The gloves are off in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s blisteringly funny production of “Bad Jews,” a darkly comic satire that’ll make you cringe and guffaw at the same time.
All hell breaks loose when three cousins spend the night of their grandfather’s funeral in an Upper West Side studio apartment. Two of them are vying for possession of an heirloom piece of jewelry that means so much to them, they’ll stop at nothing to win the prize. The third simply wants to stay out of it.
The moment Daphna (Alison McCartan) opens her mouth, Eric Levenson’s already claustrophobic set begins to feel like the hellish confines found in Sartre’s “No Exit.” The woman on the verge feeling increases exponentially with the arrival of her arch nemesis, cousin Liam (Victor Shopov) and his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Gillian Mariner Gordon). Jonah (Alex Marz), Lim’s younger brother, desperately tries to remain as neutral as Switzerland in the overall contretemps.
Daphna(the Hebrew version of Diana, her birth name, now only used by Liam) is an aggressive, overly-confident, emotionally fragile Vassar student with a deep devotion to her faith and an Israeli soldier boyfriend no one has met. Liam, on the other hand, prefers that his Hebrew name, Shlomo, and his faith remain mysteries as he studies contemporary Japanese youth culture in a graduate program at the University of Chicago.
Their mutual disdain quickly escalates into full battle as McCartan and Shopov hurl jaw-dropping, jugular-slicing barbs with the intensity of a full-scale military attack. They each, however, turn on a dime, making the most vile moments hilarious. After one especially vicious attack, Daphna turns, sits and sweetly asks “So how’s school?”
There’s no denying McCartan and Shopov deliver extraordinary performances. But it wouldn’t work without the stellar, understated excellence of Marz (Jonah) and Gordon, whose side-splitting rendition of “Summertime” even made her fellow actors laugh at this performance.
“Bad Jews” is SpeakEasy’s finest work since their oft-awarded 2012 production “The Motherf—ker with the Hat.” Go, but be prepared to be uncomfortable.
If you go
Through Nov. 29
BCA Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston