BWW Review: INDECENT Pays Gorgeous Homage to Love, Art
Paula Vogel's Indecent is actually about another play, Sholem Asch's 1906 play, God of Vengeance. At curtain, stage manager Lemml (TJ Lancaster) introduces the troupe, which has been waiting, frozen, in chairs along the back wall. The troupe, all who play multiple characters, is comprised of Paul Cereghino, Zoe Farmingdale, John Flack, Katie Karel, Judi Mann, and Tim Schall, along with musicians Alyssa Avery, Kris Pineda, and Jack Theiling. The year is 1906 and the characters are passionate theatre artists from Warsaw, Poland, committed to the success of Jewish-Yiddish playwright Asch's play about the daughter of a brothel owner who falls in love with one of her father's prostitutes. Controversial? Yes, but Asch dreams of seeing Jewish stories on every stage in every language in what was to be a Yiddish renaissance, and that includes creating stories based on people who might not otherwise have a voice. While this particular play, which shows two women kissing, enjoys great success across Europe and even in downtown New York City theaters, it undergoes edits to appeal to the English-speaking market and misses the mark when it begins its run on Broadway in 1923. It is then that its players and producers are arrested for obscenity.
Indecent is a complex play for intelligent audiences, dense and powerful. It is political in nature as it tackles issues of race, gender, homophobia, anti-Semitism, censorship, and forbidden attraction. It celebrates the power of art and love. And it is a drama lover's delight, with serious and funny undercurrents, tender moments, dramatic silences and powerful monologues. The acting in Max & Louie's production, under Joanne Gordon's skillful direction, is truly breathtaking, with moments so poignant and real one actually forgets they're sitting in a theater looking on.
The tech is also stunning-Dunsi Dai's scenic design, Patrick Huber's lighting design, and Phillip Evans' sound design-with all of it working together magically in rich tans, rusts, and browns that meld together to create atmospheric precision. With just a few versatile props designed by Stellie Siteman, and with a twirl or turn of the players, the stage is transformed time and again into a new scene altogether. Kevin Bowman's smart projection design uses subtitles and text projections to help ground the audience in place and time to navigate the story.
Indecent, by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, with score and original music by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, opened on Broadway in 2017 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. It is a beautiful piece of work that will appeal to those who enjoy deeply affecting, historically significant, and profoundly substantial plays. Indecent plays now through June 30th at The Grandel. For tickets and more information, https://maxandlouie.com/.