Inspired by the 1923 Broadway debut of “God of Vengeance” by Jewish playwright Sholem Asch, “Indecent” tells the story of a kiss between two female actors (one playing a prostitute, one a brothel owner’s daughter) that led to the arrest of an entire cast for obscenity. With vivid theatricality underscored by a live Klezmer musical ensemble, seven actors portray more than 40 roles in this fascinating exploration of faith, sexuality, and art appearing from March 4-29 at the downtown Theatrical Outfit.
Five of the seven actors are Jewish in addition to the violinist/musical director, the understudy/sound designer, and beloved director Mira Hirsch.
From the Director
Veteran hometown Hirsch relates it best and most personally:
“I’ve been interested in directing ‘Indecent’ since I first learned of it, as I have a connection with the material going back over 20 years. In 1998, as artistic director of Jewish Theatre of the South, I coordinated a co-production with 7 Stages of Sholem Asch’s ‘God of Vengeance,’ which is the play-within-a-play in ‘Indecent.’
“It was particularly noteworthy because not only was it a rare staging of the Yiddish classic, but it was directed by Obie Award-winning New York theater artist Joseph Chaikin, and featured Atlanta theater icons Frank Wittow and Del Hamilton in the lead roles.
“A few interesting things happened during that rehearsal process that further connect me to ‘Indecent.’ We were visited by three graduate students from Yale Drama School, one of whom was working on her graduate thesis entitled ‘The People vs. God of Vengeance.’ That young woman turned out to be Rebecca Taichman, whose thesis project later became ‘Indecent’ when she turned it over to playwright Paula Vogel. And, in a case of life imitating art, our production was almost shut down before it ever opened when a member of the AJCC’s board of trustees demanded that the JCC pull the plug on the production, as he felt it could do great harm to Atlanta’s Jewish community through its portrayal of a Jewish
brothel owner. ‘A shande for the goyim,’ as the Yiddish expression goes. The show went on without incident. But the experience definitely left me feeling deeply connected to my historic counterparts depicted in ‘Indecent.’
“‘Indecent’ will be very interesting to our Jewish community, as it encapsulates 50 years of Jewish history – from immigration, to making it in America, to the Holocaust, and to McCarthyism. It’s a love letter to Yiddish, to Jewish culture and to the theater. It is a brave and audacious play in a time when we need bravery and audaciousness. I’m so proud to be working on it and can’t wait to share it with Atlanta audiences.”
Andrew Benator grew up in Atlanta and attended Congregation Or VeShalom, where his grandparents were founding members. Playing the stage manager in “Indecent,” his character sees the entire progression of the play-within-the-play from first public reading through to Broadway, falling in love with theater, and changing the direction of his life for it.
“Working with director Mira Hirsch brings me full circle in my journey through Atlanta theater. My first show in Atlanta was ‘Brooklyn Boy’ at Jewish Theatre of the South, where Mira was the founding artistic director. More recently, I played Sam, the pickle man in ‘Crossing Delancey’ at the Alliance Theatre.
Brian Kurlander discovered acting after a stint in All American Wrestling competing for the U.S. One of his past fabulous Atlanta roles was in “My Name Is Asher Lev.” He plays multiple roles in “Indecent:” two elders in the middle segment. “This play is so beautiful for the Jewish community and the community at large in speaking to today’s anti-Semitism. The play is also disturbing since retribution is taken against innocent people. Sometimes we don’t want to face reality and only deal with the perceptions of ourselves.
“The play is a wonderful ensemble piece and uses Yiddish, French, Spanish and Chinese. It is hysterically funny and astoundingly poignant,” said Kurlander.
Tickets range from $15 to $50. Order early for the best prices at theatricaloutfit.org or 678-528-1500. Theatrical Outfit is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta at 84 Luckie St NW. For best parking, use the LAZ Parking garage (100 Luckie St. NW) next to the theater and purchase a parking voucher in the lobby.