WESTBROOK – Next week, theatergoers in Westbrook will have the chance to attend the world premiere of a brand-new play.
Written and directed by Michael Levine, the producing director of Westbrook’s Acorn Productions, “The Legend of the Golem” will be performed in Acorn’s theater, located in the Dana Warp Mill, from Dec. 6 through Dec. 23.
Levine, 46, who has been involved with Acorn for all 15 years of the company’s existence, said this is the first full-length play he has written for adults, and the finished product is very different then the one he set out to write this summer.
“I originally set out to write a very straight adaptation of the Jewish folk tale of the Golem of Prague,” he said. The Golem was a Jewish legend that sprung up in the 16th century. Levine said the Golem was a creature created out of clay that protected the Jews of that city.
As the writing process went on, Levine found that a straight adaptation of the legend began to feel “dated and stale,” so he began to take the story down a different path.
“I started playing around with the idea of, ‘What would happen if the Golem appeared in a more modern household?’”
Instead of 16th century Prague, the play places the action in a Jewish shtetl in Poland in the early 20th century. It revolves around Reb Nathan, a poor tailor who not only owns a failing business, but also has a daughter who has fallen in love with a non-Jewish man. These crises cause him to question his faith, leading to a series of events involving Rabbi Moshe, who is described only as a mysterious stranger, and the Golem, who strives to help him through his troubles.
“I really like it,” said cast member Josh Brassard, who plays Reb Nathan. “It’s almost like this weird mash-up of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” he said.
While that comparison may sound like the premise for a comedy, the play is a family drama, said Levine.
“It’s a drama, but there’s a lot of comedy,” Levine said, adding that he did base the character of the mysterious stranger, on Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “There’s a lot of mileage to be milked out of the idea of a big monster on stage.”
“There are some funny elements to it,” said Brassard, a software engineer in Falmouth, who has been doing shows with Acorn for a couple of years. “But there is a deep, almost existential questioning of faith (in the story).”
Hal Cohen, a physician from Scarborough who has been acting with Acorn for the past couple of years, has been cast as Rabbi Moshe, a role he said he has been enjoying immensely.
“The last couple of roles I’ve had have been very large. This one is not, but this one is so much fun and the chemistry that Josh and I have in our scenes, I just love those moments,” Cohen said.
This is the third year in a row that Acorn has done a Jewish-themed show during this time of year, Levine said.
“We like to do a Jewish-themed show because as a Jewish person, you can easily feel a little bit left out,” he said.
While the play is set during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which is in the spring, Levine said the story is a perfect one for this holiday season.
“This is a play about families, so this seemed to be the best choice,” he said, adding that he believed “The Legend of the Golem” would be accessible to people of all faiths. “The show has universal themes about family and faith,” he said.