The San Francisco Playhouse is putting on a great show, which recently opened with Paula Vogel’s “Indecent.”
Produced with the Yiddish Theatre Ensemble, this powerful play includes traditional Yiddish dancing (choreographed by Nicole Hever), a glorious Klezmer band and Yiddish theatre vaudeville element. These lighter components add the necessary contrast to the show’s more serious nature, with a brilliant performance of seven actors playing 46 different characters.
Vogel’s story addresses the real-life controversy surrounding Sholem Asch’s first play, “The God of Vengeance,” considered by some to be the seminal work of Yiddish drama and a slur of betrayal by others. . It began with the first reading of the play in Poland in 1906, when Asch was told to “burn” the script. It followed Asch’s troupe from a successful performance in Berlin in 1907 and subsequent tours of Europe before coming to the United States.
While the play was well-received in Yiddish theater circles throughout Europe and New York, it wasn’t when it moved to Broadway in 1923. Complaints about the depicted lesbian relationships and sexually explicit behavior resulted in the arrest and conviction of producers and actors or obscenity.
“Indecent” continues to offer a rich historical perspective as it follows the stage manager back to Poland, where he and a hungry little troupe perform as much Yiddish version of the play as possible. It ended in 1952 as Asch, persecuted by the U.S. House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee, prepared to move to London.
Over a 50-year story span, SF Playhouse brilliantly delivers on the rich emotional life of this complex drama. Thanks to Richard Olmsted’s opening scene, Suzi Damilano’s skilful directing, Hever’s smooth choreography, and a talented cast, the show’s scenes It blends elegantly with the time period. Suitcases are used creatively, the ashes at the beginning and end of the play create a plethora of emotions, and the impressive water feature brings the drama to a dramatic end.
Outstanding cast includes Rivka Borek, Rachel Botkan, Billy Cohen, Dean Lynnard, Victor Talmadge, Marka Wallick and Ted Jordan. Outstanding musicians are Dmitri Gaskin (accordion), Audrey Jackson (clarinet) and Matthew Stein (violin), who also play small roles and communicate freely with the actors.
“Indecent” runs through November. 5 SF Playhouse at 450 Post St. in San Francisco. To purchase tickets, call 415-677-9596 or visit sfplayhouse.org.
Lafayette: You can still enjoy “The Body Play” by Madison Wetzell of the Town Hall Theatre Company. The effortlessly produced new production is part of the company’s “New Voices” series, which features plays never before produced by Bay Area playwrights. In this work, Wetzel explores what happens when Amy submits her body to expert review to determine why she keeps feeling so bad.
Director Lisa Anne Morrison said: “When I read Madison’s funny, absurd and very moving play, I thought of Amy’s process of finding out what was wrong with her body.” The Body Game tells a lot about what we’ve been through as humanity struggles to have a healthy mind and body that can coexist. “
“Body Game” opens on October 8th at 8pm. 14-15 at the Town Hall Theatre at 3535 School St. in Lafayette. Call 925-283-1557 or visit townhalltheatre.com online for tickets and details.
Berkeley: Mildred Inez Lewis’ “Museum Annex” will be on view at Central Works in Berkeley. Directed by Elizabeth Carter, the comedy is a tribute to George Wolfe’s “Museum of Color,” which premiered in 1986.
“Directing a ‘Museum of Color’ production in college expanded my awareness of what’s possible in comedy,” Lewis said. “I wrote ‘Museum Annex’ as a comedy love letter to African-American women, and everyone was caught up in it. An invitation to listen, engage, heal and laugh.”
The show aired in October. 15-November 13 at the Historic Berkeley City Club at 2315 Durant Ave. To purchase tickets, call 510-558-1381 or visit centralworks.org.
Also at Berkeley: Theatre Lunatico will return to the stage in October. From November 21st to November 13th Martin Crimp’s “Attempt of Her Life” will be presented at the Laval Underground Theater at 1834 Euclid Avenue. in Berkeley.
Crump’s play offers insight, misdirection, contradiction and commentary on the life of protagonist Anne through 17 seemingly disparate scenes. For more information, visit theaterrelunatico.org.
Alameda: Auditions will be held at the Altarena Playhouse in October. Watch Wendy MacLeod’s hilarious play titled “Slow Food” at the Alameda Theater on the 23rd-24th from 7-9pm. The show will air in January. February 20 to February 19 with director Katina Psihos Letheule.
The show follows a pair of empty-nesters celebrating their anniversary in Palm Springs. Everything that can go wrong will happen. The hungry couple stumbled upon a Greek restaurant where a poor waiter micromanaged every part of their dining experience, except serving the food. Character descriptions, pages and other information can be found at altarena.org.
Sally Hogarty can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of her reviews online at eastbaytimes.com/author/sally-hogarty.