PICKSINSIX Review: INDECENT
GRIPPING ‘INDECENT’ FEATURES STIRRING ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCES
The play-within-the play “Indecent” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, unfolds over decades and across continents to tell the story of the life and times of Sholem Asch and the players who perform his work, God of Vengeance, a singular piece of performance art that was revered, censored and then shamefully reviled in its Broadway debut. “Indecent” champions the ideal that our unending responsibility to protect the essence of art that brings us together – truth, acceptance, freedom and love – can be ripped away in a moment. Director Gary Griffin, and the stirring ensemble playing multiple roles, deliver an inspiring and gripping production now playing at Victory Gardens Theater.
God of Vengeance, written in 1906, is a controversial love story involving a prostitute and a young woman whose father runs a brothel. As this “true story of a little Jewish play” begins, the players tell the compelling story of the inception of Asch’s work and the long and successful runs in Paris, Berlin, Constantinople and other European locations that followed, before Asch immigrates to America.
In New York, the play has an extraordinarily successful run in the Yiddish theater circuit before a muted English translation moves to Broadway, a 1923 debut that is shuttered in mid-performance on charges of obscenity that lead to the arrest and conviction of everyone involved.
At the dramatic center, the structure of Vogel’s fascinating piece – using subtitles in English and Hebrew, native language alternatives and dialects, and traditional music – accentuates the bitter attitudes of anti-Semitism and the heart-wrenching struggle for survival that Jewish immigrants faced in 1920s America and during the occupation in the ghettos of Warsaw during World War II.
This powerful ensemble piece features stirring performances from: Benjamin Magnuson (The Stage Manager: Lemml), Catherine LeFrere (The Middle: Halena), Noah LaPook (The Ingenue: Avram), Matt Deitchman (Accordian: Moriz Godowsky/Music Director), Kiah Stern (The Ingenue; Chana), Andrew White (The Middle: Mendel) Cindy Gold (The Elder: Vera), David Darlow (The Elder: Otto) and Elleon Dobias (Violin: Nelly Friedman).
In the concluding scene of “Indecent,” there is a glorious feeling of transformation to another place and time. That beautiful moment benefits from an amazing scenic treatment and the haunting musical score by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva performed live and directed by Matt Deitchman. Deitchman also leads an inspiring pre-show performance by Dobias (Violin), LaPook (Mandolin) and Magnuson (Bass). The superb creative and production team assembled by Griffin includes Scenic Designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec, Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld. Lighting Designer Keith Parham, Choreographer Katie Spelman, Sound Designer Christopher M. LaPorte and Projection Designer Stephen Mazurek.
VICTORY GARDENS THEATER
Written by Paula Vogel
Directed by Gary Griffin
through November 4th
2433 North Lincoln Avenue