If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
Yale Premieres Vogel's Potent "Indecent"
Opening their 2015-16 season with a potent world premiere, the Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “Indecent” by Paula Vogel gives truth to Yale’s proclamation of offering “daring artists” and “bold choices” for their “adventurous audiences”. This is a very high note on which to begin a season.
Based on the controversial obscenity trial of an American production of Sholem Asch’s classic “The God of Vengeance”, this is easily Paula Vogel’s best work since her 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning “How I Learned to Drive”. Created with director Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent” charts the journey of “God of Vengeance” from its 1907 origins in Warsaw to its scandalous American Broadway debut in 1923 at the Apollo Theatre. Due to its frank treatment of a lesbian romance, a complaint against the play by a local rabbi resulted in the actors, producer and theatre owner being jailed and then convicted.
“Indecent” features a company of seven actors (including three invaluable musicians) who perform dozens of roles with quick costume changes on a mostly bare stage. Rebecca Taichman’s gorgeous staging provides threatre magic throughout as scenes and characters flow effortlessly from one to another. David Dorfman’s incidental choreography adds immeasurably to the magic as we travel to a variety of sites that include a living room in Warsaw, a small theatre in Berlin and an attic in the Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation. It is superb direction to be expected from the gifted Taichman whose previous works at Yale include such memorable productions as “Marie Antoinette” and last season’s “Familiar”.
The acting, too, is never less than true ensemble work from beginning to end. Special mention must be given Richard Topol whose beautifully passive, thoughtful performance as the Stage Manager is a thing of rare beauty. Musicians Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva and Travis W. Hendrix also deserve praise for the klezmer-rich score which moves the action fluidly over the many decades represented in the play.
Emily Rebholz’s numerous costumes reflect the changing periods smoothly while Matt Hubbs’ haunting sound design works in perfect tandem with the musician’s live contribution. The spare scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez and lighting by Christopher Akerlind are also ideal. The play, itself, could definitely use some careful editing especially with what currently seems like three possible endings (is the coda, set in 1952, really necessary?). At a running time of nearly two hours without intermission, there are still some padded scenes that could be addressed. As this is a premiere, it is assumed the talented Vogel can make that happen. Meanwhile, she has given Yale an outstanding, hard-to-top opener for what appears to be a very promising new season.
“Indecent” continues at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven through October 24. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 203.432.1234 or visit: www.yalerep.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.