Mythic creatures that defy conventional visual portrayals are finally within the grasp of live theater, thanks to computer-generated animation. State-of-the-art CGA has been embraced of late by European opera houses, where companies have long struggled against the limits of conventional theater to present fantastical works. The company that seems to have taken theatrical technology the furthest is called 1927, a British production group. The results are now being debated by Lincoln Center Festival theatergoers emerging from this week's performances of a show titled Golem. Reactions are mixed, and that debate will no doubt continue when the 1927 group's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, said to be in the style of a silent movie, is presented in Opera Philadelphia's 2017 fall festival.

CGA has long been vivid enough to create its own world. But such effects have now attained a fluidity persuasive enough to behave like cinema. The Golem legend, which has taken on numerous symbolic meanings in poems, plays, and films (not to mention Pokémon), concerns a monstrous, clay-made figure that somehow comes to life, always getting out of control and having to be stopped.

The 1927 group's version is a cartoon-style variation, told in the broadly satirical manner of The Simpsons. Golems are mass-produced and embedded in daily life, something like cellphone technology: Everybody must have one, and each new version more eagerly serves its master while also leaching away that master's freedom of choice and individuality.
The 1927 production of Golem (left to right): Will Close, Esme Appleton, Rose Robinson, Lillian Henley, and Shamira Turner. Photo: Stephanie Berger.

Initially, the Golem of this production is a clay-like figure regarded with relative nonchalance by the ingenuous characters of lower-middle-class British society, while it performs domestic and professional tasks. During updates, the head morphs a dozen ways, Beetlejuice-style, though the 2.0 version comes out looking like a small, overdressed doll.

In Golem, the Golems are mass-produced. Here, three-dimensional living actors Will Close (left) and Shamira Turner (right) are joined by two Golems, which are CGA.

Beyond bringing this imaginary creature to life, the animation (designed by 1927 co-founder Paul Barritt) was mainly of use for secondary matters, almost like incidental music, bolstering transitional passages and scene-setting, although it was so imposing that everything else, including the Lillian Henley score, was secondary.

Members of the cast - Will Close, Esme Appleton, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, and Shamira Turner - were perfectly coordinated on Wednesday but were too often reduced to narrative automatons serving the needs of Suzanne Andrade's parable-like script, besides being perhaps straightjacketed by the production's intricate demands.

Will The Magic Flute's characters have the same fate? Not likely. Mozart's music gives his stick-figure characters a warmth and humanity that cool, more impersonal digitally-crafted imagery can't take away.

"Golem" continues through Sunday, July 31, at the Gerald Lynch Theatre, presented by Lincoln Center Festival. Information: 212-721-6500 or