Indecent (play)

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Written byPaula Vogel
Date premieredOctober 2015
Place premieredYale Repertory Theatre
Original languageEnglish

Indecent is a play by Paula Vogel. It recounts the controversy surrounding the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, which was produced on Broadway in 1923, for which the cast of the original production was arrested on the grounds of obscenity.

Indecent was first produced in 2015. It had an Off-Broadway run in 2016, followed by a Broadway run in 2017 at the Cort Theatre. The play was nominated for three Tony Awards and won Best Direction of a Play for Rebecca Taichman and Lighting Design in a Play for Christopher Akerlind.


The play was commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre and American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and received the 2015 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.[1]

Indecent had its world premiere as a co-production between Yale Repertory Theatre in October 2015.[2] and La Jolla Playhouse from November 13 to December 10, 2015.[3]

The play had its New York premiere Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre, opening on May 17, 2016, following previews from April 27. It played a limited engagement to June 12, 2016.[4] It was directed by Rebecca Taichman, choreographed by David Dorfman and featured music by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva. The cast featured Katrina Lenk, Mimi Lieber, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Nelis, Steven Rattazzi, Richard Topol and Adina Verson. For this production, Taichmann received the 2017 Obie Award for Directing presented by the American Theatre Wing.[5] The production transferred to Broadway where it opened at the Cort Theatre on April 18, 2017, following previews from April 4, by Producers Daryl Roth and Cody Lassen.[6] This marks the first time a play by Vogel has appeared on Broadway.[7] The cast remained from the Off-Broadway production, who were joined by Ben Cherry, Andrea Goss, and Eleanor Reissa.[6] The play was initially announced shortly after the Tony Awards to be closing on June 25, but on June 23 the Producers extended the run to August 6.[8]

The Broadway production was filmed on August 3, 2017 for a scheduled release in January 2018.[9] However, PBS moved the broadcast date ahead to November 17, 2017, pushing back a previously scheduled broadcast of Prince of Broadway until 2018.[10]

In January 2019, the producers of the Broadway production announced a cast album recording of the production with a release date of January 25th 2019.[11] The 22-track recording will include the original music featured in the play – composed by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva – as well as the songs sung during the production.[11] The album included original Broadway cast members Mimi Lieber, Katrina Lenk, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Nelis, Steven Rattazzi, Richard Topol and Adina Verson as well as musicians of the Broadway production, Matt Darriau, Gutkin and Halva, with Lenk on viola.[11]

An Israeli production premiered at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, opening on July 27, 2018. It was translated by Israeli playwright Yehoshua Sobol. The Cameri Theater also produced God of Vengeance in the same season.


In 1906, Polish-Jewish playwright Sholem Asch writes a play in Yiddish, The God of Vengeance, which concerns the love between a prostitute (Manke) and the daughter of the brothel's owner (Rifkele). His wife, Madje, is impressed. He holds the reading of the play in a local salon and receives mixed reactions from the participants; some are appalled by the lesbian storyline and the throwing of a Torah across the room. Some also worry it perpetuates anti-Semitism because it deals with prostitutes. The play is eventually produced in Berlin with Lemml, a tailor, as stage manager, and starring the famous actor Rudolph Schildkraut. The play is successful throughout Europe and eventually heads to New York, where it has some success in the original Yiddish.

However, the play then seeks a more commercial run, prompting an English translation. The actress playing Rifkele is replaced by an American, which causes a rift in the real-life relationship between the actress previously playing Rifkele (Ruth) and the one playing Manke (Dine). The play is also altered by the producer, removing the love between the two women and suggesting instead that Manke seduces Rifkele to also become a prostitute. These changes are approved by Asch, although he confesses he does not understand English enough to know what changed. In 1923, the play premieres on Broadway, but the entire cast is arrested for obscenity due to the content of the play. Ruth and Dine reconcile.

Asch visits Europe and witnesses the rise of anti-Semitism, leaving him in a depressed mood. He seeks counseling, stays in Staten Island, and becomes a recluse. He receives letters from friends as they attempt to escape the Holocaust. The play lives on, produced by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The play is interspersed with music. It ends with the rain scene from God of Vengeance where Rifkele and Manke fall in love.


Character Original Broadway cast
Lemml/others Richard Topol
Sholem Asch/Eugene O'Neill/others Max Gordon Moore
Dine/Menke/others Katrina Lenk
Ruth/Rifkele/Madje/others Adina Verson
Rudolph Schildkraut/Older Asch/others Tom Nelis
Nakhman/Harry Weinberger/others Steven Rattazzi
Esther/others Mimi Lieber
Musicians Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva, Matt Dariau

Note: aside from Lemml, the rest of the cast is officially credited simply as "actor."


The director of the production, Rebecca Taichman, was a graduate student at the Yale School of Drama. For her graduate thesis, she wrote and directed a play based on the circumstances surrounding the Sholem Asch play God of Vengeance. Taichman titled her play The People vs. 'The God of Vengeance' which was presented at Yale Repertory Theatre in May 2000.[12]

Taichman explained: "I wrote my own version [of the play], but I'm just not a playwright, so it never quite clicked. But it never went away, I kept wanting to pursue it, and eventually I found Paula Vogel, who was equally interested in it, and we have since cocreated the piece."[13]

Critical reception[edit]

The play received positive reviews. In his review of the Broadway production for The New York Times, Ben Brantley said of the play "Indecent is, above all, decent, in the most complete sense of the word. It is virtuous, sturdily assembled, informative and brimming with good faith. The territory it covers in its one hour and 45 minutes is immense."[14] In her review for Newsday, Linda Winer asked "Has there ever been anything quite like Indecent, a play that touches — I mean deeply touches — so much rich emotion about history and the theater, anti-Semitism, homophobia, censorship, world wars, red-baiting and, oh, yes, joyful human passion?... It’s a gripping and entertaining show with laughter and tears and a real rainstorm in which two women from the marvelous 10-member cast re-enact what, in 1921, had been the first lesbian kiss on an American stage."[15]

Frank Rizzo, in his review of the Yale Rep production for the Hartford Courant wrote: "But at its heart it is the story of the transformative pull of art: Taichman's lyrical and image-rich direction, David Dorf's mesmerizing choreography and the atmospheric-setting music composed by Gutkin and Halva all add up to a compelling world of theatrical storytelling."[16]

Awards and honors[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
2017 Obie Award Directing Rebecca Taichman Won [17]
Drama League Award Best Play Nominated [18]
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play [19][20]
Outstanding Director of a Play Rebecca Taichman Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Christopher Akerlind Nominated
Outstanding Projection Design Tal Yarden
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Richard Topol
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Katrina Lenk
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play [21]
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play Christopher Akerlind Won
Tony Award Best Play Nominated [22][23]
Best Direction of a Play Rebecca Taichman Won
Best Lighting Design of a Play Christopher Akerlind


  1. ^ "Yale Rep begins its new season with world premiere of 'Indecent'". 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  2. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Paula Vogel's Indecent Books a Broadway Theatre | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  3. ^ "Indecent". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  4. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2016-05-17). "Review: 'Indecent' Revisits a Play Colliding With Broadway Mores and More". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  5. ^ Obie Awards,2017 Winners
  6. ^ a b Clement, Olivia. "Indecent Opens on Broadway April 18 | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  7. ^ Paulson, Michael (2017-03-22). "Two Female Playwrights Arrive on Broadway. What Took So Long?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  8. ^ "Audience Member Shouts "Let's Hear It For Women Producers!" As Broadway's Tony-Winning 'Indecent' Extends Run". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  9. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "'Indecent' Will be Filmed for Future BroadwayHD Release" Playbill, August 3, 2017
  10. ^ "Broadway's Indecent Sets November Air Date on PBS Great Performances - Playbill". Playbill.
  11. ^ a b c Huston, Caitlin (2019-01-08). "'Indecent' will release original Broadway cast album". Broadway News. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  12. ^ Klein, Alvin (30 April 2000). "THEATER; Another Take on a Yiddish Play". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Onofri, Adrienne (23 March 2016). "BWW Interview: A Women's History Month Special with FAMILIAR Director Rebecca Taichman".
  14. ^ Brantley, Ben (2017-04-18). "Review: 'Indecent' Pays Heartfelt Tribute to a Stage Scandal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  15. ^ Winer, Linda (2017-04-18). "'Indecent' review: Gripping, extraordinary play about a play". Newsday. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  16. ^ Rizzo, Frank. "Yale Rep's 'Indecent' Celebrates Transformative Power Of Theater" Hartford Courant, October 9, 2015
  17. ^ Obie Awards, 2017 Winenrs
  18. ^ Cox, Gordon (2017-04-19). "Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Allison Janney Nominated for Drama League Awards". Variety. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  19. ^ Cox, Gordon (2017-04-25). "Outer Critics Circle Nominations: 'Anastasia,' 'Hello, Dolly!' Lead the Pack (Full List)". Variety. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  20. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Bette Midler, 'Come From Away', and 'The Band’s Visit' Win Outer Critics Circle Awards" Playbill, May 7, 2017
  21. ^ Gerard, Jeremy (2017-04-27). "'Hello, Dolly!' And 'The Hairy Ape' Lead Drama Desk Musical, Drama Nominations". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  22. ^ "UPDATING LIVE: Check Here for the 2017 Tony Award Nominations". Playbill. 2017-05-02. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  23. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "The Complete List of 2017 Tony Winners: 'Dear Evan Hansen' and 'Hello, Dolly!' Lead the Pack" Playbill, June 11, 2017

External links[edit]