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About a week ago I had the (mandated) opportunity to go see the Broadway play Indecent at the Guthrie theater with my Introduction to Literature and Criticism class. Never heard of it? Don’t worry about it, I hadn’t either, but it got pretty good reviews during its Broadway run. If you’ve been considering going to it, or going to a show and wondering if maybe Indecent is the play you should go to, here are my thoughts on the performance.

What is it even about?:

In summary, Indecent by Paula Vogel is actually a play about a different play, God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch. God of Vengeance—written and first performed in the early 1900’s—is about a Jewish family where the father owns a brothel and his pure daughter falls in love with one of his (female) prostitutes. Now, Indecent is about Sholem Asch bringing his controversial play (both because of its Jewish origins and characters and because of its portrayal of two women in love) to the stage with the help of a simple tailor named Lemml in times of growing antisemitism. 

What’s the vibe of the play?:

I won’t say it’s a light hearted show, because it’s not. The timeline of the show is from the very early 1900’s to the 1940’s, and in a play that is very focused on the Jewish experience, you might have an idea of how it ends. That isn’t to say that the play isn’t without light moments and a few witty lines. For instance, Lemml is an extremely lovable character who simply wants to live his life bringing this play he’s come to love to life. The “actresses” who come to play the two young women in love in God of Vengeance are also quite authentic and amusing. But if you want a light hearted show, I’d skip Indecent.

Quality of story:

I’m not going to lie. The plot seemed kind of weak to me. The problem is that it spans decades and often characters rotate out. At times, it felt more like an informative production of God of Vengeance than its own original story. The end, however, will make you feel things. Not necessarily good things, but like I said. This isn’t a light hearted story. 

Quality of performance:

Story set aside, the show was spectacularly done.There were only 10 cast members. The set was kept very simple, its only real design being several piles of ruin and some old theater seats, which really helps keep the tone of ruination and the idea that we are watching a play within a play. Also, “the rain scene” from The God of Vengeance is mentioned repeatedly throughout Indecent and when we finally get to see it in full at the end it is absolutely beautiful. 

Final thoughts?:

Indecent was… decent. Wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t been forced to go with my class (and for only $5), but I’m also not a huge theater buff. I love going to shows when time and money allow, but when I do I don’t tend to lean towards these dark and deep tales of woe. If that’s your vibe, then great. This story is for you. If you’re aching for some Jewish or female representation, then you’ll find some here (though not as much as expected).

If you end up seeing Indecent for yourself, I hope it ends up being exactly what you hoped for. If you don’t… well, I can’t say I blame you.

Skyler Kane

Hamline '20

Creative Writing Major, Campus Coordinator for Her Campus, and former Editor and Chief for Fulcrum Journal at Hamline University
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