This is a comedy written by Joshua Harmon that takes place in a small Manhattan apartment where three grandchildren are expected to spend the night before sitting Shiva, the week-long mourning period for close relatives.
The grandchildren include Dapha, who is “furiously” attached to her Jewish heritage and plans to move to Israel upon graduation from college. Her dreams include being in the Israeli army.
Then there’s Jonah, who simply wants to keep the peace. He’s always on the outer edges of the action and seeks to calm the storm.
Liam, the oldest of the three, has declared himself an atheist and surprises everyone by bringing home his girlfriend, who is as blond and non-Jewish as any woman can be.
Hilarity ensues, but in the midst of that hilarity is the argument every family faces at one time or another. Why don’t my children espouse the same beliefs I do? Why do they chose roads that take them away from parental values and choices? I teach them to be strong and independent, but must they be that independent?
This play is well done and will make you laugh, cry, and think. What more could you ask of a performance?
Rachel Comeau is Daphna, the devout Jew, who wants all the traditions and beauty of the “chosen people” to continue for as many lifetimes as have as gone before. I was amazed at the strength of this young actress. There were times when I grew tired for her because her performance was so demanding.
Jonah, played by David Paul Rowan, is the quiet, faithful child. He knows chaos is ahead as Daphna hammers him for information about his brother, but he tries to move around and get away from the tenacity of her energy. I think he was my favorite character because his expressions of grief, anger, weariness, and frustration came mostly from facial expressions, body language, and gestures. He was remarkable.
Adam Lubitz was Liam, the family’s prodigal. It was obvious he loves his family deeply (with the possible exception of Daphna), but he could not be the dutiful oldest son who carries on the family traditions. The fact that he’s in love with the beautiful Melody, played by Lily E. Garnett, adds to the distance from his family.
Lily makes Melody an important character. She is delightful. Her quirks and compassion make her a standout.
The breaks in the family’s bond are most evident as the three grandchildren discuss their grandfather’s Chai necklace, a much-loved family heirloom. Yes, it usually comes down to who gets what when that beloved family member dies. I know personally. My mother and her sisters still talk of where things disappeared to when my grandmother died 59 years ago.
I highly recommend this play for the performance and the content. As I said, it will make you laugh, cry, and think. You’ll be glad you saw it.