I have had my breath taken away very few times in my life. But I can say with absolute certainty that the only words to describe this play come from the script itself: I can’t breathe.
Playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman’s “Indecent” is anything but. The whole walk back from the theatre, I was utterly speechless while ruminating on this beautiful and heartbreaking play. It felt like something coming full circle- on the train ride into the city, I was reading Diana McLellan’s “The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood” and there was a passage about the rise of censorship in the theater.

One of the plays mentioned? Sholem Asch’s “The God of Vengeance.” It felt like a sign of some sort.

Indecent. A play about a play. A Jewish play that pushed boundaries and portrayed Jewish people as complex and flawed individuals; a Jewish play featuring a lesbian love story. A play about a Jewish play that is most importantly about censorship and passion and why art matters.
Indecent. A word used to condemn and shame.

As an artist and a lesbian, I never realized how much I think about censorship until I was walking out of the theater today. Yes, censorship from others, but more importantly censorship of self. When typing the paragraph above, I first wrote “a love story between two women.” For some reason, I always stumble over the word lesbian even though I am proud to be one. I for some reason find it easier to say “I’m gay” than it is to say “I’m a lesbian.” I know there is nothing indecent about it. Yet I choke on it.

I think about censorship every single day, and Paula Vogel’s wonderful play has made me realize that it is my greatest fear.

Since I got to my all-women’s liberal arts college, I’ve been steeping myself in Queer history and learned that it is a history of censorship. I can pinpoint watching “The Celluloid Closet” in my theatre as commentary class as the turning point that began my thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know why I still rarely see lesbians on TV, why I can barely find myself represented in movies, why we keep getting killed onscreen. And as I continued my reading, I found the place where I can actually relate to the stories being told: the theatre. My heart broke for Martha Dobie and I felt an immense surge of pride when I discovered Jane Wagner and I kissed a girl other than my best friend for the first time in a scene from Weldon Rising. I have long regarded the theatre as my home, but I discovered in a new capacity that it is the one place where I will always find myself. I can be a complex and flawed individual, not just the subject of a sleazy sex scene thrown in to entice male viewers. I can be flesh and blood.

There is a line from “Indecent” that I haven’t been able to get out of my head: when you write a play, you are not alone (or something to that effect). I won’t spoil the last scene, but this concept is hauntingly played out in the final moments of the play. I didn’t understand why I began to sob in that moment; all I knew was that I was experiencing a euphoric mix of joy and loss that is truly indescribable unless you have seen it too. But now, being rocked gently side to side by the sway of the train, I know why.

Nobody goes into the theatre to make money. We do it to express something when we have no other voice, we do it to find a community and a family; we do it because we believe in the story we are telling and the message that goes along with it. We do it because art matters.

I will never dance in the rain the same way again.
The show was originally supposed to close on June 25th, but due to an outpouring of support and ticket sales it was extended until August 6th. After the curtain call, one of the cast members joked that it was a little bit like the Chanukah story: the lamp kept burning.

Take advantage of it. Go see this show. I had resigned myself in mid June to not being able to see it, and I nearly wept when I saw the extension announcement. Support this play. Tell all your friends. If I had the money, I would see every remaining show.

I have no doubt that your experience will differ from mine; theatre is like that. But I guarantee you will find something in it that captivates you. Find the reason that art matters to you.


The Present (Sydney Theatre Company)

Blaring punk and a lovely black and white projection of (what I vaguely remember to be) foliage. If anything could wake me up after walking around the city for five hours, that certainly did the trick.

That, and the anticipation of seeing Cate Blanchett live. That’s a pretty good pick me up as well. And I needed it-my mother and I were the second people in line for rush tickets, so a good portion of the morning had been spent standing in one spot outside the Barrymore waiting for the box office to open. We ended up snagging two box seats for the matinee for $45 each. Adapted from Chekhov’s Platonov by Andrew Upton and directed by John Crowley, it was probably the best $90 ever spent. 

An usher shuts the curtain on our box; the house lights go down. We’re so close to the stage I almost cry. 

There’s no easing into it, it just blasts- Billy Bragg’s “A New England.” Nothing like some 80s Brit punk to get you in the mood for upheaval and rebellion. I looked up the lyrics of the song after the fact, and it sets the tone for the play perfectly. 

I don’t want to change the world. I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl. 

In this case, it’s more like a new Russia. With an Australian cast. It just sort of worked, in a way I didn’t expect. Going into it, I thought the accents might be distracting but with the quality of the acting that just wasn’t the case. By act two I barely noticed. Of course, I may be biased- I would listen to Cate Blanchett read the phone book. 

To be fair, she is absolutely captivating onstage. Lord knows I’m a fan of her films (I still think Carol deserved the Oscar), but onstage she just keeps giving. It was honestly electrifying. For as talented as she is on the big screen, she expresses something extra onstage that just can’t be captured on camera. 

The rest of the cast was just as brilliant, weaving a complex web of characters and relationships. To vaguely reference Carol (as I am known to do), It’s like physics. Bouncing off eachother like pinballs. Some things don’t even react, but everything is alive. That is how conflict is created within the play; with each new reaction (or lack thereof) from characters bumping lives, something is revealed. Whether a detail from the past, plans for the future, or a decision for the present; the plot unfurls before the audience’s eyes. 

Richard Roxburgh (playing Mikhail Platonov) has the most delicious chemistry with Blanchett (Anna Petrovna). From their first interaction in the opening, you see that subtle reaction that speaks volumes- and what it says it that they are the two to watch out for going forward. There is a constant push and pull between them that keeps you itching for more. Amidst a slew of other dalliances, it all comes back to Anna and Mikhail. 

Overall, it definitely had what the poster in the box office promised: vodka, gunshots, and more vodka. And then more vodka. 

I laughed, I cried; I even peed myself a little (the gunshots were loud). I cried a little bit more after curtain call, because I saw it on International Women’s Day and the whole cast came out with red heart balloons while Cate Blanchett made a small speech about all the women that keep the Barrymore running. All in all, it was a beautiful experience. The cast was beautiful, the story was beautiful (albeit messy- I feel bad for the people that do the laundry), and the sets were beautiful. 

The show closed last week, but I would without question have paid full price to see it again. You know, if I had the time or money. I’ve seen a couple musicals on Broadway, but this was my first straight play. As a freshman theatre major trying to figure out what I really want to do, it was kind of a life affirming experience. 

In my senior year of high school, all the underclassmen in drama club decorated the seniors lockers for their last show- my friends put a framed picture of Cate Blanchett in mine. It started off as a joke; I kept her in the dressing room and then brought her to the diner with the whole cast after the show. She makes frequent appearances on my twitter, but now she lives on my desk in my dorm room. And to be honest, that’s what motivates me. If I start to procrastinate coursework or put off running lines, I look up and feel like the picture is totally judging me. 

My motto has essentially become “do it for Cate Blanchett.” Is it a little creepy? Totally. But it is definitely making me work my ass off. I just keep telling myself, if I work as hard as Cate Blanchett I can be the one onstage with college girls losing their minds.