Have you ever picked up a book, watched a movie, heard a song, or seen a play of which you had absolutely no prior knowledge and been totally overwhelmed by its power and beauty? That’s what happened to me, seeing Indecent by Paula Vogel, at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm. I didn’t think I’d be able to go, since September & October are very busy times, both professionally & personally. In fact, opening night, 9/26, was just about the ONLY night I could go.
Looking at the image and description – “A Tony-award winning play about a group of actors who risked everything for theater.” on the website made me think, “Maybe it’s a play about a lesbian couple in New York City in the 70’s.” Well, there is a lesbian couple, and some of it is in NYC, but that’s about all I got right. Of course, I had no other preconceived notions to get wrong. Since I didn’t think I’d be able to go, I really hadn’t given it much thought and didn’t even read the Show Notes (PDF).
First – the story is a very interesting one. It’s “sort of” a play about a play. The play it’s about, God of Vengeance (also something new to me), was written by Sholem Asch and first produced in Europe in 1907. Indecent follows the development of the play from its first reading, set in a salon in Poland, where one of the readers recommended that it be burned and another said he would not read such garbage. Ultimately, the play was produced and highly successful, traveling throughout Europe. It finally landed in New York, partly because the writer fled the anti-Semitism in prewar Europe. It was successful in New York Yiddish theatre, but when it was translated from Yiddish into English and changed for an American audience on Broadway, it caused an uproar and the cast was arrested on obscenity charges.
Indecent is much more than a play about play. It captures the passion of actors for their craft, the life that a piece of art develops once it has been introduced into the world by its creator, the camaraderie of the troupe, anti-Semitism in Europe & America, the less than warm welcome that new immigrants to America receive, along with the immigrants’ struggles to live in a new culture with a new language, homophobia, the power of art to transform lives, and so much more.
Add to that, a talented cast of actors, singing in both Yiddish & English, dancing with energy & passion, playing different characters … it’s amazing how the change of a hat, scarf, glasses, or sweater, can turn male to female, observant to secular, European to American, young to old, actor to prisoner. Now mix-in great songs sung beautifully with musicians playing the accordion, ukulele, wood block, violin, mandolin, high hat, and clarinet, and the whole play is infused with Yiddish soul.
The set is bare bones, as might be expected of a play about a play that mostly travels from village to village and is as likely to be performed in a living room or attic as it is upon a proper stage. A couple of wooden saw horses with a piece of plywood and a number of chairs make up all the furniture. Walker Farm is actually the perfect venue to invoke the intimate setting for such theatre.
With an interesting story, talented cast of actors & musicians, and proper setting – the magic of live theatre begins. The director, Jordan Fein, like a chef given the best ingredients, creates a production that is both joyous & sad, entertaining, surprising, thought provoking, and memorable. From the moment the actors opened their suitcases and the contents spilled out onto stage floor, I was hooked. At one point Asch refused to allow God of Vengeance to be performed, saying it was, “written for a different time.” Not having read it, that may be true, however, Indecent, which was first produced in 2015 based upon events that started 100 years earlier, is definitely a must see play for our time.
is playing September 26 – October 20th
at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm
705 Main Street, Weston, VT 05161
Friday & Saturday Evenings at 7:30 pm
Matinees: Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 3pm
Plus Thursday, October 10th at 7:30pm
For tickets call the box office at 802-824-5288 or purchase online.
$45-60 plus tax and fees
Indecent has a limited number of performances in a smaller venue, so act quickly and order your tickets to make sure you get to see it.