EgoPo Classic Theatre‘s world premier of The Golem, playing at the Prince Theatre through April 15 is part of its 2011-12 season, a Festival of Jewish Theatre. “The Festival brings the pinnacle stories of the Jewish faith and history to life.” The seasoned opened with The Diary of Anne Frank and will produce A Dybbuk, adapted by Tony Kushner May 30-June 17.
The play, directed by EgoPo’s literary director, Brenna Geffers, and created by the talented ensemble of artists involved with the piece, retells the ancient myth of the golem for a modern audience. From its first mention in the Sanhedrin, a 2nd century companion piece to the Torah, to modern references in contemporary literature, like Cavalier and Clay, the golem story has been re-told and re-imagined in many mediums. EgoPo wanted to perform “a piece exploring the Golem” which is all about needing a protector in a dangerous world.
More after the jump.
In their modern re-casting of the traditional Golem stories, we are in 1940, where a small group of Jews from Prague, wearing yellow Jewish stars are on a train whose destination is unknown. The first story is told using Czech-style marionettes, bringing the violence of the blood libel to life. The golem tried to protect the Jews from the blood libel, a violence-provoking rumor that the blood of Christian children was needed for the Passover matzo.
EgoPo (whose name is derived from the French concept “The Physical Self”) is theatre at its best, using puppets (created by Martina Plag) live music,(composed by Andrew Nelson) dance, song, lighting and projections to establish mood and create a transformative space. The sparse set is highly effective (Matthew Miller) as is the second floor space at the Prince Theatre.
“All a story needs is one listener to keep it” one character remarks early in this captivating production. The golem, or mudboy, as the wife (played beautifully by Genevieve Perrier) calls him, cannot speak – he is mute. The golem stories are not simply about the desire for protection during times of danger and persecution, but about language and meaning as well. In the second story, which explores how love of learning competes with sensual love, we learn about the golem’s demise. The final story tells us how the golem was born and how he turns upon his own creator, his own Father.
EgoPo’s production, which runs 80 minutes without an intermission, is a haunting, entertaining, superbly acted piece of original theatre. It uses all the elements good theatre has to offer – the human body, voice, music, lights and dance in highly creative re-imaginings of an ancient myth. As we prepare for our Seders this weekend, this is a timely and relevant play to see.