Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Indecent
Yale Repertory Theatre
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Veils and Zander's review of Tuesdays with Morrie


Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Indecent is exquisite theater which celebrates the talents of playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman. These two women have collaborated to create a multi-faceted piece which tells the story of The God of Vengeance written by Sholem Asch in 1907. The world premiere production continues at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven through October 24th. It then moves to the La Jolla Playhouse (co-producer) and is slated to resume Off-Broadway next Spring.

Vogel and Taichman receive massive creative assistance from choreographer David Dorfman, composers Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, projection designer Tal Yarden, Yiddish consultant Joel Berkowitz, and many others on the creative team. Asch's story begins in Warsaw, moves to Deutsches Theatre in Berlin, to St. Petersburg/Moscow, and New York's Yiddish Theatre—all during 1907. Translated by Isaac Goldberg into English, it evolves through performances in New York City at Provincetown Playhouse, Greenwich Village Theatre, and the Apollo all during 1922-23. A rabbi's complaint results in conviction (then reversed) for many actors, the producer, and theater owner. During the early 1940s, there is a staging in an attic in Lodz Ghetto.

Late during the 105 minute play (performed without intermission), an older Sholem Asch is at his desk in Connecticut during the 1950s. The playwright is not receptive to a young man's insistence that The God of Vengeance should be revived. Asch makes a reference to six million who have perished.

The beauty of the showing (virtually every incandescent moment on the University Theatre stage) and telling (through the informative projected prose oftentimes shown on a brick wall behind the actors and elsewhere) demonstrates the unlimited potential of imaginative work. The scripting includes the relationship between a prostitute and the daughter of a man owning a brothel. Katrina Lenk and Adina Verson are cast as the couple. The women are moving, graceful. "The Rain Scene," performed with delicacy and joy toward the conclusion of the play, is nothing short of memorable. While the presentation might have ended as the actresses ran off the stage and up an aisle between orchestra seats, Vogel and Taichman elect to push forward. That artistic choice provides perspective upon the history of Broadway theater.

Actor Tom Nelis is excellent as Rudolph Schildkraut, a force of a Yiddish actor; and later as the elder Asch. For much of the evening, Max Gordon Moore plays younger and middle-aged Asch. Steven Rattazzi is cast in a number of roles and shows impressive versatility. Richard Topol appears as The Stage Manager (Lemml) and others. Mimi Lieber effectively rounds out this exceptionally talented cast. Musicians Lisa Gutkin, Travis W. Hendrix, and Aaron Halva (also music director) are absolutely essential and indispensable. From the instant the play (a drama inclusive of moments of comedy and proactive live music) begins, the fusion of dramatic word with music occurs.

Indecent is revelatory because it revisits the love, beauty, and thematic importance within The God of Vengeance. In addition, it incorporates historical and political allusion relative to the first part of the twentieth century, inclusive of the World War II epoch and Holocaust, and the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunt period. Vogel and Taichman are able to revitalize a play which, when first presented, must have been revolutionary for its content and implication. The Klezmer musicality enhances and the cultural depiction rings true. The thrilling artistry behind Indecent provides a swirl of joy through this emotive production.

This play is sweet, rueful, and stands as a metaphor for love—between humans and for the craft of theater as well. During its less than two hour running time, much is traversed and shared. Those engaged in this creative process must be celebrated. This show opens possibilities ... speaks genuinely, is deeply felt and experienced.

Indecent continues at Yale Repertory's University Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut through October 24th, 2015. For tickets, call (203) 432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.


- Fred Sokol


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