Inspired by the controversial Broadway debut of Sholem Asch's 1907 Yiddish-language play God of Vengeance, Broadway's Indecent tells the dramatized story of the play itself while following the fictionalized lives of some of its earliest performers. When the Broadway production ends its run on August 6, its cast will end a two-year stint playing up to eight characters at each performance of Paula Vogel's acclaimed play.
For Adina Verson, those roles range from Asch's wife, Madje, to Reine, a gay Jewish woman who first took on the role of God of Vengeance's Rifkele, to Virginia, the girl who takes Reine's place in the play's English-language transfer and shares Broadway's first onstage lesbian kiss. While taking a break from such a demanding production may sound to some like it would be a welcome respite, Verson is already worried about whether she'll be able to choke out her "goodbye."
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say?
The one that comes to mind right now, honestly, is when Reine gets fired and she says, "Goodbye, Lou." I'm already dreading having to say that on Sunday. Like, I don't know if I'll be able to say it.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
When we're sitting onstage for, like, 35 minutes before the show starts, we have a little game where we talk to each other without moving our mouths…You can really only hear the people next to you. But sometimes Rich [Topol] will be next to me, and he'll just be like, "Pass this to Mimi [Lieber]." And so then I'll pass it to Katrina [Lenk] and then Katrina will pass it to Tom [Nelis] and it goes down the line…It usually turns into a harmony game where somebody will start humming a note, and then we all start humming a harmony and it's the most beautiful meditation. I guess it's not really a joke, but I love it.
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?
There's rain at the end of the show, and there's been a couple shows where the rain has gotten excited and come a little early. It's only been, like, four shows total in our entire run from the past two years. It rains on part of the stage for a few seconds, and we just kind of ignore it and hope that no one notices.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
There's this fellow who made these little wooden statues, one for me and one for Katrina, of us in our nightgowns, and then he covered them in hot glue dots so it looks like rain. So we have these two little wooden statues and we made them kiss — they're in perpetual kissing.
5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
It's been such a gift to share this with people who I never thought I would perform for. So, like, Zach Woods came to see the show, who is an actor who I love. And then, like, Kieran Culkin was in the audience and I had a huge crush on him in high school. The first thing that went through my head was my 15-year-old self being like, "Be cool, you gotta be so cool this show." That was not useful.
6. Which is your favorite character that you get to play and why?
It's a tie between Reine and Virginia. Honestly, I just love the transition from Reine to Virginia because they're so different. Reine I love. She's no BS, has a huge heart, loves her culture. And I love the journey that she gets to take, and there's something about her stillness that I love.
And then Virginia. I love Virginia's confused heart, and just the soft brain that she has. I love living in that space.
7. How were the unique stylistic elements of the play developed?
The rain was in there from the beginning. The sand — I believe it was [director] Rebecca [Taichman]'s vision to be like, "What if sand just pours out of their sleeves?" It wasn't until our second production at La Jolla, that during tech, Rebecca was like, "Sand should come out of their sleeves again!" And everyone was like, "Uh-oh, how's it gonna happen?" Because when it happens at the beginning, our sleeves are undone from the second we sit down and we actually can't move our arms because the sand is loose. What they ended up doing was — you know those hard-case Mentos boxes? They just, like, fill those with sand, and the cast puts those in their sleeves and opens them at that point. It's like the most unromantic thing, but they made it happen.
8. You and Katrina Lenk have such a special relationship onstage. What is your offstage relationship like?
I love Katrina so much. I feel like to do this play and portray these relationships with her, there has to be a certain amount of trust, and the universe granted that for us. The first time that we met was when she was auditioning for this role. I had already been cast and they had me be her reader. And Rebecca had me actually get up on my feet and do the rain scene with her, which was really intense.
She is one of those actors who never stets her performance. After we've done the show for two years, she'll be like, "I had an idea. What if we tried this?" It's so exciting to play with her. Literally, we get to play together eight times a week.
9. What's your favorite memory of working with Paula Vogel?
In the room, she is so generous. She'd bring in new pages and we'd do them, Rebecca would stage it, and then we'd talk about it. And if someone didn't feel right or something came to the surface from staging it, Paula, with seemingly no ego, would be like, "Oh yeah," and she'd go away and rewrite it and come back with something else. It felt like we were truly collaborating.
10. How do you feel this play argues for the importance of art?
I think it makes a lot of cerebral arguments, but I think that more importantly, it makes a lot of heart-led arguments. I suspect that the play starts out going through your brain and ends up going through your heart, and I think that is the biggest argument for why art is necessary in our world. The heart, in my opinion, is truth and what will last after we are gone and what brings us together. The brain is useful sometimes, but that's about it.
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