Written by Paula Vogel
Created by Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Created by Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent” could not have opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre at a more auspicious time. During an increasingly frenzied discussion about what is and what is not decent in contemporary American society and culture, this remarkable and stunning play – based on true events surrounding the 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “The God of Vengeance” – brings into sharp focus the importance of vigilance amidst intolerance and indomitability in the face of insidious censorship.
Portraying the Yiddish playwright Sholem Asch, Max Gordon Moore delivers a riveting performance of a playwright who initially inspires his cast and crew as they begin to present “The God of Vengeance” but ultimately abandons them when they are arrested for obscenity after a performance on Broadway. Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman have created a compelling story about the power of innovation and the equally powerful effect of detachment and disinheriting oneself from the innovative process. The cast portrays the characters in three stages of their lives from the excitement of actors beginning a journey together in 1906 to their disappointments and fears that present themselves as they age and face the danger of the threat of the Nazi regime and beyond.
Mr. Moore and the other members of the stellar ensemble cast are listed as “Actors” in the program, he and all individuals – on or off stage – who take significant risks to maintain personal and professional integrity. Solem Asch’s failure to testify in court in Manhattan is a trope for the epic failure of all who shy from controversy and compromise rectitude for the assumed comfort of safety. Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk are riveting as Rifkele and Manke dance their way through life, death, and beyond death.
Rebecca Taichman directs “Indecent” with a sensitive precision. David Dorfman’s choreography is fluid with stunning lines and fresh contemporary movement. Emily Rebholz’s “dust to dust” costumes are intriguing and perfectly matched to the period. Both Christoper Akerlind’s lighting and Matt Hubbs’ sound are exquisite and create emotion-laden “pictures” that are as stunning as they are life-changing. With the assistance of “Stage Manager” Lemml (played with a self-effacing charm by Richard Topol), Tal Yarden’s projections guide the audience through language shifts, and shifts in time with ease. The “blinks in time” serve as a successful device to not only advance the dramatic action but also to heighten dramatic tension.
Music by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva and performances by the composers and Matt Darriau provide an essential emotional thread to “Indecent’s” important story. David Dorfman’s choreography is exquisite and challenges the cast with a variety of movement genres and styles. The actors often weave through spaces seemingly occupied by others at the same time.
It is difficult to rehearse here the entirety of the plot of “Indecent” driven by characters that share unimaginable conflicts that play out in a variety of settings without posting “spoiler alerts” in every paragraph. “Indecent” is a compelling piece of theatre that raises deep, enduring questions about the future of a society that refuses to accept differences and embrace those deemed to be “different.”