June 26, 2017

The Golem of Havana


The Golem of Havana is set in the 1950s as the people of Cuba waver on the brink of the revolution. A young Jewish girl named Rebecca is growing up in her father's tailor shop, oblivious to the turmoil around her. She writes stories of a superhero, the golem; the fabled protector she’s grown up hearing stories of from her European mother. When their maid’s son, a rebel fighter, turns up the family must make a decision that will determine their future in this volatile world.  

The premise echoes one that’s repeated too often throughout history. It’s a story of oppression and rebellion, strength in resistance and the tough moral choices that go hand-in-hand. It reminds me of Anne Frank's story and Les Miserables and dozens of others. Persecution is the same no matter what political face it wears. 

Maria, the family’s maid, is played by Teneh B. C. Karimu. She gives a powerful performance as a mother in search her child. Eric Olson, who has already proved his singing chops on the Phoenix stage, excels again as Rebecca's henpecked father.

The original musical provides a chance to see something unique about a piece of history many of us aren't familiar with. A live band performs the music behind a translucent screen above the stage. The production is staged with the entire cast sitting just in the wings and popping up to provide additional voices for musical numbers or even static on the radio.

The staging of the show is simple, a desk or sewing machine acting as the only props in most scenes. There is a multimedia screen that shows pieces of Rebecca’s graphic novel of the golem and that works well to tell that piece of the story. 

The flow of the story never quite clicks into place. A long first act with multiple plot lines seems to drag. The songs may be catchy, but they are sometimes lost as the audience is pulled into World War II flashbacks or the family’s financial troubles. The heart of the story is good, but it misses a few steps along the way to being great.

Don't Miss the Show

For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave. 
Performances: The show runs until July 16 and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 
 Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-7529 or visit phoenixtheatre.org. Prices range from $22 to $35.



Photos courtesy of Ed Stewart.

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