8:00pm • Friday, December 9, 2022 • Arthur Miller Theater • Full of spoilers
I was not prepared for Indecent. From the first moments I spent in the audience, I was transported to the eerie liminal space between story and reality where, for me, great theater exists.
One of the most striking elements of the performance for me was the way Indecent continually drew from the reality of the Holocaust and its impact on the story, both symbolically and literally. There was a moment while Lemml, the stage manager of War of Vengeance played by Lilah Dagenais, welcomed the audience to the theater and said, “Every night we tell this story-but somehow I can never remember the end.” I heard a lone audience member laugh, perhaps not yet grasping the hidden significance of the phrase. That significance became uncomfortably clear as the band opened the first scene and the cast rose from their seats, dancing together as ash seemed to pour from the folds of their coats and hung suspended in the air above the stage.
Much of the performance was imbued with a grim sense of humor, one which left me near tears more frequently than laughter. The moments of humor advanced the play’s intent, as Mirit Skeen wrote in their director’s note in the program, to portray “our human need to create art,” even in the worst of times. The scene where Chana, played by Grace Lutenske, and Halina, played by Grace Walsh, sang “Ain’t We Got Fun,” advanced this theme using a deep sense of irony. As the two women faced intense antisemitism and homophobia in the United States, the song both highlighted the pain of their circumstances and the grace with which they survived these experiences, continuing to speak to the beauty of life through their art.
I very rarely cry while watching stage performances, but on Friday I was still sniffling as I joined the queue for the bus back to central campus. I became teary during the true-to-life speech of Rabbi Silverman on why he set the vice squad to arrest the cast and producer. I had to wipe my eyes during the montage where cast members left in Europe read letters to Sholem Asch, the playwright, about their efforts to escape the Holocaust. I had to choke back sobs during the final, heartbreaking scene where the troupe stood in a line, branded with yellow stars; Lemml imagined the young lovers of God of Vengeance escaping; and finally, the screen behind the actors read “Ashes to ashes: the troupe returns to dust.”
I hope that those who were not able to attend the performance this weekend have the chance in the future. I know I’m a generally gushy writer, but I can easily say that this performance was the best one I saw all semester, and offer heartfelt congratulations to the Rude Mechanicals for producing such a masterpiece.
**Photo credit: Ellie Vice