Astoria writer’s new play offers comical take on arguing politics with family in the 21st century

Roughly six years ago, Astoria writer Lisa Huberman scribbled down a short scene for a play while riding the 7 train.

The moment she depicted was an argument between a Jewish woman and her non-Jewish partner. He wanted to bring up Israel with her family. She did not.

Soon Queens residents will be able to see the outcome of that argument in Huberman’s new play “Fiddlers,” which will be read aloud at The Broom Tree Theater on Feb. 4.

The play tells the story of Ava, a secular American Jewish woman who, on the anniversary of her mother’s death, returns home to see her father Bruce and “frat-boy” younger brother, Seth.

Ava decides to bring along her boyfriend, a non-Jewish person of color, who works with her at a what Huberman describes as a “left-wing anti-Israeli occupation group.” Things quickly become complicated and comical when the four meet.

Seth has come back from a three-month-long stint in Israel with a new wife and new found religious fervor. Bruce announces a shocking discovery about the family’s heritage that throws Ava’s dynamic with her boyfriend out of whack.

Within the single day that the play takes place in, Ava is forced to wrestle with her ideas about Israel and what it means to be Jewish — something that Huberman has had to do many times.

Fiddlers is a way for me to work through my own complicated feelings about Israel, which is especially challenging with the rise of anti-Semitism over the last few years,” said Huberman. “Regardless of political affiliation, most Jews I know are living in this constant state of trauma over how to best keep our communities safe, and I want to give voice to those anxieties.”

According to Huberman, the scene she hurriedly wrote on the train and then hid in a drawer was picked up again out of necessity when she joined the Queens writers’ group Mission to (Dit)Mars.

The reading on Feb. 4 is part of the group’s Launch Pad Reading Series, a series of free readings of new plays by Queens playwrights. Mission to (Dit)Mars expects its members to write a full play a year.

But attributing the play’s completion to randomness is an oversimplification.

In 2015, Huberman spent an academic semester in Israel and took part in talks, seminars and tours offered by a nonpartisan educational organization called Encounter. It was during these trips and talks that Haberman engaged with a variety of Jewish communities with opinions and experiences different from her own.

Those experiences taught Haberman, as she said, “how to stay engaged even when what someone is saying is really challenging to you, even when you want to get defensive and you want to check out.”

She believes her play tries to get that message across.

“I feel like by the end, they are still going to be arguing about these things vehemently. But they are more resilient listeners,” she added.

Reservations for the reading can be made online. 

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