Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On INDECENT at Arena Stage
Arena Stage presents Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel's thought-provoking play Indecent. Inspired by the 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch's Yiddish drama The God of Vengeance, and the controversy that surrounded its themes of censorship, immigration and anti-Semitism, Vogel explores the behind-the-scenes story of the courageous artists who risked their careers and lives to perform this piece of theater under the most challenging circumstances. Infused with music that combines standards from Yiddish theater with folk traditions of the early to mid-20th century, Indecent, a co-production with Baltimore Center Stage and Kansas City Repertory, is directed by Eric Rosen, with choreography by Erika Chong Shuch and music direction and original music by Alexander Sovronsky. The production runs November 23 - December 30, 2018 in the Kreeger Theater.
Making his Arena Stage debut, Ben Cherry (Broadway's Indecent and Fiddler on the Roof) portrays the stage manager Lemml, the role he held in The Guthrie production as well. Returning to Arena are Susan Lynskey (Roe, Noises Off) as The Middle: Halina/Ensemble and Susan Rome (The Great Society, All the Way) as The Elder: Vera/Ensemble. Also making their Arena debuts are Victor Raider-Wexler (Broadway's Gypsy, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) as The Elder: Otto/Ensemble, Emily Shackelford (Off-Broadway's Lucky Duck) as The Ingenue: Chana/Ensemble, Ethan Watermeier (Les Misérables National Tour) as The Middle: Mendel/Ensemble and Max Wolkowitz (Long Wharf's The Chosen) as The Ingenue: Avram/Ensemble. The three actor/musicians are John Milosich (War Horse National Tour, Synetic Theater's Host and Guest) as Moriz Godowsky/Musician/Ensemble, Maryn Shaw (Studio Theatre's The Wolves) as Nelly Friedman/Musician/Ensemble and Alexander Sovronsky (Broadway's Cyrano de Bergerac) as Mayer Balsam/Musician/Ensemble.
"Paula Vogel is one of America's best living playwrights," says Molly Smith. "She tackles difficult subjects, challenging her audiences to question, confront and learn. I have said at Arena Stage that politics is our voice - in our bones and in our blood. Indecent is the kind of story that demonstrates what an impact theater can have. A great team has been built around this production, with our colleagues from Kansas City Rep and Baltimore CenterStage - which is further evidence of the power of theater."
Tickets for Indecent are $41-95, subject to change and based on availability, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as pay-your-age tickets, student discounts, Southwest Nights and hero's discounts, visit https://www.arenastage.org/tickets/savings-programs/.
Tickets may be purchased online at arenastage.org by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth St., SW, D.C.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: Shackleford is well matched opposite Susan Lynskey, who portrays, among others, the actresses playing the prostitute. They both carry off the tricky task of differentiating each of their characters by some easy-to-recognize defining affects and gestures. Max Wolkowitz is a fresh and vibrant presence as Asch and others, and Susan Rome and Victor Raider-Wexler bring welcome heft to a variety of mature characters. Three roving musicians (Maryn Shaw, Alexander Sovronsky and John Milosich) playing Sovronsky's poignant compositions are woven dexterously into the proceedings.
John Stoltenberg, DC Metro Arts: Several scenes are out-and-out vaudeville, played in a broad acting style and lit by footlights. The best of these is a number set in a Berlin cabaret, with the whole cast singing and dancing and a smashing Lynskey a la Marlene Dietrich delivering "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon."
Tristan LeJeune, Brightest Young Things: Indecent's cast and crew do a great job with a plot that is at once rather scattered and a little hand-holding, in terms of the projected titles often spelling things out we can clearly see. All of the songs are great, the costumes and set are spot-on, and the performers have a good time playing different actors playing the same character. Shackelford, for example, plays all the actresses trying their hand at the ingenue, lending each their own takes on the character. Lynskey shows off the range, too, of those playing the lead prostitute, from a Marlene Dietrich-ish Berlin lounge singer, to a first-generation immigrant actress thrilled to finally get a lesbian character.
Elliot Lanes, BroadwayWorld: Another standout is one of my favorite local performers Susan Lynsky as Halina and others. Halina is one of the two women involved in the infamous Rain Scene. Playing against the equally great Emily Shackelford as Chana (the other participant in the Rain Scene) and others the two have a relationship both on and offstage that today is commonplace, but back then would have been forbidden.