was able to see Bad Jews at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. After the curtain call, several people who were sitting next to me asked my opinion, perhaps because they were closer to Poppy’s age, and I closer to the characters in the play. Our conversation spilled out into the lobby and then into the parking lot, and then to a bar nearby. I have never had an experience like this with strangers.
Time had run out. We ended the conversation by wishing Lufty and Bad Jews good luck. We can´t wait to see the play -an intelligent production, that makes us laugh, and ponder important questions- what else could we ask for? Better yet if we get to know some strangers, and talk to them at the theater, and then at the parking lot and then at a bar…
Bad Jews will be playing at Cygnet Theater from January 12 to February 12.