Behind the scenes of Bad Jews

The Bad Jews cast is returning to Cape Town after a successful run last year. From left, Oliver Booth, Lara Lipschitz, Glen Biderman-Pam and Donna Cormack-Thomson.

The Bad Jews cast return to Cape Town with a December run at The Fugard Theatre. The play, which has already had runs in Cape Town and Johannesburg, has had good reviews.

The story revolves around the death of a grandfather, Poppy, and a family heirloom that propels cousins Daphna and Liam into a domestic battle of honour, faith and heritage.

The devoutly Jewish Daphna is at odds with her secular cousin Liam, an entitled young man detached from his cultural traditions. Caught in the middle are Jonah, Liam’s younger brother, and Liam’s non-Jewish girlfriend, Melody, who just wants everyone to get along. When the group is forced to spend the night in close quarters, hilarity and mayhem ensue.

The Atlantic Sun sat down with cast members Oliver Booth, Lara Lipschitz and Donna Cormack-Thomson to discuss their roles in the production and what audiences can expect from the play.

City Bowl resident Oliver, who plays the role of Jonah, said the cousins fight over an heirloom which they all want for different reasons.

“I play Jonah who is Liam’s brother and Daphna’s cousin. Each of them are trying to get my character on their side. I am in the middle and have got a great relationship with both of them and don’t want to pick sides.”

Lara, who lives in Gardens, said: “It’s about what happens to a family when there is a death, how people react and how they identify with their Jewish heritage within the modern world.”

She added that it stays true to the original play which is set in New York.

The cast also use American accents. “It is an extremely well-written play. We have a lot of fun in rehearsals and it is a really great group of people to work with. I enjoyed getting to play this larger-than-life character who is very different to me and challenges me.”

Lara said she still gets nervous every night before a production but she said it is about managing those nerves.

“I think that is also the difference between theatre and film. A lot of actors say they can’t do stage. When this opened last year I was so nervous that I wanted to run away. That didn’t ever completely go away but as long as you manage and once you get going the nerves subside.”

Oliver said the cast worked very hard on their American accents and had dialect coaches.

“You want to get it really right, particularly coming from a South African accent. Americans are very expressive so it is a challenge but adds to the authenticity. This play is a dark comedy, there is a lot of humour but also a serious message throughout.

“Even though it is about a Jewish family the subject matter is something everyone can relate to; it is a family story.”

Both Oliver and Donna studied at UCT while Lara studied at Wits University.

“I think theatre is better supported in Cape Town than it is in Johannesburg. The Fugard is also really good at marketing and they bring good shows which helps,” added Lara.

Donna, a Tamboerskloof resident, said this was her first big commercial theatre production. She plays the role of Liam’s girlfriend, Melody, who isn’t Jewish.

“Liam brings me home and comes back to the apartment having missed the funeral, and it is a surprise for the family that I have arrived. She is very sweet and kind, and it is a very awkward situation for her to come into. She hasn’t met the whole family and hasn’t met Daphna. This argument breaks out and she tries to keep things calm,” she said.

Donna added that performing a play that was set in America was a challenge which she enjoyed.

“It’s a whole other culture and different way of speaking, but there is a lot that we can relate to, and I think we are very exposed to American theatre. I’m coming in new, so it was a big challenge to fit in with them. Having watched the play last year, I would say what audiences can expect is a lot of laughter: it’s a beautifully written comedy and gives you a lot to think about at the end. It’s a text-heavy play but it is brilliant.”

She added that there were a lot of unexpected twists that audiences could expect.

The show opens on Tuesday December 13, and tickets, ranging from R130 to R165, can be booked through Computicket at 0861 915 8000, online at or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. Bookings can also be made at The Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554.