When you first step into the modest and quite plain Marvell Rep Theatre, the words you might deem perhaps more fitting are probably school auditorium, as it does not look to be too much of a theatre at all. You don’t expect much as you get a drink at a makeshift snack stand and go to sit on one of the many movable lawn chairs in the physical theatre. However, you are soon pleasantly surprised to learn that the play’s company is so fantastic at acting, it is hard to not be sucked into the world of the play almost immediately.
The play I had the pleasure of attending was Sholem Asch’s highly controversial three act tragedy, God of Vengeance. The play was so highly controversial that it managed to land its entire original 1910 cast in prison for presenting a work deemed to be harmful and disgusting to the public eye. The play deals with the themes of prostitution, lust, sin, and religion, although it was criticized primarily for having the first onstage lesbian kiss.
The play follows Yankl, the Jewish owner of a brothel which operates downstairs, and his wife, a former prostitute, and their young daughter, Rivkele, who Yankl is extremely protective over in order to make sure she remains innocent and pure. However, Rivkele’s father’s obsession with his daughter’s purity, which he believes he can maintain as a consolation for the sins of him and his wife to insure protection from God’s vengeance, leads to her eventual isolation from the outside world. Rivkele’s dim and lonely reality leads to her forming a friendship with one of her father’s prostitutes, the manipulative Manke, which eventually transforms into a secret relationship. As the play progresses, its characters are all thrust into the intense world of Yankl’s nightmares as he rapidly loses hope for redemption, as well as his trust in God.
The play’s run has unfortunately ended at least for this season, but Marvell Rep’s constant rotation of productions practically insures the play’s eventual return to the stage. Until then, I would highly recommend seeing other productions this fantastic company puts on.