Back With ‘Vengeance’: ‘Indecent’ Examines a Lost History Sholem Asch’s contested Yiddish classic is grist for Vogel and Taichman’s meditative new play-within-a-play.
Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman had to decide when it was going to start raining.
The much-mentioned “rain scene”—a pivotal moment in Sholem Asch’s 1906 moral melodrama, The God of Vengeance, and Indecent, the new Vogel play about the journey of that work and the people around it—made an emotional connection with audiences when it opened at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn., last October, the first stop of its two-theatre premiere.
Precipitation aside, it was primarily a scene of tender intimacy between two women that had special resonance for the characters in Vogel’s play—a moment of love and liberation. But Vogel and Taichman, the show’s cocreator and director, were unsure whether they’d placed the cathartic scene at the perfect, and dramatically inevitable, point in the show.
As the show moved to California’s La Jolla Playhouse in November, and even throughout the run there, the two creators continued to explore the material, rewriting some scenes, recalibrating others, and repositioning the play’s musical numbers, performed by an onstage trio of musicians deftly integrated into the production. The staging’s final stop (for the time being) is Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, where it runs April 27–June 5.
In Vogel’s elegant script and Taichman’s evocative production, the power of Asch’s original play, as well as the power of theatre, are presented in profound ways. This is a play about a play in which people are transformed in “a blink in time,” as the ownership of a piece of art transfers from playwright to audience. In Vogel’s version, the impact of The God of Vengeance lingers to their very last moments, offering deep comfort, sometimes under terrible circumstances.