By Lydia Mwambi
A stage within a stage, a play within a play, and actors playing actors. What could be more exciting!? Based on the obscenity trial of Shalom Asch’s The God of Vengeance from 1923, Paula Vogel ‘s Indecent is a truly inspiring play in which a troupe of just seven members and three musicians take us on a raw and emotional journey through the lives of Jewish thespians and the controversial play they have dedicated their lives to.
Indecent shines a light on some heavy issues in the most beautiful way. Themes of censorship, sex, homosexuality, racism, language barriers, and religion flow through the play, tugging at the heartstrings and creating characters that everyone can connect to in some way. Perhaps the most emotional of these matters is the lesbian relationship between Gisela Chipe (Halina) and Miriam Schwartz (Chana) as they portray characters within the play God of Vengeance that ultimately lead the play to be deemed “obscene” and trigger a fierce battle to keep the play, hope, and love, alive. The couple becomes a symbol of hope and freedom for the troupe as they fight for their own freedoms and life in America, back in Poland, and on the stage.
The performance was breathtaking in every way. Each actor has masterfully owned their parts, accents, emotions, and even a bit of singing and dancing. It was clear to me that this troupe cares just as much about this play as their characters do about theirs, and that is what made the whole performance so captivating. The set (Arnulfo Maldonado) is also incredible, a little theater of its own, and the lighting (Josh Epstein) is truly something to behold. There is incredible screen work, projecting Yiddish and English translation and notating when the actors go between speaking English or Yiddish – extremely helpful and creative way to notate why they go in and out of using their accents.
To say this play is worth going to see is a gross understatement. It presents us with a side of Jewish culture many are not familiar with, Yiddish Theater. A new and amazing experience that had me on the edge of my seat, hoping for more, and feeling deeply for every character on that stage. Prepare yourselves for a wonderful evening, and a bit of rain.
Indecent by Paula Vogel, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg. Now through March 24 at the Guthrie Theater, 818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis. Tickets at Box Office, 612.377.2224,