Theater Review: 'Indecent'

Off Broadway's Vineyard Theatre is presenting a new work by Paula Vogel that takes a look at a play that stirred up a great deal of controversy when it opened on Broadway ninety-three years ago. NY1’s Roma Torre's filed the following review of "Indecent."

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman have conceived a marvelous new play. "Indecent" tells the true story of a century old drama that broke through social barriers and suffered grim consequences. But this inspired production is interested in far more than theatre history, delving ever so artfully into matters of culture, religion, truth and the transcendent force of art itself.

In 1907, a young Polish Jew named Sholem Asch wrote a play in Yiddish called "The God of Vengeance.” It told the story of a devout Jewish man who ran a brothel in the basement of his house. Upstairs he claimed respectability with his wife and virtuous daughter. But when that daughter falls in love with one of his prostitutes, that upright existence is shattered. The play was a celebrated hit throughout Europe at the time, and then it came to America. Translated into English it opened in 1923 featuring Broadway’s first lesbian kiss. The Vice Squad swooped in, closed down the show, and the cast and producer were convicted of obscenity.

The play's journey is depicted through several decades against the backdrop of two world wars and, tragically, the holocaust. It's all brought into vivid focus thanks to Vogel and Taichman's wonderfully stylized staging featuring dance, klezmer music and the most imaginative use of dust.

The entire cast, which has been with the show from its inception at Yale Rep, is sublime. Plying their versatile talents in multiple roles, they have crafted indelible characters in stark shades of darkness and light.

In its exploration of social morality, “The God of Vengeance” was ahead of its time, bringing to mind the works of George Bernard Shaw. But more than just the re-telling of a long forgotten gem, "Indecent" melds fact and fiction with the kind of insight and emotional depth that comes from theatre at its most poetic.

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