One of the most produced and talked about new plays in North America is finally making its Montreal premiere, and we got a glimpse of the action at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts this week as the cast, crew, and creative team of BAD JEWS prepare for the first preview this Sunday. Also making a grand entrance is Segal Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin, who here makes her highly anticipated directorial debut.
Since its Off-Broadway premiere at the Roundabout Theatre Company‘s Black Box Theatre in October 2012, productions of Joshua Harmon’s “Bad Jews” have sprouted in every corner of the continent, going on to receive critical acclaim not only in the United States, but in London, South Africa, Israel (and expectantly soon Canada). Following the story of three cousins who viciously fight over a precious family heirloom when their beloved grandfather dies, it’s a fast-paced, gut-punching contemporary comedy that raises questions of faith and tradition in a changing world.
In rationalizing the reasons for the play’s popularity, Lisa Rubin explains: “It’s a phenomenal script”. While the Segal has assembled an all-star cast featuring Jamie Elman (Mad Men, Frozen, and the award-winning hit Yiddish web series YidLife Crisis), Victoria Diamond (The Demons, Nouvelle adresse and most recently at the Centaur in Bus Stops), Jake Goldsbie (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Being Erica and Kids in the Hall), and Sarah Segal-Lazar (Talk Mackerel, In Memoriam and her recent debut album Two if by Sea), Harmon’s sharp, stinging book speaks for itself. And, while told through a Jewish lens, its subject matters of death, betrayal, family, and legacy transcend religion and heritage.
“Why Bad Jews?”, I asked Lisa, whose strong musical theatre roots would have suggested she made her directorial debut with a splashy Broadway-ish spectacle (the announcement last year came as a surprise to many in the theatre community; fret no longer, however, as it was recently announced she will take the reins of the upcoming Segal rendering of Million Dollar Quartet). Also, stylistically, the play diverts quite a bit from what one would traditionally see at the Segal — a risky endeavour, but one that could prove to be a welcoming breath of fresh air.
“It hit me. It just hit me really hard and I became obsessed with it. If I was going to direct anything, it was going to have to take my attention away from the rest of the Segal Centre. With everything else we were doing, it needed to be something I was really, really passionate about.”
Within only the past two weeks, the Segal launched their 2016-17 season, opened the hit Belles-Soeurs: The Musical at the NAC, held their 7th annual musical fundraiser, hosted a Segal Centre Young Leaders‘ cocktail event, packed the ArtLounge with yet another Broadway Café, presented the Piano Chameleons as part of the Power Jazz Series, held the Academy Passover Camp, launched the media call for Bad Jews, and shifted rehearsal gears into full thrust for their two upcoming mainstage musicals – I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and The Producers. Ambitious and impressive (and there’s indubitably more I have forgotten and am unaware of). Frankly, I don’t know how she does it.
Lisa’s dedication to the Segal and passion towards this particular project are unsubtle. “Bad Jews resonates deeply”, and in birthing this production, the hope is to spark “conversations among younger generations on how we relate to the older traditions that were taught to us […] what we choose to take with us, what we choose to leave behind, and what we choose to create”.
In contemplating over my own personal struggles to ascertain my faith and to make sense of my family history (an admittedly stubborn and thoroughly conflicted millenial am I), Bad Jews arrives in a timely fashion. With performances beginning May 1st at the Segal Centre Studio (5170 Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal, H3W 1M7), the show runs through to May 22nd. Tickets start at $39 and can be purchased online, at the theatre, or by calling the box office at (514) 739-7944.
Stay tuned for our review of the show next week!
About the Segal
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is a not-for-profit theatre company dedicated to nurturing, producing and presenting world-class English-language theatre and to showcasing the best professional artists from Montreal and beyond. Founded in 1967, the Segal Centre has expanded to become a nationally recognized venue for the performing arts with a focus on creation, innovation, diversity and cross-cultural collaborations. Driven by a belief in the power of the arts to strengthen and connect communities, the Segal’s programming emphasizes original interpretations of popular classic and contemporary works, new Canadian musicals and engaging productions with universal appeal.