Golem with Puppets and Dance
That intrepid theater of the unusual, has done it again. The dance with puppet staging of the
famed legend of The Golem at the Annex Theater of La Mama in the East Village
is not one you're likely to forget. If you've never been in the Annex, the barnlike theater with its
deep and flexible stage is an experience in and of itself. The current presentation is the stuff that
innovative but accessible performance art is all about.
To backtrack for anyone not familiar with the tale, the word "Golem" dates back to David's
Psalm 139 and is most often told as the story of Rabbi Low of 16th Century Prague. In order to
protect the ghetto from persecution and violence, he fashioned a walking clay giant to be its
guardian. But when the creature the Rabbi created escaped his control and soon spread death
and destruction it had to be stopped. According to legend it now lies covered by cobwebs in
the attic of the Alte-Neu Shul, the famous 15th-century synagogue of Prague.
Even before this "Golem," begins, we see a potter at one side of the stage working
on a potter's wheel. Using marvelously effective movable cages, twenty human puppets, (plus an
assortment of fish puppets, dancing mops and other found object puppets), silently play out this
modern musical drama. They alternately portray both the Jewish citizens of the ghetto and their
Christian oppressors. The puppets by Vit Horejs range in size from six to 48-inches.
When the Golem metamorphoses into a mammoth clay man the potter joins the dancers and puppets on stage. Mark Landsman's portrayal of the clay man is stunning both from an acting and dance point of view. His body, which moves more as if it were made of rubber than clay, is a testament to Yoga and the Alexander Technique (which, according to the program notes, serves as his inspiration)/
My major quibble is a slowdown towards the end. A propitious cut of at least ten minutes would go far towards keeping things at a uniformly high level.
Given the 20th Century Jewish experience, this 16th Century myth is tragically
timely. Composer Frank London's musical blend of sadness and Klezmer "Tants" and Yoshiko
Chuma's choreography and Boris Caksiran's serve the performance perfectly. Those who can't
get to LeMama before the 3/23 closing of The Golem, can get a taste of
London's "Golem Tants" which was recorded with Itzhak Perlman and the Klezmatics at Radio
City Music Hall for Mr. Perlman's new CD, "Live in the Fiddler's House."
If you go, save yourself some unnecesary step-climbing. Tickets pickups and sales are at the
street level LaMama box office, (74A E. 4th St.--(475-4710) not upstairs at the Annex where the performance is being given.
©right March 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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