Sunday, January 17, 2016

'The Golem of Havana' Sings the Song of Diaspora with Miami New Drama Premiere

Critically acclaimed musical The Golem of Havana made its South Florida premiere this weekend at The Colony Theater in Miami Beach.


This elegant chamber musical captures a complex story that's not easy to tell about the Jewish and Cuban diaspora during the cusp of the revolution when Castro overthrew the Batista dictatorship.

The coming of age story reflects on love, loyalty, betrayal and politics through Latin, Afro-Cuban and Jewish inspired music. Think klezmer, son Cubano and odes to Yemay√° in one beautiful score, beautifully interpreted by the cast.

The golem is the name of figure from Jewish folklore that is made from clay and brought to life. In one legend, the golem acts as a savior but is destroyed when it turns against its creator. The idea of a golem surfaces in many ways during the musical as characters shift their loyalties struggling to survive during a dangerous, tumultuous time in Cuba's history.

The main character is a storyteller, the daughter of a Hungarian-Jewish tailors who's haunted yet inspired by dreams of her mother's escape from the holocaust, which parallels the plot of the musical. The mother is forced to make a Sophie's choice between people she wishes to protect and compassion can only go so far. Difficult decisions abound in this play, including the final one, which involves exile to Miami.

It's a theme that echoes in all diasporas: We sacrificed. We survived. We start over.

The weaving of Jewish, Afro-Cuban and Cuban musical motifs in the score echoes the multi-cultural nature of Cuba's syncretic culture, powerfully expressed in a song to Yemay√°, the Afro-Cuban goddess of the ocean, which the young Jewish storyteller adopts in a desperate attempt to find answers as her family life succumbs to the heartless decisions of powerful politicians and revolutionaries.

1958 Havana is the perfect setting for a story that brings together opposing personal religious and political beliefs. The ending is bittersweet: we see glimpses of shared human connection amid bloody struggles that erode faith.



The Miami premiere of the Golem of Havana is a production of Miami New Drama, a fledgling company co-founded by the musical's author, Venezuelan Michel Hausmann. The world premiere took place in New York City at the New York Theater Workshop in 2013. The Miami cast features some of the original actors as well as Miami-based actors.

The Golem of Havana plays at The Colony Theater through February 7. For more information, visit Miami New Drama.

Of interest:

Jordan Levin of The Miami Herald offers an in-depth background about the work: New Miami musical 'The Golem of Havana' evoked struggle against oppression.

Some of my random notes on Facebook.

Photo credit: Carol Rosegg for Miami New Drama

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