Indecent on Broadway

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day, theater critic by night- bringing you my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, right here on WICC 600.

When the Tony Award nominations were announced for Broadway plays earlier this month, ‘Indecent’ received three: for Best Play, Best Direction and Best Lighting Design.

I will dispense with the suspense and tell you it earns every one of them.

Paula Vogel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, has told a complex, powerful story that delves into freedom of speech, artists- both wittingly and unwittingly- compromising the purity of their artistic vision and the passion (as well as the danger and the regrets) for those who create cutting edge theater.

 photos by Ed Katz

It centers on the production of a play, Sholem Asch’s ‘God of Vengeance,’ from its first, highly charged reading in Poland in 1906, through several productions in many countries spanning decades- including the United States, where it surprisingly caused the most controversy.

That’s because ‘God of Vengeance’ is about an Orthodox Jew who owns a brothel and it intertwines religion, prostitutes and lesbian love- with his daughter.

A reminder: it was written in Poland in 1906 but it was in New York City in 1923 that the vice squad arrested the actors and shut the play down after its first performance.

‘Indecent’ had several productions on its way to Broadway- including at Yale Rep- and the extra work paid off.

Rebecca Taichman’s fast-paced direction is brilliant and Tara Rubin’s casting is ingenious as all members of the marvelous 10 person ensemble play multiple roles that weave a common thread through each one. As if that wasn’t enough, many actors also play several instruments- often while they are acting and/or dancing on stage. Trust me, this is something to see!

The spare set design is also smart and works wonderfully as do overhead titles that set the time and place for each scene so, even though scenes can sometimes change rapidly, the audience is efficiently transported with them.

‘Indecent’ is much better than decent. It’s excellent and worthy of its Best Play nomination. And it might even win.

I give it 4-and-a-half stars out of 5.

Next week my review will be back to a Connecticut show with Westport Country Playhouse’s production of Peter Shaffer’s comedy, ‘Lettice and Lovage.’ Stay tuned!

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com.

This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”

2 Comments

  1. Marla Feinberg

    Ed,
    What do you think about “Indecent” as a “play with music”? You didn’t say much about that. Like “King Charles III”, this is a hybrid, between play and musical, where music becomes its own character.
    Those Klezmir sounds added so much feeling to an already
    emotional story.

    • Ed Katz

      Thanks for the feedback, Mala. I did mention several of the characters play their own instruments but I wouldn’t call this- or ‘King Charles III,’ for that matter- a musical or even a hybrid (though ‘Indecent’ would be closer than ‘King Charles III,’ as I recall). I saw both works as plays with music. But I agree, the music in ‘Indecent’ does enhance the telling of the story and you are right- I could have cited that more than I did! Thanks, again!

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