Jewbana – Culture Clash, Exile and Discovery

“An actress and Jewish … this isn’t what Jesus and me discussed for my Steven” – it’s a shriek of cultural pain from a Miami Cuban Christian woman when she discovers her son plans to wed outside the fold.

Susie K. Taylor’s Jewbana has just opened at The Space @ Venue 45 and takes us into some pretty uncomfortable territory about the realities of human relationships.

The comedy drama results from a long voyage of self-discovery by the American actress.

Indeed, she asked six friends, frenemies and relatives (including her ex-husband) what they really, really thought of her and used it to create a comedy drama that provides a 360-degree warts-and-all view of a human life – her life.

And ouch, some of it hurts.

Susie takes on the roles of each of these others to deliver their views on her failings and plus points.

At the same time we get a good idea that none of them are exactly objective – being just as flawed and biased as her. And while several of the depictions bite deep, most are underpinned by affection and amusement.

So when the bizarre sight of her English ex-husband lamenting the fact that they never got back together as he phones her from a yoga retreat in Bali it might well call recall incidents in your own life.

You know the sort, when 20 years on you meet up with someone who you loved very deeply, only to discover that they are an arse – and probably always were. And what’s worse, that you are an arse and probably always were (perhaps the second bit is just me).

Jewbana is a piece that’s interesting from a UK perspective because the human situations are common to all of us, but the culture clashes of Miami Jewish and Cuban are distinctive.

The tensions within the family she marries into are not just about personalities but also religious and cultural identities. Her own family have a long history in the town and played a role in its growth and development – something they had to do in the face of anti-semitism.

The Catholic in-laws had fled Cuba when Castro came to power, losing everything, and rebuilt through grit, determination and hard work.

Her mother in-law is fiercely attached to Catholicism and Cuban identity. Steven simply loves his wife Susie. And when she takes on his persona, he says that the only issue her dad had with them being together was about that. If Steve loved Susie it was OK, if not it wasn’t.

Now at 45, and performing to the song If You Knew Susie (Like I Know Susie), she offers a reflection on family life, friendship and parenthood. But perhaps most of all it’s about marriage, and the struggle to make it work.

Ultimately, if there’s a conclusion, it’s probably that we’ll have the best chance of success if we recognise that we are all a bit crap and learn to laugh about it.

  • For tickets and times click here.