The Colony Theater on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach was filled with the sounds of Cuba as The Golem of Havana, a new musical by Miami New Drama took the stage for a packed house. Written and directed by Michel Hausmann, Golem tells the story of a Jewish family in Havana, Cuba on the eve of the revolution.
In terms of catering to your audience, Golem took advantage of the permeating Cuban and Jewish cultures in South Florida. The personal accounts of clashes with police and undercover “frenemies” ring true for audience members who lived in the turbulence of the time. However, an escape for both the Frankel’s only daughter and the audience comes in the form of storytelling.
The show opens on this exact idea, with beautifully staged puppetry behind tendedero, or clothesline-style hung white fabric. Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger was one of the more exquisitely executed elements, drawing the audience into the intimacy of the characters’ struggles and smoothing the transition from the cartoon-like Golem superhero to the very real pre-revolution paranoia.
Where Geiger’s work and scenic design by Edwin Erminy made for a captivating setting, Golem could have, overall, used more bolstering by lyrics and emotional urgency from the actors. Hausmann’s words were woven loosely, allowing for magic moments of poeticism to stand out, but the moments fell flat during most musical numbers.
Maria Rondon, played by Golem and Sundance Theatre Lab alumna Rheaume Crenshaw, was a standout in this respect. Aside from her gut-churning power vocals and multilayered character choices, Crenshaw stunned with her subtly vicious “Yemayá” in the first act.
Most other musical moments, however, felt slightly empty with lyrics unable to catch up to the inherent flavor and body of Cuban instrumentals. Teo Rondón, played by Ronald Alexander Peet, brought some necessary life force into the performance and there was a nearly palpable shift in urgency, both in the storyline and in the actors.
Overall, The Golem of Havana was an imaginative effort. To pack a better punch, Golem need only bring the heartiness of its subject matter into its lyrics. The final scene contained tearjerking, highly relatable references to the Cuban Revolution and subsequent migration to South Florida. The element of an unidentified “hero” as a metaphor for the larger power structures and family dynamics of the time (which still permeate today) set the show apart from similar musical glorifications of Caribbean culture.
Photography by Carol Rosegg; thegolemofhavana.com