TheatreLAB’s ‘Bad Jews’ asks how identity forms faith at The Basement this weekend
Does following rules, or thousand year old traditions, make you a better person?
“Jews can be religious and they can be cultural – it’s a race as well as a religion,” explained Clinton, herself a jew and the Artistic Director at the Weinstein JCC Jewish Family Theatre. “When you’re born a Jew you’re pretty much born a jew and there’s nothing you can do about it – it’s part of you. And I think that makes it a little different than other religions because it really makes it a question about identity.”
This concept of Jewish identity, and what makes a good or bad Jew, is the focus of the up coming production, and it made Clinton re-examine her own Jewish identity, as well as that of her two teenage children.
“[Bad Jews] deals primarily with millennials and their approach to the world,” she said. She admitted she raised her children more culturally Jewish, but not as orthodox as others choose to. In working with millennials in the cast, and reading and understanding the script, she realized the play raised some important questions about how we treat each other and her two millennial kids.
“These questions are very relevant to today – cultural identity and how, when you live in a large society. Assimilation has good points and bad points but it impacts one’s cultural identity,” she said. ”And I think young people are on the search for who they are and this play addresses that.”
The topic became a bit of a passion for Clinton who thinks people can take a lot of lessons from Bad Jews.
“[The characters in the play] have their own way of looking at faith and its definitely helped me respect who [my own children] are turning out to be.”
As for plot, Bad Jews unfolds in real time over 90 minutes. Three cousins and an outside gather together for a shiva, the Jewish time of mourning, after a death. Sure enough: conflict unfolds.
“Things escalate around family events,” Clinton said. “You bring family together and there’s always some kind of drama.”
While she didn’t want to reveal too many plot details, she said the largest conflict comes from the family’s ability, or lack their of, to understand each other and judge one another less.
“I think it shows the different schools of thought very well,” she said, calling the narrative “rollercoaster-like.”
“Strap in, the comedy is very funny and visceral – they don’t hold back,” she said. “There’s biting, bordering vicious jokes at times. The writing’s very good.”
And while the play deals with a Jewish family, and focuses heavily on Jewish identities, Clinton doesn’t think you have to be of the Davidic line to enjoy or relate to it.
“It’s a universal story,” she said. “It’s all about how people judge each other in the way they practice their lives. Are you a good christian because you go to church every Sunday or are you bad christian because you only go on Christmas and Easter? It’s about protocol and how we are watched within our community.”
Just like a play about nuns in a convent or monks in a monastery, there’s themes in Bad Jews that apply to everyone.
Your chance to see Bad Jews happens this weekend and runs though March 5th. You can scoop tickets here!
Images via Birgitte Photography
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