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Indecent Revives a Story of Censorship from the Past
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Ida Belle Gorby, Elyse Duffield and Phoebe Everett Williams are among the students involved in staging Paula Vogel’s play based on Yiddish playwright Slolem Asch’s “God of Vengeance.”
   
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

“Indecent” is what critics called “God of Vengeance” when the Yiddish play opened on Broadway in 1923.

It was not that a family ran a brothel in their basement that shocked them. Rather, it was the love of the brothel owner’s daughter for one of the brothel’s girls that they became indignant about. And, as a result, the play’s cast ended up being jailed on obscenity charges.

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel wrote a Tony Award-winning play about this true-life story while a graduate student at Cornell University. And she fittingly titled it “Indecent.”

The Sun Valley Community School Players will stage the play at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 8-10, on the Sun Valley Community School stage.

“I am so excited to present this play,” said Director Kevin Wade. “It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered. It’s a comedy until it’s not. It makes you laugh hard, then leaves you in pieces, then lifts you up again.”

“Indecent,” which made its Broadway debut in 2015, is a play within a play. It revolves around a dead theater troupe that rises from the ashes in a purgatorial state to tell how they risked their careers and lives to perform the play.

“Spanning the years from 1906 to 1953, it takes audiences through pogroms and the Holocaust where a lot of terrible things happened. People had to do extraordinary things to survive, and this shows how art can get you through terrible things,” said Wade.

The 90-minute play features 16 actors who are supported behind the scenes by eight additional students.

“It’s a beautiful story that encompasses a love story between two women and what it means to be Jewish,” said Elyse Duffield. “It’s a story of connection, a story of how these Jewish people deal with their play being shut down and how they come together over it. All the movement is beautiful –every transition feels like a dance.”

Phoebe Everett Willliams said the play deals with escapism as the characters strive to escape the events surrounding World War I and II. It also is a story of connection—about cast members who want so hard to fit in and how they eventually come together to support one another.

“I like that it has a very strong message about believing in yourself but it’s not thrown in your face. It’s something the audience will be able to explore for themselves,” she added.

“It’s a very touching story, a really powerful story,” added Ida Belle Gorby. “It’s interesting how all these years later we haven’t come very far in the way we handle things like censorship.”

The play got three Tony Award nominations in 2017, winning for Best Direction of a Play and Lighting Design.

“It’s a challenging piece,” said Wade. “The kids want to be work on pieces that have an important message, worthwhile stories to tell.”

The cast features Aster Pitts, Cassius Klingenfuss, Elizabeth Dahlen, Elyse Duffield, Evan Dittami, Ida Belle Gorby, Ingrid Pratt, Katie Gardiner, Lidia Kaminer, Lizzie Loving, Moxxie Tellez, Phoebe Everett Williams, Steven Serva-Gonzales, Sydney Lovering, Winnifred Dolson and Callan Duke.

Students behind the scenes are Carter Hickey, Kyan Gandhi, Ida Belle Gorby, Moises Bicas-Dolgen, Bridger McBee, Cash Ammons, and Reed Fowler.

Kevin Wade is serving as director, music director, co-movement director and scenic designer. Julia Ott is co-movement director and Natalie Battistone, costume designer and dialect coach.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for students and can be obtained by going online at https://www.communityschool.org and clicking on “US Play Tickets.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Paula Vogel also wrote “Desdemona, A Play About a Handkerchief,” which Liberty Theatre Company staged in July.

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