Carson Hughes, A&E Editor
In the Guthrie’s performance of “Indecent,” Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel dramatizes the real-life story of a play that would have probably been banned from the Guthrie stage at the time it was performed.
The play in question, “God of Vengeance,” written by Polish-Jewish playwright Sholem Asch, has a very controversial history. The play was written in 1907 and was controversial from the start for featuring a Jewish brothel owner who bribes a rabbi in a time when anti-semitism was rampant. It also included a love scene between two women, one of whom is a prostitute. The play was eventually produced for Broadway in 1923 and featured the first lesbian kiss on Broadway which subsequently resulted in the entire cast being arrested on obscenity charges.
“Indecent” honors this complicated history with a dramatization that captures the friction of honest representation of a group that is in need of positive representation, love and sexuality and the transformative and ever-changing process of producing a play for the stage.
The Guthrie’s production of “Indecent” was highly entertaining. There were many standout performances, especially from Ben Cherry, who brings an understated yet evocative energy to the role of Limmel, the stage manager who makes producing “God of Vengeance” his life’s work, and Miriam Schwartz, who slips seamlessly between multiple roles including the daughter of the brothel owner in “God of Vengeance,” an actress who falls in love with her costar through the controversial love scene and Sholem Asch’s wife.
The production and lighting were also excellent. The set, which consisted of wooden planks and assorted objects, emanated this feeling of history as though a lot had happened in that particular space, which was fitting for a play skips through time between every scene. The lighting design was also excellent. One stand-out moment was the stark shadows and anxious image of the “impossibly long line” to get into America in a world only a few years away from the Holocaust.
The Guthrie holds its final performances of “Indecent” this Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. I highly recommend seeing this play.
This article first appeared in the Friday, March 23, 2018, Edition of The Echo.