The point of Stephanie Swirsky’s Don’t Do This to Us! is clear, but the pay-off — even at its modest time commitment of 100 minutes — is ultimately not worth it. Although it has an auspicious premise, its delivery of antisemitic satire often lands with a thud, causing theatergoers to question whether it’s okay to laugh (particularly when the jokes are based around the Holocaust).
Mara Kassin stars as Rachel, a current day, unemployed lawyer who is dismayed by the level of antisemitism in the United States. Most of her blame is targeted towards Jared Kushner (Grant Harrison), the real-life son-in-law and Senior Advisor to former President Trump. Lamenting to her energetic friend, Ravit (Rivka Borek), Rachel hatches a plan: she’ll turn the clock back to 1999 and seduce Kushner. After all, Ravit’s friend, Shira Schwartz (Lilli Stein) knows him. Since Kushner has given Jews around the world a bad reputation, she’ll break his penis and consequently, he won’t marry Ivanka Trump.
Quality satire, like Norman Lear’s All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, tackled similar themes: women’s rights, antisemitism, homosexuality, and other cultural hot buttons. Today, his shows remain critically acclaimed, groundbreaking hallmarks that sparked national conversations.
Swirsky is exploring similar concepts. By illuminating the stereotypes of Jewish people, she hopes to reflect how misguided and wrong our prejudices are while highlighting the fact that Kushner adopts all of these negative traits. Yet the effect is stunted by lackluster comedy and preposterous scenarios that swerve into grotesque territory.
Director Tasha Gordon-Solmon has assembled a quality cast, but they all deserve better material. The major issue here is a lack of focus and a driving narrative. Is it straight forward satire? More surrealist? Absurdist?
Stefanie Genda’s costumes and Hannah Birch Carl’s sound design (complete with Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion tunes) are perfectly evocative of nineties culture.
One must applaud the courage and originality it takes to create new theatrical works. This however, like Jared Kushner himself, feels lifeless and flat.
Don’t Do This To Us!
Running now through August 28 at The Tank
Tickets available here
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater, food, and nightlife journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a contributor to EDGE Media Network, The Broadway Blog, Queerty, and LGBTQ Nation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.