Good news for ‘Bad Jews’

For the first time in more than 10 years, the Pierce College Theatre Department sold out the entire run of one of its show.

All 600 tickets of Joshua Harmon’s comedy “Bad Jews” are already gone. The play stirred controversy about two weeks ago when several people called to complain about the shows title, which was displayed on the marquee outside the school.

Premiering October 2012, Harmon’s play discusses themes of identity, privilege and conformity, as three cousins in a Jewish family are brought together in mourning after the death of their grandfather.

When choosing plays, the Pierce Theater Department tries to provide a balanced offering to its subscribers, according to Theater Manager Michael Sande.

“This play, in particular, is going to leave the audience asking questions about the theme and themselves in a bigger cultural context,” Director Anna Steers said in a phone interview.

The audience is exposed to family arguments concerning religious values and material heirlooms that cause tension between the characters.

According to Andrew Former, who plays Jonah, it’s easy for him to draw parallels between his life and his character.

“With a play like this that is so modern, we are not so far from the characters,” Fromer said. “It’s about looking at your own life and seeing the similarities, which are pretty stark.”

Because there are only four roles, memorizing all of the lines was daunting for the cast members.

“The sheer amount of words that I had to download in my brain was a challenge,” lead actor Ryan Phillips said.

Preparation began three weeks before the semester started, with show rehearsals beginning in early January.

The look of the set is partly defined by what is described in the text, in addition to the creative liberty of the student set designers and director.

It was important to Steers that the actors grasp the greater context behind “Bad Jews” and the main references, which included the Holocaust.

“All of the students were eager to do the research, and all the actors went to the Museum of Tolerance and spent a day there. It’s tragic in a much larger scale to realize that,” Steers said. “We started to live in the reality of how people in the Jewish faith identify with their religion after the Holocaust.”

Fromer anticipates the crowd will have varying reactions to the play.

“I really hope [the audience] will be torn, because you think you know the answers, but it’s really not clear what side you should be on,” Fromer said.

According to Sande, the Theatre Department is sensitive to people who still want to see the show, but haven’t yet secured tickets.

“What we are telling people is to come [in person] 45 minutes before the show starts. That is when the box office opens and that is where you can get on a waiting list,” Sande Said.

The show is set to run March 24 through April 2.

Read the review here