Feet of clay

Golem Stories

By Edward Einhorn
Directed by Glory Sims Bowen
FHB Theatre Productions
Chashama Theatre/Spotlight On Festival
125 W. 42nd St. (212/352-3101)
Non-union production (closes Mar. 30)
Review by Charles Battersby

For those not familiar with Jewish mythology, a Golem (Pronounced "go-lem", not "Goll-um") is a man-made monster built from clay and used to defend Jewish villages from interlopers. Edward Einhorn’s version of the Golem is a little different from the legends, though. Einhorn’s Golem is a peaceful, childlike creature with a soul that’s half demon and half human. The creature identifies himself as human and seeks to be regarded as human by others. A little boy ... made out of clay.

Golem Stories is set in 16th-century Prague, and the action takes place in the living room of Rabbi Judah Loew (Ian Fleet), who creates the Golem (Brian Glaser) to battle anti-Semitic attacks on his village. The Golem, for reasons not entirely explained, ends up with the soul of the Rabbi’s daughter (Gina Stec)’s dead fiance (also played by Glaser). The play wavers between comedy and melodrama, with brief attempts at horror. Only the comedy succeeded.

On the dramatic front, there is a love story between the monster and the Rabbi’s daughter, a predictably doomed romance (she’s an uptown girl and he’s a downtown clay half-demon-monster). Willing suspension of disbelief will allow an audience to believe that the Golem exists, but nothing could suspend the audience’s belief enough to make them think there’s any chance of this relationship ever working out, and the end of the play was a surprise to no one.

The funny scenes proved to be much more entertaining, with Harry Klein playing the comically anti-Semitic King Rudolph, and Michael Whitney as a similarly misguided priest. Both characters are Christians, and both have hysterical scenes that mock the primitive Christian superstitions behind much anti-Semitism "The police just don’t want THEIR children used to make Matza," says King Rudolph. Regrettably, a great opportunity for fun was missed by not getting these two on stage at once.

Director Glory Sims Bowen failed to create the sense that these events are occurring on the other side of the world, 500 years ago. Accents and mannerisms were those of present-day Americans, not medieval Czechs. The set (Nicole Frankel) could have been any living room over the past thousand years. The costumes (Michael Piatkowski), however, did give an accurate sense of "other time, other place," but left unanswered the question of why a Rabbi would even bother to put clothes on a Golem....

The sound effects, by Christopher Brooks, played a small role in many scenes, particularly the scene in which the Golem was brought to life, but spooky wind howling sounds couldn’t make the scene scary. Not with conspicuous stagehands rattling the furniture in an attempt to simulate the presence of arcane forces.

While Einhorn should be commended for seeking the deeper meaning behind the Golem legends, his play failed to express that meaning. Had the play abandoned all attempts at depth and committed itself entirely to farce, it would have been much more enjoyable.

(Also features Hanna Hayes, Ben Hindell, Yvonne Roen, and Maxwell Zener.)

 Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby