I was fortunate to catch Indecent in person. Paula Vogel's most recent play was seven years in the works before bringing the Pulitzer Prize winner her Broadway debut in 2017. After Broadway, she came to Minneapolis.
The Guthrie's Wurtele Thrust Stage is small and intimate. There is no bad seat in the house. As we took our seats, I noticed several actors already on the stage, unmoving, as if a part of the set. As the play began, the actors stood up, each taking a handful of ash from their pockets, and letting it fall on the stage.
"Ashes to ashes, to dust we return" is the moral of this story. Based on a true story, Sholem Asch write The God of Vengeance in 1906 as part of an attempt to tell the stories of Jews to and for Jews. The play, featuring a pair of women in love with each other, and what is on the surface a blasphemy towards the Torah, becomes famous worldwide and finally travels to New York City, where the 1923 Broadway production is shut down, and the troupe is charged with obscenity. With their American careers shattered, and Sholem Asch consumed with European politics, the actors have nowhere to turn but their Motherland, Poland.
Ben Cherry leads the Guthrie production as Lemml, the man who helps Sholem Asch debut the play in Berlin, and stays with the production as Stage Manager through to the Polish Ghetto. Lemml also serves as narrator, allowing the audience to keep up with the rapid changes in time.
While the small troupe features actors with impressive resumes and skills, Cherry stands out from the crowd. His vulnerability draws us in, our emotions rise and fall with his, and the beautifully written story can only benefit from his presence. Indecent is a joy to witness and will remain in your thoughts for days to come.
February 17 – March 24, 2018 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis.