Photo by Daren Scott
Left to right: Danielle Frimer, Katie Sapper, Josh Odsess-Rubin and Tom Zohar in Bad Jews
Cygnet Theatre’s Bad Jews is either a no-holds-barred comedy in which resides important discourse about family culture and tradition, or it’s 90 minutes of exhaustive tantrums by two equally obnoxious adversaries. Joshua Harmon’s 2012 play is probably both, to tell the truth. In it, young Jewish cousins Daphna (Danielle Frimer) and Liam (Josh Odsess-Rubin) wage verbal war over possession of a chai amulet that belonged to their barely dead grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. A small New York apartment is their battlefield, with entitled Liam’s non-confrontational brother Jonah (Tom Zohar) and his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Katie Sapper) in the crossfire.
Daphna and Liam are so unrepentantly vicious and nasty that it’s impossible to root for either one. A fair amount of the audience laughter must be of the shocked or guilty variety. Odsess-Rubin manages to be funny even amid his childish diatribes; Frimer’s self-righteous Daphna, meanwhile, is a tornado of temerity. Bad Jews’ principals are so obstreperous and their salvos so cruel that whatever pathos the play strives to achieve at the end feels tacked on.
Bad Jews runs through Feb. 12 at the Old Town Theatre. $36 and up; cygnettheatre.com
On the other hand, Beau Jest is wholesome, good-natured comedy, the kind that adult sitcoms used to be before everyone settled for stupid. James Sherman’s play—about a single Jewish girl, her overly involved parents and the games she plays to please them—is nearly 20 years old now, but it’s still very amusing. The production at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado certainly demonstrates this. Kerry Meads directs a likable cast, with the single girl’s parents (Sandy Campbell and John Rosen) and her brother (Omri Schein, a scene-stealer) deserving of the most laughs. Sherman’s device of having Sarah (Erika Beth Phillips) recruit an escort-service Adonis (Ross Hellwig)—a Gentile, by the way—to “play” her Jewish boyfriend to please her parents results in its share of timeworn mishaps and double-takes, and there’s no doubt a happily-ever-after is in the cards. But Sarah’s parents, helicoptering before it was called helicoptering, are comic gifts that keep on giving.
Beau Jest runs through Feb. 12 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. $24-$72; lambsplayers.org
Good People: A struggling woman in south Boston hopes her life will get better when she meets up with an old flame in David Lindsay-Abaire’s drama. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it opens Jan. 27 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org
An Iliad: In a clever take on Homer’s classic, a single narrator recounts humankind’s long history of conflict and violence. Written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, it opens in previews Jan. 27 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Mothers and Sons: The San Diego premiere of Terrence McNally’s drama about a mother who visits her late son’s partner only to discover that he’s now a married father. It opens Jan. 27 at POWPAC Community Theatre in Poway. powpac.org
Freaky Friday: The musical comedy based on the Disney movie about a mother and daughter who swap bodies for a day. Directed by Christopher Ashley, it opens Jan. 31 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Matilda: The hit Broadway musical based on the classic Roald Dahl book about a gifted little girl who takes charge of her own destiny. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it opens Jan. 31 at the Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Better known as Dangerous Liaisons, this play revolves around a couple scheming socialites who make a bet that one can seduce a married woman. Presented by New Fortune Theatre Co., it runs through Jan. 28 at the Lyceum Space in the Gaslamp. newfortunetheatre.com
Waiting for Godot: Samuel Beckett’s classic play about two buddies waiting for a mysterious man that they hope will help them change their life for the better. Directed by Grant Gelvin, it runs through Jan. 29 at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
The Wiz: The funky reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz with classic songs like “Ease on Down the Road” and “Brand New Day.” Presented by J Company Youth Theatre, it runs through Jan. 29 at the Garfield Theatre in La Jolla. lfjcc.org
Play it Again, Sam: The Woody Allen comedy about a bookish and insecure fella who gets a little help with the ladies from an imagined Humphrey Bogart. Directed by Charley Miller, it runs through Feb. 4 at the OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
Marjorie Prime: The San Diego premiere of Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play about a future where lifelike robots provide companionship to society’s loneliest. Directed by Matthew Wiener, it runs through Feb. 5 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
Bad Jews: Three Jewish cousins feud over a family heirloom at their grandmother’s funeral in this comedy by Joshua Harmon. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Feb. 12 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Beau Jest: A comical romp about a young woman who hires an actor in order to convince her parents that she’s engaged to a Jewish doctor. Written by James Sherman, it runs through Feb. 12 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Altar Boyz: A musical parody about a fictional Christian boy band on the last night of their tour. Written by Kevin Del Aguila, it runs through Feb. 19 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
What the Butler Saw: A psychiatrist tries to seduce a receptionist and hilarity ensues in Joe Orton’s classic British farce. Directed by Keith Anderson, it runs through Feb. 19 at Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com