Monday, October 08, 2012

God of Vengeance

The father and mother have made their fortune in less-than-legal ways, but the father yearns to be respectable. He sees their innocent daughter as their ticket into acceptance from both their neighbors and God. But the daughter has her own dreams. For one thing, she's in love, and the person with whom she's besotted is female and not exactly of the upper echelons. In fact, she's a prostitute who works in the parents' brothel.

Joy Franz, Leanne Agmon, Molly Stoller
Photo:  Jill Usdan
Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance (translated by Joseph C. Landis) judges only the manipulative and hypocritical father. The prostitutes and the lesbians, in contrast, are treated with sympathy and understanding. This is particularly notable because God of Vengeance premiered, in its original Yiddish, in the early 1900s. A production in New York in 1923 was deemed "obscene, indecent, disgusting, and tending toward the corruption of the morals of youth" by the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and the entire cast was arrested. Unfortunately, that response would not be surprising in many locations in 2012.

God of Vengeance is not a great play, but it is a compelling and compassionate one. Director Lenny Leibowitz and the able cast, led by the excellent Sam Tsoutsouvas as the father, tell the story clearly and efficiently, overcoming some of the play's lagging, repetitive moments. The scenery by Tijana Bjelajac is effective, although the scene changes could have been much faster.

The Marvell Rep has provided a great service by reviving this fascinating and surprising play, over 100 years after its premiere.

(press ticket, sixth row on the aisle)

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