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Review: INDECENT at The Wilbury Theatre Group

Paula Vogel's play brims with passion and relevance.

By: Apr. 22, 2023
Review: INDECENT at The Wilbury Theatre Group  Image
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Much like a movie within a movie, a play within a play is always a risky endeavor, and The Wilbury Theatre Group's powerful, gripping production of Paula Vogel's Tony-winning drama, 'Indecent,' proves that not only are they up to the task, but confirms their status as veritable masters of this unique art form.

Inspired by Sholem Asch's 1907 consequential drama, 'God of Vengeance,' a lesbian love story between a prostitute and the brothel owner's daughter, 'Indecent' charts the Yiddish stage work's production history, where it was performed throughout Europe for more than a decade without incident, until it crossed the ocean in 1923 and resulted in an obscenity trial after debuting on the Great White Way.

With Susie Schutt's careful, thoughtful direction, the audience bears witness to a group of individuals who "rise from the ashes" as the former members of a theater troupe that brought 'God of Vengeance' to audiences from Warsaw to Berlin to New York and back. Its author, Asch, portrayed with palpable charm and willful intensity by Patrick O'Konis, cannot contain his excitement over his latest work. After the play is shunned by a group of local academics, its greatest champion is an everyman, Lemml, played flawlessly and heartfully by an earnest, endearing Chris Stahl, who claims his life has been irreversibly changed after hearing Asch's words.

The romance depicted on stage between the play's lead characters, Rifkele and Manke, continues off stage with the members from the troupe who portray them. Aimee Doherty and Anna Slate convey chemistry that is nothing short of electrifying, and their superb performances shine brightly and forcefully as the couple who notably shared the first same-sex kiss on the American stage.

Each member of this impressive ensemble is pivotal to demonstrating the story's plentiful timeline of events, taking on multiple roles with well-executed entrances, exits and costume changes. And did I mention there's music? Moments of delight and despair are accompanied by hauntingly beautiful arrangements that include the violin (Florence Wallis), the clarinet (Assel Sat), and the accordion (Dylan Michael Bowden).

Vogel pays rightful tribute to 'Vengeance' as groundbreaking, which eerily speaks to recent events (a century later) involving obscenity in literature and homosexual characters in storytelling. Meanwhile, 'Indecent' calls attention to the immeasurable influence of artistry and its ability to inspire and enlighten, especially when times are tough and the future is uncertain.

The intimate setting, profound message, commanding performances and hypnotic music make this production of 'Indecent' truly magical and undeniably unforgettable.

INDECENT runs through May 7 at The Wilbury Theatre Group, located at 475 Valley Street in Providence, RI. Tickets are available online at https://thewilburygroup.org/




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