BWW Review: INDECENT at KC Rep (Spencer Theatre)
Paula Vogel's heart-wrenching homage to Sholem Asch's provocative early 20th century Yiddish play "God of Vengeance" blazes forth in "Indecent", now performing at the Spencer Theatre (UMKC) by KC Rep. Returning to direct is former KCRep artistic director, Eric Rosen, who has congealed a solid production that has as much visual excitement as the scripted work being performed. From the compelling opening moments of the show "Indecent" delivers not only a slice of theatre history and political context, but a dreamlike ode that transforms it into a pivotal artwork.
"Indecent" is a play about a play, that was way ahead of its time. In young Asch's play, he enthusiastically examines cultural, political, religious, and sexuality so provocatively that it creates scandal from it's first reading in 1907. Undeterred, Ache is able to get the production staged in European and finally American Venues that eagerly receive it. "Indecent" follows the course of the original play through its various incarnations through to its dramatic performance in a WW II jewish ghetto.
The play's story about an unconventional brothel owner (played by popular KC theater actor Victor Raider-Wexler), whose daughter falls in love with one of his basement whores. "Vengeance" not only presented the developing relationship between the two women, but showed it as a natural physical connection that evolved in a purely innocent way. However, once discovered, they drew the father's wrath culminating in his casting them both into the brothel as he angrily destroys the Torah.
Not surprisingly, the upper echelon of theater and political power of the era, were not thrilled when the show opened on Broadway at the Apollo Theatre. Even after cutting the love scene between the two women from the script, it was still deemed so morally offensive that it was shut down by the police six weeks after opening, and the entire troop jailed. Hardly scandalous in today's entertainment world, however, "Indecent", through it's perspective on "Vengeance," shed's light on the complexity and flawed nature of humanity, the dangers of censorship, and the power of theatre to transform.
Rosen has assembled a taut ensemble of skilled performers - who include Ben Cherry, Susan Lynskey, John Milosich, Susan Rome, Emily Shackelford, Maryn Shaw, Alexander Sovronky, Ethan Watermeier, and Max Wolkowitz. Together they create a dramatic and visually excellent performance from the opening brush strokes of ashes off their clothing to the pivotal rain scene. This production triumphs through it's precision and timing of choreography, music, and intricate scene movement . Incorporating period musical numbers, that give reference to the time, this show is complete from beginning to its dramatic conclusion.
"Indecent" runs approximately one hour and 45 minutes and is performed with no intermission. The show runs through February 10, 2019 and tickets are available at KCRep.org or by calling (816) 235-2700