Joyous, tragic, exuberance of WPTC’s ‘Indecent’

By David Lampe-Wilson
2019 © Telegraph Publishing LLC

Weston Playhouse finishes its season with Paula Vogel’s Indecent and it is safe to say that they have saved the best for last.

‘Indecent’ is in turns joyous and tragic.

Indecent is a gem of a play that encompasses a host of ideas as it challenges its audience to keep up with diverse themes. Indecent is about making theater, fighting for freedom of speech and exploring the trials of being an immigrant in America, while examining the persecution of the Jews and intolerance in the supposed Land of the Free. It is, at turns, moving, fascinating, informative, exuberant, tragic and joyous.

Indecent is based on the true story of a theater troupe that toured Europe in the early 20th century to great acclaim but who risked their beliefs and their careers once they came to America. While performing Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance in Yiddish in a theater in the Bowery, they are ignored, but once the play is translated into English they are arrested and tried for indecency. The play, once lauded in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Constantinople and Bratislava, is derailed in 1922 on Broadway. The reason: The notorious “Rain Scene” in which two women kiss.

In translation, the ‘Rain Scene’ causes an uproar in America.

The company dissolves and the actors return to Europe only to face pogroms and worse as the years give way to rising fascism. While this may sound grim — and sometimes it is very grim — the play is bolstered by a series of joyous musical numbers, some wry humor and a talented, flexible cast of seven actors – Brian Bock, Whitney Maris Brown, Molly Carden, Forrest Malloy, Christopher McFarland, Marcus Neville and Gordana Rashovich — each of whom expertly plays a variety of engaging characters.

Director Jordan Fein keeps his talented ensemble flowing seamlessly from one location to another, from one year to the next and instills the play with enormous passion and honesty. His relentless pacing is ably assisted by a three-piece klezmer band – Ira Khonen Temple, Zoe Aqua and Jason Gresl.

Kimie Nishikawa’s set design is a skeletal framework of 2-by-4 while Costumer Asta Bennie Hostetter has opted for modern instead of period dress. Atmosphere is left to Oona Curley’s splendid lighting design and Jeff Aaron Bryant’s sound. While this minimalist approach is initially disconcerting, it allows the actors and director to work against a blank canvas and forces the audience to envision background for themselves.

The scandalous kiss.

So, while the audience exercises its imagination, it results in immersing themselves in time and place while connecting with the characters. By the time we get to the much-discussed “Rain Scene” we find ourselves experiencing unbridled hope, breathless wonder and shattering heartache, which is the beauty of live theater.

Indecent continues on weekends through Oct. 20 at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, 705 Main St., Weston. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees and 3 p.m. Sunday matinees. For information and tickets call 802-2824-5288 or click here.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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