To Love is to Be Rebellious: “Indecent”

Presented by Huntington Theatre Company in a co-production with Center Theatre Group
By Paula Vogel
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Choreography by David Dorfman
Fight direction by Rick Sordelet
Compositions by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva

April 26 – May 25, 2019
Huntington Avenue Theatre
Avenue of the Arts
Boston, MA
Huntington on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.” – Dorothy Parker

(Boston, MA) God is a terrible excuse to hurt another person. Yet, religion has been used since time immemorial to justify slavery, mass murder, and other cruelties. Paula Vogel’s Indecent is testimony to the historical squashing of nonheterosexual relationships for the greater good. It is reprehensibly incomprehensible that our love is still considered so immoral that heterosexual society vainly dooms LGBTQ+ individuals to irreparable harm in God’s name. Religion didn’t fail the LGBTQ+ community. Humanity failed.  

Indecent stages the production history of Sholem Asch’s The God of Vengeance amidst the growing antisemitism in the US and abroad. In it a troupe of actors (Elizabeth A Davis, Joby Earle, Harry Groener, Mimi Lieber, Steven Rattazzi, Adina Verson) reenact the events leading up to and after the 1923 obscenity trial brought against The God of Vengeance in New York. Lemml, the Stage Manager (Richard Topol) is the production’s champion, igniting the playwright to take risks. The play ends shortly after the actors are deported from the US. We watch as genocide becomes the Nazis’ favorite pastime.

The historical world presented to us in Indecent is uncannily familiar: fear and hate is rampant. The US limited its intake of immigrants while patently ignoring the violence occurring elsewhere. The LGBTQ+ population faced unconscionable bigotry for the sake of decency. Religious officials were hiding their hypocrisies as they found them. The 1920’s looked a lot like 2019 – Up to and including the theatre community’s protestation of immoral wrongs through performance. Artists are the ones who see deceit and transform it into truth. Indecent is about a troupe of Polish performers who saw the potential good in God of Vengeance and performed it as an act of rebellion.

This production is a recreation of Rebecca Taichman’s Broadway production. Some of the cast is of the Cort Theatre cast. One might think that the cast would be tired of playing the same show night after night. The would be wrong. The performance seen at the Huntington on Wednesday night was fresh and bursting with life. The cast were electric in their roles; energy stretched far beyond their fingers and feet as they danced. Watching this cast is an exercise of great performance technique. Not without seeing would the other performances in other venues would an audience know that this production was a recreation and not an original.   

The scenic, lighting, projection and sound design metamorphosize the Huntington Stage into a minimalist, gothic music hall. It’s Weimarian fantasy intent on civil liberties and not carnal liberties. The stark presentation of the stage allows the lighting and sound design to dazzle the audience. Sound and light alike halo the cast and props for a truly unique experience. It’s not surprising that they were nominated for awards.

An Indecent cast album featuring the music of composers Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva is now available for purchase. Those interested in knowing more about the musicians involved should look HERE.  

Indecent is a beautiful production that attacks more social ills subversively than it does candidly. It does so by allowing its characters to live truthfully. It’s refreshing. Less refreshing are the montages. Indecent has several montages that take it across the world very quickly. Characters either dance or strike poses to show the audience that time has passed. Not everyone appreciates a montage. But one doesn’t have to in order to appreciate Indecent.

Please note: Indecent contains sensitive material that may be inappropriate for white nationalists, homophobes and MRAs. Adult audience members should take their beliefs into account when purchasing tickets. Children above the age of 12 should otherwise be fine.

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