After a successful run at La MaMa earlier this season, New Yiddish Rep restages its revival of Sholem Asch's famously controversial play in its original Yiddish with a new director. More…
One of the most psychologically revealing plays of the early 20th century, and still highly incendiary due to its conflicted view of Judaism, 'God of Vengeance' inspired Paula Vogel's critically acclaimed 'Indecent.' The play is about a brothel owner's attempt to marry off his daughter and have her lead a dignified religious life, only to watch her drawn back into the life of sin in which she was raised. The show featured Broadway's first lesbian kiss, and many involved in that 1923 production were arrested for indecency. See what all the fuss was about! Performed in Yiddish with English supertitles.
"'God of Vengeance' is a large, sprawling text, full of complex characters whose motives invite debate. In this, Asch's play embodies the best traditions of Judaism, along with the brokenness he sees in Judaism's most extreme forms....The New Yiddish Rep approaches the play with all the rigor and sensitivity of a Rabbinic scholar poring over a verse of the Talmud." Full Review
for a previous production "The entire cast is superb, with passionate portrayals of the characters...From the first to the final scene, the acting strengths of the cast quickly ease any hesitations that the audience may have about seeing a play performed in Yiddish. The story, timeless themes, and searing sense of drama transcend language. At the shocking conclusion of 'God of Vengeance,' the concept of language will become somewhat irrelevant anyway: The audience will truly be left speechless." Full Review
for a previous production "Thanks to excellent English super-titles and the body language and facial expressions of the cast, the thoughts and feelings of the shtetl Jews become real, personal and present...This production is exceptional because of Eleanor Reissa’s skill as both actor and director...Her work is elegant, unique, honest, radiant, and authentic; and her profound, understated direction shields the actors from the vengeance of melodrama by helping the cast present the characters’ complex layers." Full Review
for a previous production "'God of Vengeance' holds the stage formidably in its own right, primarily for its forthright depiction of the love between Yankl’s teenage daughter and one of the women who work in the brothel....Deftly directed by Eleanor Reissa, who is terrific in the role of Yankl’s wife...The production is somewhat cramped on the small stage at LaMaMa and the contemporary setting adds nothing much to the play. But the cast’s commitment brings the work’s flashes of lyricism to powerful life." Full Review
for a previous production "While the tone of 'God of Vengeance' is over the top by today’s standards, it is fascinating from a historical and cultural perspective. While the kiss scene may no longer be shocking, much of the play is still provocative. In spite of an uneven ensemble and limited production values, the New Yiddish Rep’s production makes for heated and compelling theater." Full Review
for a previous production "Although there is quite a bit of repetition in parts, the play still works as high drama, and the cast does a first-rate job in bringing the characters and situations to life with plenty of turbulence. The New Yiddish Rep has performed a service in giving audiences who have heard of this iconic play but have never had a chance to see it staged the opportunity to view and evaluate it, as well as to see what the fuss was all about." Full Review
for a previous production "While their traits may not be soul-saving, the characters are multidimensional…It’s fascinating for anyone with an interest in Jewish history and culture. It’s vividly staged and costumed, and well acted. The English supertitles are adequate for the most part, although even with my very limited Yiddish I could tell when the written translation wasn’t capturing all that was spoken...Nonetheless it was a rewarding experience, and with plenty of humor it was also an enjoyable one." Full Review
for a previous production "Reissa, who also directs, has made marvelous use of the small stage…If Reissa is convincing as the practical and mostly amoral Soreh, Baker shines as the conflicted Yankl…The production tries too hard to give Rivkele and Manke a relationship not supported by the text…'God of Vengeance' is not about brothels or lesbians...It is about sin, hypocrisy and ultimately man's relationship to God. Surely that is enough to make this play a masterful study of the human soul." Full Review
for a previous production "Though Asch's characters tend to be one-dimensional, his intrepid takes on religion, societal mores, and the evil that men do, still resonate…Asch's story has a sensational quality to it that, when combined with melodramatic scenes, sometimes approaches the comical...Reissa gives a wonderfully nuanced performance…Reissa directs the play with some restraint, but the built-in histrionics can't help bursting into the open now and then." Full Review
for a previous production "A lively, impressive revival, anchored by a strong cast and steady direction...Asch’s play is decidedly ahead of its time, particularly in the relationship between Rifkele and Manke...Some of the lines are clunky and we don’t learn much about their interior lives...Still, New Yiddish Rep’s talented and diverse cast carries the show through some of the rougher patches in Asch’s script, and serves, along the way, as a testament to the viability of Yiddish theater in the 21st century." Full Review
for a previous production "Reissa’s interpretation of the play subverts the usual focus on social and religious hypocrisy to concentrate on the psychology of the tormented brothel owner...The acting in the performance I saw was uneven, but the leads were all strong. Baker and Reissa are convincing as a couple. Mandelbaum makes Reb Eli more than just a sleazy opportunist...Sholem Asch was a controversial writer throughout his life...His characters though always had vitality and energy." Full Review
for a previous production “Surprisingly, Eleanor Reissa's production for New Yiddish Rep has made some debatable choices which damage the power of the play. First of all and most obviously, although not a word has been updated, the characters wear contemporary clothing and use modern objects like headphones, a plastic umbrella and platform shoes. Since there are references to opening a horse stable and the sexual mores of 1907 have changed considerably, this is both distracting and confusing.” Full Review
for a previous production "Modest, uneven production...On the plus side, this earnest staging powerfully articulates themes such as the hypocrisy of religion...The supertitles are well done and the action is easy to follow. In addition, the dialogue has been wisely streamlined...Unfortunately, this endeavor fails to tamp down the artifice and melodrama inherent in the original text. Nor is it able to fully convey the poetic realism as intended...The time period is nebulous, but the mix of styles is jarring." Full Review
for a previous production "Asch's dramaturgy is more than a little old-fashioned...and the play doesn't always get the help it needs from Reissa's direction. A particular disappointment is the Yekel of Shane Baker...Much better are Reissa...and Mandelbaum...Reissa has chosen to stage the production in modern dress, which is surely a mistake...Whatever this production's shortcomings, New Yiddish Rep has done us a favor by producing 'God of Vengeance,' and anyone who has seen 'Indecent' will want to check it out." Full Review
for a previous production "There is much that is fascinating around, and underneath, this play, a glimpse at a different time, place and set of values...This is another way of saying that 'God of Vengeance' is full of historical, cultural, political, even anthropological interest, but has less to recommend it theatrically...There are some lovely moments, such as when the two women kiss; and several performers who stand out...But the cast is uneven, and the show has a healthy quota of beating of brow and of breast." Full Review
for a previous production "If, like 'Mrs. Warren's Profession', 'God of Vengeance' feels a little stilted and didactic, it more than justifies its presence through a cast of game actors ... [A]ny company that works to revive this rich history-even when the appeal of the some of the texts is more academic than emotional-deserves nothing but applause." Full Review
for a previous production "Even today, Asch's play is relevant and its core ideas are striking. This stage rendition loses some of Asch’s poetic, literary touches…I would like the moments between Rifkele and Manke to linger longer...The opening scene also does not capture the time and mood…Too many colors and styles in the costumes distract from the transportive power of the original text…I still think this is a play worth seeing and reviving, especially for its statement on religious hypocrisy." Full Review
for a previous production "There are two immediately pressing reasons to see ‘God of Vengeance.’ The first is historical curiosity…The second reason to rush out is that this is the controversial work serving as the inspiration for ‘Indecent’…There are a few reasons not to attend...'God of Vengeance' may have passed as dramaturgically strong over a century ago, but it registers as more than a little awkward now…Although a few of the actors are up to the requirements, a heap of the thesping leaves a lot to be desired." Full Review
See it if You love Yiddish theater, you want to experience Jewish playwriting from the early 1900s, you are interested in the Jewish underworld.
Don't see it if prostitution and ethically void characters depress you.
See it if You are interested in Yiddish theater history. Interested in seeing Indecent and want to see the original play.
Don't see it if You don't want to see something in a different language. The subtitles were often not very good.
See it if Powerful story, some great actors. Great segue to Indecent. Great to imagine how shocking the story was for 1907.
Don't see it if This is not the same production rated by the NY Times. It was a very simple, very low budget version. Supertitles can be a bit distracting.
See it if You want to see a historical play that's been updated (Indecent is based on it) and you appreciate great acting in any language.
Don't see it if You don't like original language (Yiddish) with subtitles, and can't tolerate the intense drama of the Yiddish stage.
See it if An opportunity to see an historically important play, excellent acting and direction. If you saw Indecent you'll find this play fascinating.
Don't see it if A family drama In Yiddish with English supertitles, small stage, from another era. With hookers!
See it if you want to see the original play 'Indecent' was based upon. In Yiddish with English supra titles, this is mesmerizing and stands on its own
Don't see it if you have no interest in Yiddish theater. This is living history, absorbing and excellent theater, but you have to want to be there.
See it if you want to see the source material for "Indecent" (coming to Broadway this spring) & how such a provocative topic was treated in 1923!
Don't see it if you don't have patience for a slower, dated production that relies on subtitles for non-Yiddish speakers!
See it if you like theater history, Jewish history, family drama, want to see the play behind "Indecent" before it hits Broadway.
Don't see it if you don't like plays in other languages with English subtitles; you want something light and fun.
Also The actor who played the Rabbi stole every scene!
See it if want to see the basis of the upcoming "Indecent"; want to try Yiddish theater--it's a show that was clearly ahead of it's time
Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with sexual themes
See it if Well directed, excellent ensemble acting with a fascinating and riveting theme. Excellent set for such as small stage!
Don't see it if If the problems/challenges of Orthodox Judaism do not interest you
See it if you are interested in seeing a landmark Yiddish Theater play before seeing the backstory play Indecent this spring.
Don't see it if you don't like sitting in uncomfortable chairs for over 1.5 hours - no intermission or if you don't like reading subtitles.
See it if you are so invested in the upcoming Broadway production of Indecent that you feel the need to seek out the original source material
Don't see it if you don't feel as described above -- while it's neat to see in its original Yiddish, GoV isn't as powerful or resonant as Indecent itself is
See it if You appreciate Yiddish revival. You know the history of the play (and its significance in the queer movement.)
Don't see it if You dislike clunky acting, possibly hindered by language barriers. You prefer surtitles to flow more smoothly with the dialogue.
See it if you want to see a play controversial at the time it was written with a harsh look at the religious Jewish community, done in Yiddish
Don't see it if you want strong acting and a clear direction, or a pace that doesn't make you fall asleep, or if critique of anything Jewish would upset you
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