Call me crazy, but I had assumed that “Golem” (being presented at Lincoln Center Festival by a London-based performance art group that calls itself 1927) was going to be an adaptation of the Jewish folktale of a giant clay creature that obeys commands written on pieces of paper and then goes on a violent spree.
Instead, this experimental and sinister work of science fiction uses the mythical Golem as a metaphor for the technological devices that increasingly consume our everyday lives and influence our opinions and actions.
In a plot that sort of resembles “Little Shop of Horrors,” Robert’s hapless and dreary life is upended by the arrival of the Golem, a bulky, primitive-looking creature that obediently performs Robert’s chores and day job. It also offers a few suggestions, like that Robert should buy a pair of shiny yellow shoes.
Not soon after, a sleeker and faster Golem 2.0 is released, which encourages Robert to take a far more aggressive attitude toward life, and soon everyone is buying the latest versions of Golem and engaging in massive conformity.
“Golem” meticulously combines five clown-like performers, booming narration, live music and film animation, leading to a wholly coordinated piece of theater that defies ordinary characterization, resembling a trippy art installation and an animated movie brought to life.
It is told in a visual style that recalls both the European avant-garde movements of the early 20th century and claymation cartoons meant for children. It’s Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” meets “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
The piece makes for an unexpected counterpart to “Privacy,” a freewheeling new play at the Public Theater starring Daniel Radcliffe about the unsettling cultural and psychological implications of our dependence on iPhones. But whereas “Privacy” is intended as a warning for the present day, “Golem” is the dystopian future.