Any play that involves an obscenity trial has a high probability of piquing my interest, if only because the most fascinating obscenity is always the trial itself. However, in Indecent, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Paula Vogel focuses less on trial scenes and more on the reason a state would use the courts to stomp out a play in the first place: power. Indecent tells the history of The God of Vengeance, an early-20th-century play by Sholem Asch about an Orthodox Jew who runs a brothel. The controversial drama reveals the hypocrisies of Judaism—of all religions, really—and includes a romantic lesbian kiss with heavy petting in the rain. But the queer content wasn't the only issue with The God of Vengeance. Plays containing lesbian relationships were seen as just one of the many forms of filth that Jews were sneaking into the country. With the influx of Eastern European immigration, anti-Semitism and extreme xenophobia were on the rise in the United States, and so the obscenity trial was just one more way the country could harass immigrants.
by Stranger Editor Rich Smith
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