Thursday, 12 May 2016

INDECENT by Paula Vogel at the Vineyard Theatre

     Despite its dark subject matter, INDECENT, created by Rebecca Taichman (who also directs), and Paula Vogel and written by Paula Vogel, is a superb theatrical celebration. Basically is tells the story of Polish born Jewish writer Sholom Asch, whose Yiddish play, GOD OF VENGEANCE, was banned on Broadway in 1923 after being celebrated all over Europe and Off-Broadway. GOD OF VENGEANCE contains a lesbian romance. INDECENT is also the saga of a dedicated company of actors who dedicated much of their lives and careers to the play. After the play was banned in New York, Lemmi, the stage manager and central character of the play, goes back to Poland where he keeps producing the play in attics in the Polish ghettoes. Lemmi falls in love with theatre when he is invited to an early reading of Asch's play. Ultimately he devotes his life to keeping the play on stage. By the time GOD OF VENGEANCE opened on Broadway, Asch was a celebrated novelist and no longer interested in theatre or the fate of his play. Lemmi and the actors are the ones devoted to it. GOD OF VENGEANCE is banned because a leading Rabbi is furious at a Broadway play that presents Jews in a bad light. The patriarch is a brothel keeper and his daughter falls in love with one of the prostitutes. The play falls victim to conservative identity politics--the influential Rabbi doesn't want people to see bad Jews on stage and certainly not lesbian Jews. A few years after GOD OF VENGEANCE's one night on Broadway, the Wales Padlock Act would be enacted that forbid any play that brought homosexuality on to the New York stage. At the end, as rain pours down onto the stage, we see the touching lesbian love scene, still one of the sweetest love scenes between two women ever written for the stage.
     INDECENT is a celebration of theatre, of Jewish art and culture, and of same-sex love. On a bare stage a company of performers and musicians act multiple roles, sing and dance this multi-layered story. However sad life is for the characters these actors play, there are the saving graces of love and art.  Vogel's script is inspiring, Rebecca Taichman's direction is lyrical and masterful, David Dorfman's choreography looks natural. The company of actors and musicians couldn't be better. All in all, INDECENT is a lovely experience. The audience was on its feet cheering at the end. This was not one of those automatic Broadway standing ovations, but a heartfelt gesture of appreciation for something special.
INDECENT. Vineyard Theatre. May 11, 2016.

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