Ashland Theater Review: Indecent

Jul 16, 2019

The cast of Indecent.
Credit Jenny Graham / Oregon Shakespeare Festival
“Indecent,” Paula Vogel’s highly acclaimed drama, has now opened at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which co-commissioned the work but allowed many other productions before it landed in Ashland.

It was a hit on Broadway, and the Shakespeare Festival production, masterfully directed by Shana Cooper, deserves just as much praise. Cooper calls it a love letter to the theatre, which it is, and so much more.Vogel’s inspiration for her spellbinding play is a drama written in Yiddish by Polish playwright Sholem Asch in 1906, “The God of Vengeance.” This ground-breaking work focuses on a Jewish brothel owner and his wife, a former prostitute. Their pure young daughter, their ticket to respectability, falls in love with a beautiful prostitute and in a tender love scene they kiss in the rain.Scandalous! Although criticized by other Jewish authors, who feared that showing Jews as brothel owners and lesbians would lead to even more violence against their people, the play was a huge success throughout Europe.Then the troupe took it to New York and performed in on Broadway in English. But New York had decency laws, and a local Rabbi filed an obscenity complaint. The police shut the play down, mid-performance, and the actors spent the night in jail.“Indecent,” by following the lives of the Yiddish actors for years afterward, reveals the power of art intertwined with the complexities and tragedies of Jewish history.Seven brilliant actors, most playing multiple roles, and three versatile musicians create a rich tapestry woven of a wondrous range of emotions.Don’t miss this heartbreaking, impassioned production.This is Dorothy Velasco with KLCC’s Ashland Theater Review.