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A play within a play

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Payton Mansfield

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Guthrie Theater presents Indecent.

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A play within a play

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of Indecent by Paula Vogel, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg. Music direction by Lisa Gutkin, choreography by Yehuda Hyman, scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Anne Kennedy, lighting design by Josh Epstein, sound design by Kate Marvin and projection design by Alex Basco Koch.

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of Indecent by Paula Vogel, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg. Music direction by Lisa Gutkin, choreography by Yehuda Hyman, scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Anne Kennedy, lighting design by Josh Epstein, sound design by Kate Marvin and projection design by Alex Basco Koch.

Dan Norman Photography

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of Indecent by Paula Vogel, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg. Music direction by Lisa Gutkin, choreography by Yehuda Hyman, scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Anne Kennedy, lighting design by Josh Epstein, sound design by Kate Marvin and projection design by Alex Basco Koch.

Dan Norman Photography

Dan Norman Photography

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of Indecent by Paula Vogel, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg. Music direction by Lisa Gutkin, choreography by Yehuda Hyman, scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Anne Kennedy, lighting design by Josh Epstein, sound design by Kate Marvin and projection design by Alex Basco Koch.

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The Guthrie Theater’s current production has everything an audience could want in a play: forbidden romance, montages and an unlimited supply of Yiddish music.

Indecent tells the story of God of Vengeance, a controversial play written by Polish-Jewish playwright Sholem Asch in 1907. God of Vengeance is about a Jewish brothel owner who’s daughter falls in love with one of his prostitutes. The play initially found success and Asch’s dream of becoming a successful playwright had come true. At the time, however, such a story was taboo, particularly in the eyes of the Jewish community. With scenes of lesbian romance, hurling of the Torah and themes considered too obscene for children, God of Vengeance was a recipe for controversy.

In 1923, it was translated into English and performed on Broadway in America. While the show was a hit with many audiences, many deemed it “sexual pollution” and sought to remove it from existence through legal action. That same year, the play was sued by the state of New York.

The show consists of a small cast of seven, who rotate between over 40 roles throughout the show. The play covers a span of about fifty years, with transitions and timelines being surprisingly easy to follow. Many scenes are quick, humorous montages with captions projected onto the stage wall. The audience is meant to understand that they are watching a performance within a performance.

The nameless “Actors” are played by Miriam Schwartz, Gisela Chipe, Robert Dorfman, Steven Epp and Hugh Kennedy, while Asch’s stage manager is played by Ben Cherry. Schwartz and Chipe are perfect in their roles, playing self-centered young actresses who thrive in spotlight. The cast also features a trio of musicians which include a violinist Lisa Gutkin, accordion player Spencer Chandler and clarinetist, Pat O’Keefe. It is easy to mistake this for a musical, with plenty of memorable Yiddish musical numbers and dances that instantly put a smile on your face.

Indecent is funny, entertaining, and engaging. It is a fast-paced glimpse into the past and serves as a quick history lesson for a complex era. While it’s not exactly appropriate for kids, the story is simple and easy to follow. The show takes Guthrie audiences on a fast-paced journey through the political tensions in early twentieth century New York all while sharing the fascinating tale of a boundary-breaking play. This is not a show to miss.

Indecent is written by Paula Vogel and directed by Wendy C. Goldberg, Music direction by Lisa Gutkin, choreography by Yehuda Hyman, scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Anne Kennedy, lighting design by Josh Epstein, sound design by Kate Marvin and projection design by Alex Basco Koch.

 

The show runs from Feb. 17-Mar. 24 at the Guthrie Theater Wurtele Thrust Stage in Minneapolis, Minn. Tickets start at $24 for students and $29 for general audiences. To purchase tickets, visit guthrietheatrer.org.

 

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A play within a play