INDECENT Opens at Palm Beach Dramaworks on Oct. 19
Indecent, Paula Vogel's warm, poignant, powerful play that resurrects the playwright Sholem Asch and the journey of his groundbreaking 1907 work, God of Vengeance, opens Palm Beach Dramaworks' nineteenth season on Friday, October 19 (8pm) at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre. Performances continue through November 11, with specially priced previews on October 17 and 18(7:30pm).
A drama with music co-created by Vogel and Rebecca Taichman, Indecent depicts the history of God of Vengeance, beginning in Warsaw in 1906 just before Asch is about to present the first reading of the play in a literary salon, and continuing through 1952, when he is about to leave America, his adopted homeland. At the core of the piece is the firestorm that erupted two weeks after God of Vengeance opened on Broadway: on March 6, 1923, the cast and producer were indicted for "unlawfully advertising, giving, presenting, and participating in an obscene, indecent, immoral, and impure drama or play." The indictment was the result of numerous complaints alleging that the play was anti-Semitic. But it is clear from the subsequent trial, when the assistant district attorney referred to God of Vengeance as the most "salacious performance" he'd ever seen, that the state was equally outraged by the depiction of a brothel, and of the heartfelt lesbian relationship that led to the first kiss between two women on a Broadway stage.
Until that moment in time, God of Vengeance had been performed on stages all over the world, both in its original Yiddish and a multitude of other languages, and was recognized as an important work. "In the seventeen years [the play] has been before the public, this is the first time I have had to defend it," Asch wrote in an open letter as the offstage drama unfolded.
God of Vengeance is about an Orthodox Jew named Yekel who runs a brothel in the basement of his home. Yekel believes that if he can find a righteous husband for his innocent daughter, Rifkele, and has a Torah scroll created as a gift to the couple, he can earn respect and make amends with God. He is unaware that Rifkele has fallen in love with Manke, one of his prostitutes. It was Asch's compassionate, understanding approach to same-sex love that was of particular inspiration to Vogel. Indecent incorporates some of the dialogue from God of Vengeance, including its most memorable section, a lyrical love scene in the rain between Rifkele and Manke.
Although Indecent ends in the middle of the twentieth century, the issues raised in the play reverberate resoundingly in 2018: the subjugation of women, anti-Semitism, antipathy toward immigrants, assimilation, antagonism toward gays, religious hypocrisy, and the role of art and artists in troubled times.
J. Barry Lewis directs an ensemble cast of actors and musicians featuring, in alphabetical order, Cliff Burgess, Mark Jacoby, Anna Lise Jensen, Matthew Korinko, Dani Marcus, Glen Rovinelli, Jay Russell, Laura Turnbull, Kathleen Wise, and Spiff Wiegand. Lynnette Barkley is the choreographer and associate director, Glen Rovinelli is musical director, and Avi Hoffman is the dialect coach. Scenic design is by Michael Amico, costume design is by Brian O'Keefe, lighting design is by Paul Black, and sound design is by Brad Pawlak.
Indecent was originally produced by Yale Repertory Theatre in 2015, and was subsequently staged at La Jolla Playhouse and Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre before opening on Broadway on April 18, 2017. It marked the Broadway debut of Paula Vogel, whose long and distinguished career already included a 1998 Pulitzer Prize for How I Learned to Drive. Among her other works are The Long Christmas Ride Home, Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq, A Civil War Christmas, The Mineola Twins, Hot 'N' Throbbing,The Baltimore Waltz, Desdemona, And Baby Makes Seven, andThe Oldest Profession. Vogel is the recipient of two Obie Awards and a Lilly Award, and is a member of the Theater Hall of Fame. There are also awards given in her name: at the American Theatre College Festival, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and the Playwriting Fellow at Vineyard Theatre. After teaching for 30 years at Brown University and Yale School of Drama, she now conducts workshops at theatres, schools, and community organizations. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.
Evening performances are Wednesday, Thursday, and select Sundays at 7:30PM, and Friday and Saturday at 8PM. Matinee performances are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM.Post-performance discussions follow Wednesday matinee andSunday evening performances. Individual tickets are $75, with specially priced preview tickets at $55 and Opening Night tickets at $90. Student tickets are available for $15, and Pay Your Age tickets are available for those 18-40. Tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates for 20 or more and discounted season subscriptions are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.