On he runs, singing “I’m a Jew… one of God’s chosen few” and we realise what we’ve let ourselves in for – an hour of a ludicrous, tender mess between two people who are in therapy for their relationship troubles.
Max (Saul Boyer) and TJ (Edie Newman) met, unconventionally, at the Polyamory Society and got together when all their poly friends had paired off monogamously. They break up because Max broke the first rule of poly. Not “always wear a condom” as he thinks it is, but instead because he has slept with someone else without her permission. N.B. For the purpose of this review I had to look up the first rule of polyamory.
TJ is played emotionally and exuberantly by Newman; this woman’s stage presence is oh so strong. She is a captivating performer even when dressed as a manatee. Yes, a manatee. You’ll have to see it to understand it.
Boyer as Max is exuberant, but also shy and immensely loveable. In moments I want to step from my seat and give him a hug, and occasionally punch him in the throat (also a reference to the play).
Their chemistry is incredibly intense, with jokes and constant small touches that aren’t sexual but represent the desire and need to constantly be close. These two performers perfectly represent that fine line between the friend and lover who you (hopefully) know isn’t right for you, and therefore ending it before any further pain is vital.
This hour-long play (honestly, what is better than an hour long two-hander straight through?) has moments of sharp political narrative “where was the Holocaust in the genocide exhibition? Nowhere… It was made by Momentum”; tongue-in-cheek humour “when it was all going wrong he split our room in half and called my half Israel, which was ironic as he was Palestine and claimed more territory.”
One of the highlights is the use of a remote control bright red car to, you guessed it, demonstrate their car journey. But the real winner is the writing: it’s funny, touching and has quotable lines that don’t seem cliché a la “I really identify with velvet” or “I’m a triple threat culturally. I can play Arabs, Latinos, and Jews.”
This play describes itself as a rom-com, but I think of it more as feel-good, slightly irreverent (but inoffensive) comedy with a bit of romance on the side. The script is free and frivolous – I don’t suppose many people have smoked a joint in the toilets of a Synagogue – but the heart in it is true.
I couldn’t sum up the point of this play in the course of several conversations, let alone one review. It isn’t really about Jewish identity, though of course one of the characters is Jewish. It is about love – the messy, tangled kind that real life is full of. The point, for me, was that I guffawed, I awwed at the romance, and I watched two satirical takes on Richard Curtis movies in a Synagogue and its burial ground, and for that, it’s worth a watch any day.
Jew…ish is playing at The King’s Head Theatre until 19 January. For more information and tickets, visit the King’s Head Theatre website.