January 2, 2017

Questions of guilt and retribution gnaw ceaselessly at the heart of Yankl (Shane Baker), the central character in Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, which is being given a timely revival by the New Yiddish Rep at LaMaMa. A pious Orthodox Jew, Yankl makes his living in what remains a highly unorthodox profession: He owns a brothel that sits below the apartment in which his family lives. Asch’s 1907 play, esteemed and widely produced in Europe, caused a scandal when it was staged in New York, ultimately opening on Broadway in 1923 and creating such a ruckus that the entire company was hauled into court on charges of indecency. The timeliness of this production — performed in Yiddish with English supertitles — has everything to do with the arrival on Broadway this spring of Paula Vogel’s Indecent, a powerful drama depicting the tumultuous history of the play and including some passages from it.