The summer season at the Theatre Royal Bath usually concentrates on the main house, with plays by writers of international repute. This year, however, there is a late addition in the Ustinov Studio, with the UK premiere of a savagely comic new American play by the less well known Joshua Harmon.
Ustinov artistic director Laurence Boswell’s tranche of plays for the spring season also had a trans-Atlantic flavour, and here we are again in familiar debating territory over the importance of cultural identity, sparked by a ferocious family quarrel over a Holocaust survivor’s much-valued religious artefact immediately after his funeral.
Arthur Miller used the same device to stunning effect in his 1968 play The Price, although Harmon has adopted a younger and even more full-on Jewish angle, with only the character of the sugar-sweet girlfriend Melody played by Gina Bramhill not of the Jewish faith. The two main protagonists are the feisty and fiercely Jewish Daphna Jenna Augen and her well-off cousin Liam Ilan Goodman, whose outlook on life is no longer shaded by his religion.
Bidding to keep out of the ferocious, and a times corrosive, conflict is Liam’s laconic brother Jonah Joe Coen, although in the end he surpasses the others in his commitment to the intrinsic message of the Holocaust.
Director Michael Longhurst and his four fine players make sure the fierce verbal conflicts do not prevent the abrasive humour coming across in ever darker colours, although the ending is disappointingly short of any promise of conflict resolution.