On February 21st and 22nd, the CA Performing Arts department put on the winter mainstage, Indecent. Telling the story of Sholem Asch’s controversial 1907 production, God of Vengeance, Indecent explores themes of “immigration, censorship, artistic and romantic freedom, and prejudice, including but not limited to antisemitism,” according to its director, Shelley Bolman. However, Bolman took some artistic license while directing: the original play cast seven actors to play thirty different characters, but Bolman chose twenty actors to play the same thirty roles because, “It allowed more students to participate and, in many ways, gave us an advantage in the storytelling.”
Indecent is a sincere elegy to modern audiences. It dazzled viewers from around the world when it first opened in 2015 and has done so again at Concord Academy. This was achieved in no small part due to the talent and emotion brought to the production by the cast. God of Vengeance was a controversial play in its time because of its depictions of Jewish life and what was widely considered to be a scandalous kiss between two women (the first depiction of a lesbian kiss on American stages). Unlike when it was first released, Indecent was widely celebrated and well-received within the CA community.
While each brilliant cast member certainly deserves praise, their work as a whole is what drove the success of this production. They moved the audience with their lifelike and intense emotion, heartfelt dialogue, and subtle yet effective body language. The dedication and hard work they put into the production was evident, and the cast thoroughly deserved the standing ovations they received after both shows.
In addition to the wonderful acting, the cleverly incorporated props such as brooms, crates, and suitcases, as well as versatile costumes, all contributed to the convincing storytelling. Furthermore, the “second stage” (a raised platform on the true stage) helped to set the scene during the play-within-the-play, proving Shakespeare’s famous quote true once again: “All the world’s a stage.” The second stage served as the stage for the God of Vengeance cast as they traveled around the world, from Berlin to Broadway, and again in the Warsaw Ghetto.
With the characters swapping between English, Yiddish, and German, it would be hard for the audience to understand what was going on without any clarity. To remedy this, the language that was being spoken by the characters was projected onto a white-washed section of the stage wall. When Yiddish or German-speaking characters would speak in their mother tongue, the actors would swap into fluent English, with the projection on the wall behind them indicating what language they were speaking. However, when a non-native English speaker would speak English, they would do so with an accent. This clever directorial choice meant that the audience could hear certain characters developing and improving their English, while others avoided speaking it out of principle and retained their heavy accents, reminding the audience of the power and privilege that language brings.
After watching the show, we couldn’t help but be stunned by the uniqueness of Indecent – this play is about the power of storytelling to sustain hope through difficult times. It is a play touched by intense emotion, filled with stories about theater, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, homophobia, censorship, passion, and love. In a concise one hour and forty-five minutes, Indecent covers forty-eight years of toil, heartbreak, and reunion. It is a breathtaking and electric show, filled with laughter, heartbreak, and kisses, all topped off with a rainstorm. As Sholem Asch is told by his actors, “it’s all in there.”