La Jolla Playhouse: ‘Indecent’ spotlights the art and truth behind love


In 1907 Warsaw Poland, Shalom Asch staged his play, “God of Vengeance,” with themes of love and a celebratory focus on Yiddish literature and people. However, along with the art of theater, music and dance, Asch also included some material, which at the time considered scandalous. Asch was advised to burn the play.

But Asch did not heed that plea.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman shadow the 1922 Broadway debut of Asch’s “God of Vengeance” in their “Indecent,” on stage at La Jolla Playhouse, through Dec. 10.

In this world premiere, the Playhouse stage sparkles with Yiddish music, dance and a theater troupe that doesn’t need a stage full of props to unveil its message of love for everything – life, music, dance, joy and love.

So what could be so scandalous about all of that, which would have police hauling off the actors to jail in 1923?

Maybe it’s because Asch set his play around a brothel. Also, as the talented cast (Katrina Lenk, Mimi Lieber, Max Gordon Moore, Steven Rattazzi, Adina Verson and Tom Nelis), play their instruments, sing and dance freely about, the director begins to notice two of the female actresses are becoming very attentive to each other. When questioned, they have no hesitation in explaining that they are in love with one another. Verson and Lenk play the lovers in a very sensitive and delicate fashion.

It’s especially hard to resist a lot of toe tapping during this show, with its excellent music by Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva and Travis Hendrix.

Helping to explain some of the occasional Yiddish spoken is a projection above the stage translating it into English. Other elements of the play are quite timely as they touch on immigration, race and prejudice. “Indecent” also brings out the truth regarding what these early immigrants brought to the world of entertainment.

• IF YOU GO: “Indecent” runs through Dec. 10, 2015 in Mandell Weiss Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, UCSD campus. Tickets from $20. (858) 550-1010.