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Golem: Theater review by David Cote
To describe the acting in Golem as cartoonish is simply factual—though I have used the term slightingly before. It’s not just the jerky walking, the rubber-faced grimaces or the nasal vocal inflections. The performers are literally embedded within a giant animated projection in this wickedly ingenious satire on consumerism and conformism. Although most of us grew up on anarchic Saturday-morning ’toons and have gone on to appreciate Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam, perhaps even William Kentridge, rarely do you see those varied elements absorbed and transformed in such dynamic fashion.
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Created by the British multimedia troupe 1927, Golem riffs on the Yiddish legend (made famous in Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 novel) to create a ghoulishly effective allegory about the deadening effects of human-technological interaction. The story follows the fortunes of a weedy office drone, Robert Robertson (Shamira Turner) who buys a Golem, a slavish familiar made out of clay. It mutely and dutifully takes on boring household chores and speeds through Robert’s workload at the “Back Up Department.” But when the Golem starts to talk and loaf about watching TV (“I adore Benedict Cumberbatch,” the big lug sighs) out comes Golem Version 2, a smaller and more insidious creature that bullies and corrupts its owner into empty status purchases. Yes, the Golem is the Internet, but the critique comes with so much quirk and weirdness, it has the dark enchantment of every good fable.
Paul Barritt’s animated sequences brilliantly incorporate stop-motion, photomontage and dirtied-up computer graphics: dazzling the eye while also training it to collapse depth or anticipate action beyond the frame. Writer-director Suzanne Andrade’s script is witty, broad and fetchingly lyrical (Lillian Henley scores the singsong rhymes for percussion and keyboard). The sheer technical achievement (bodies and screens moving on and off stage with laser precision) is rather mind-blowing, and the frisky, adorable performers endow their two-dimensional costars with three-dimensional weight (even humanity). It’s a rare show that measures success by how well its actors blend into the scenery.—David Cote
Gerald W. Lynch Theater (Off Broadway). Written and directed by Suzanne Andrade. Animation and design by Paul Barritt. Music by Lillian Henry. With Will Close, Esme Appleton, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, Shamira Turner. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. Through Sun 31.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote