Sunday, July 9, 2017

An Indecent Play

In 1907 Sholem Asch wrote a play entitled God of Vengeance about about a Jewish brothel owner who attempts to become respectable by commissioning a Torah scroll and marrying off his daughter to a yeshiva student. Set in a brothel, the play includes Jewish prostitutes, a lesbian scene, and the hurling of a Torah across the stage. The play, written and performed in Yiddish, enjoyed success and acclaim throughout Europe. In 1923, it was translated into English, and staged on Broadway at the Apollo Theatre on West 42nd Street. Its run was cut short when the entire cast was arrested, indicted – and eventually convicted – on charges of obscenity.  After a long and costly legal battle the conviction was successfully appealed. Members of the cast returned to Europe where the final performances of the play were in an attic in the Lodz Ghetto before the cast was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Indecent is a play about that play.  Scheduled to close on June 23, 2017, the play's run has been, by public outcry, extended until August 6, 2017.  Such run extensions don't happen all that often.  Generally, they are cut short by public disinterest.  Not so for Indecent which won 2 Tony awards.  Its author, Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel, co directs with Rebecca Taichman.  The Los Angeles Times ended its review with these words:  "Indecent reminds us of the power of art to tell us truths long before we are able to recognize them as such."
Yesterday I saw this play performed at the historic Cort Theatre in New York City not too far from the Apollo Theatre..  I took this photograph before the play began.  And, yes, it does begin with all actors and musicians seated on the stage as the audience takes its seats.  The play ends in a rainstorm which drenches two of its central female characters who took their curtain calls dripping wet wrapped in towels.
Playwright Paula Vogel reminds us that "...the purpose of theatre is to wound our memory so we can remember."  She adds that she didn't think her play would be as relevant today as it is.  That again we are witnessing an upheaval of fear, xenophobia, homophobia and anti-Semitism."
The Bulgarian artist Christo reminds us that, "A work of art is a scream of freedom."
May our screams for both art and freedom be heard throughout the land.


Tom Walker said...

Thank you, Mary for this beautiful review. I really wish I could see this play.

Mary Walker Baron said...

Thanks so much, Tom. I think when it finally closes on Broadway it will hit the road. I hope it comes to Tucson.

Anonymous said...

I'll be watching for this in Los Angeles, hopefully it will come on it's way to Tucson. Thank you Mary, this might have passed by me unnoticed if not for you.

Mary Walker Baron said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I suspect it will come to Los Angeles.