A Jew and a Muslim walk into a bar. At least, they do in scene two. In the first scene they are in an office, two ruthless members of a sales team flogging software to clients on headsets by any means. Karla Crome’s play sets up 20-somethings Mush and Gabby as colleagues and adversaries, their relationship full of friction at first. But, as any good rom com will tell you, friction at first means they’ll fall in love by scene three.
Hints of the play’s driving theme appear subtly in scene one: Gabby eats hummus for lunch, she has a family commitment every Friday evening, the Star of David is carved into lattices on the wooden cubes that comprise the set. It becomes clear that she is Jewish, he Muslim and so neither can tell their families about their relationship. On top of this, pushing Gabby further into questioning her family’s faith, her dad is dying of cancer.
David Mumeni gives Mush plenty of charm. He is always cracking a joke, lightening the mood, and flirting effortlessly and coolly. Daniella Isaacs’s Gabby is more serious and ambitious, torn between a gnawing sense of agnosticism and love for her observant family. Although she does not quite hit the peaks of distress that a dying father and a crisis of faith demand, she spars well with Mumeni and convincingly they play out the contours of a relationship.
As Mush and Gabby discuss levels of observance – he won’t drink or eat pork but he uses Tinder and sleeps with people at the weekend, she attends Shabbat with her family but doesn’t really believe in a god – the play starts to show off its central tension: it is both subtle and not. There is little subtlety in the way that it looks at religion: Gabby does not understand why a god would let bad things happen, but the problem of evil is nothing that hasn’t been gone over before. But its subtlety shines through when it becomes clear that it’s not a play that should be seen through a theological lens, nor does it confront the wider politics of religion and its conflicts today. What the play does do is tell a deeply personal story – the story that is personal to Gabby and Mush.
For Gabby, “Judaism is not really about god. It’s about where to live, about the fact my dad won’t buy a Volkswagen.” At its heart this is the simplest of love stories. But their relationship is shrouded in the inextricable complications of belief systems that extend too far beyond and around faith itself: religion is culture, family, history, war and, sometimes, peace.
In telling the story Crome reveals that religion, for each individual person, is rarely ever about accepting a doctrine in its entirety. What matters is not just what the Bible or the Quran or the Torah teaches, but about the beliefs and opinions of people that matter to each of us – parents, friends, lovers. It is not orthodoxy, but polydoxy, individual configurations, accepting this bit of belief but rejecting that. Crome says nothing new about love stories, but she points at a religiously pluralist, multicultural society and asks: are you ready for love?