The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is keeping the buzz high with their latest production, Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews, which premiered to a sold-out crowd on May 1st. Directed by the Segal’s own Lisa Rubin, this critically acclaimed show follows three cousins cramped inside a Manhattan apartment following the death of their grandfather. As tensions run high, each of the cousins is forced to consider their Jewish faith and culture, speaking truth to the power of conviction to one’s own beliefs.
To get an insider look at the show, QDF sat down with Montrealer Sarah Segal-Lazar, who many may know from her popular Fringe shows, Talk Mackarel and In Memoriam. Segal-Lazar is making her first appearance on the Segal stage in the role of Daphna Feygenbaum, the fiery cousin whose traditional values and vicious cynicism ignite conflict, specifically with her cousin, the intellectual and hot-tempered Liam Haber, played by Jamie Elman (Mad Med, Frozen, YidLife Crisis). “The more time I’ve spent with her, becoming her, I’ve really come to understand her point of view.” says Segal-Lazar, “It’s very real, but not stereotyped.”
While the show portrays arguments between cousins, this familial vitriol is steeped in love and highlights the importance of intercultural dialogue and appreciation of difference, particularly in today’s politically charged and divisive world. The message of the show is one asking us to listen to those with different opinions: “How do you hold onto your beliefs while hearing other people’s?” remarked Segal-Lazar, “How much do we hold onto and how much can we let go without losing a culture? Through watching these characters fight so hard and so viciously for what they believe in, maybe people will think twice before just ripping someone else’s head off.”
This message, this call to listen, is transmitted through the play’s razor-sharp wit and naturalistic style. “The whole show happens in real-time, so the second you come in to the second it ends we’re on this very intimate ride,” describes Segal-Lazar. The tiny studio apartment, beautifully designed by Brian Dudkiewicz, elevates tension but also reminds Segal-Lazar of another ground-breaking drama, “I keep saying, it’s kind of like Sex and the City, like, ‘I’m a Carrie! I’m a Miranda! I’m a Daphna! I’m a Jonah!’” And maybe this is what makes the play so powerful: the realness and the relatability of each of the characters. “Everyone will have friends or family, who are just like these characters.”
In a city like Montreal, one that’s so rich in history while simultaneously teeming with a diverse future of possibility, sometimes it’s easy to become trapped by the belief that we’re right and those who disagree are wrong. The power of this piece lies in its ability to make us pause and question why we’re so steadfast in our beliefs and what can be gained from hearing our neighbour’s story. “Everyone’s right and everyone’s not right,” says Segal-Lazar, “There are arguments to be made on all sides and they’re all valid.”
The play promises appeal to the younger generation. Harmon’s dialogue is written in the voice and the language of today’s twenty-somethings, fraught with the ‘likes’ and ‘actually’s’ and ‘literally’s’ for which we’re so often mocked. Jake Goldsbie and Victoria Diamond add fresh perspectives through their portrayals of Jonah Haber, Liam’s brother, and the play’s shiksa, Melody. For those worried that the cultural message might be inaccessible, the family in question is Jewish, but Segal-Lazar argues that, “It’s any culture; it’s about traditional versus secular.” If you have friends who haven’t been to the theatre lately, this could be your chance to open their eyes to the medium.
Bad Jews opens Sunday, May 1st and runs until May 22nd at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets and information check out the Segal website or call the box office at (514) 739-7944. The Segal Centre also announced their stacked 2016/2017 season this week, check out the offerings here!
Pictured above: Sarah Segal-Lazar (L) and Victoria Diamond (R). Photo credit: Antoine Saito.