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Paula Vogel's eagerly awaited Indecent now at the Arden

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Jun 4, 2019 10:30am | comments


Paula Vogel’s Tony-award-winning play Indecent is now at the Arden Theatre Company until June 23. First produced in 2015, it reached Broadway in 2017 earning three Tony nominations and winning for best direction of a play for Rebecca Taichman and lighting design in a play for Christopher Akerlind. It appeared on PBS as a Great Performance presentation in 2017.


Rebecca Wright is the director of this production. She writes in the program that Indecent is “a play about a play, a love letter to theater.” Indecent is the story of how a young Polish writer, Sholem Asch, wrote his 1907 play about a girl falling in love with a prostitute and their lesbian love is explored in his play God of Vengeance. Indecent is also a play about freedom: freedom to speak your mind; create works of art; love who you want to love. It is a play about theatre before World War I, the 1920s, the difference between theatre in Greenwich Village and Broadway, and the horrors of Jewish survival and death in World War II.


The Arden does a wonderful job in bringing to life Paula Vogel’s play and the works of Sholem Asch, a man largely unknown outside of the Yiddish Theatre. The program notes include a history of God of Vengeance which is a marvelous accompaniment and educational resource for those who never heard of Sholem Asch.


The actors include Doug Hara as Lemml, who creates a thread throughout the play as the sympathetic admirer and champion of God of Vengeance. Michaela Shuchman, Jaime Maseda, Leah Walton, Ross Beschler, Mary Elizabeth Scallen, and David Ingram complete the fine acting ensemble. The actors often play multiple roles, speak Yiddish, English, and German. The actors occasionally speak English as if it were a foreign, heavily-accented tongue, while when speaking Yiddish, they speak in a clear and cogent English for our benefit. Sarah Statler, Rachel Massey, and Jason Gresl are the onstage musicians. There are many musical numbers in this play and they are all seamlessly integrated into the whole.


Indecent brings home many important truths. For one, live theatre is a requirement of life, not something that should be looked at as an entertainment for the wealthy. Another truth addressed in Indecent is that art should mirror and exalt life and love and the freedom to express that life and love. Indecent should be a “must see’ for anyone who creates art, who is Jewish, who loves a member of the same sex, or who loves the living theatre and its history.


Indecent is now at the F. Otto Haas Stage at the Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA, until June 23. The 2019-2020 Season will include Ragtime, Tiny Beautiful Things, An Iliad, My General Tubman, A Streetcar Named Desire, No Child …, and Once on This Island. For more information about Indecent and the 2019-2020 Season, visit or phone 215-922-1122.



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