PAT LAUNER, CENTER STAGE ON KSDS-FM
RUN DATES: 11/13/15 – 12/10/15
VENUE: La Jolla Playhouse
Two beautiful young women kiss in a spring rainfall. It’s a stunning scene in the world premiere, “Indecent,” at the La Jolla Playhouse.
It was also a provocative moment in a much earlier play, “The God of Vengeance,” that caused such a furor when it opened on Broadway in 1936 that the cast and producer were arrested on obscenity charges.
The history of that 1907 play by celebrated Polish-Yiddish writer Sholem Asch is the spine of the new work, a breathtaking, heart-rending piece ingeniously imagined by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel and brilliant director Rebecca Taichman.
“Indecent” is an international tragedy, a tale of Jewish self-suppression and recurrent anti-Semitism. “The God of Vengeance” was a hit all over Europe and in the Yiddish theaters of New York. But as soon as it was translated into English, a prominent Rabbi used his influence to shut it down. Because it showed shtetl Jews in an unflattering light that included owning a brothel. And of course, there was that lesbian scene, which is actually quite sublime.
There are so many layers and levels in this production of mythic scope and intensity, presented in association with the Yale Repertory Theatre, where it opened last month, before many changes. The focus still needs to be more clearly defined: Is this a play about an incendiary play, or about a playwright-provocateur? About a beleaguered stage manager, or the plight of 20th century Jews? This self-proclaimed “blink in time” has many components and several potential endings.
And yet, “Indecent” remains extraordinary, dazzling and deeply moving, with its gorgeous stage pictures, marvelous choreographic moves and elegant lighting and sound.
The magnificent, multi-talented cast of ten features several klezmer musicians who created the alternately joyful and haunting score. This gut-wrenching, fact-based story is told with an ineffable beauty, bookended by a sensual rain shower and a symbolic outpouring of ashes. Consider it important and unmissable.
“Indecent” runs through December 10 at the La Jolla Playhouse.
©2015 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews