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O’Neill: Asch’s Contemporary

Feb. 13, 1928 cover of Time, courtesy

Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill makes a surprise appearance in Indecent. Played by the same actor who plays Sholem Asch (Adam Brading in our production), O’Neill meets with Lemml in the legendary Hell Hole bar in Greenwich Village in 1923 to discuss the obscenity trial of The God of Vengeance production. In the scene, O’Neill quotes from Act One of his own play Anna Christie, which had won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1922: “Dat ole davil sea make dem crazy fools with her dirty tricks! It’s so!” In Anna Christie, the line is spoken by Chris Chrisopherson to Anna, a woman with a history of abandonment, sexual assault, and sex work; Vogel is mirroring the father/daughter pair of Asch’s play The God of Vengeance. And, as our dramaturg Kat Altman observes, “O’Neill is likely associating his and Asch’s relationship with the theatre and Chris’ relationship to the sea, which operates in Anna Christie as a beautiful and nurturing, yet dangerous and destructive force that has power to charm and influence men.” For more on Indecent’s historical characters, see Kat’s notes at

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