Persepolis is an animated film, now in movie theaters, which is a graphic comic strip about a spirited young girl growing up under the dictatorship of the Shah and the social oppression of the mullahs in Iran. This film is good at utilizing animated characters to make a serious point while you are seeing an informative story. Wakka Wakka Productions has return to New York for a four week engagement of their newest play Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz. The production uses puppets to create their comic strip story which unlike Persepolis fails to provide us with a good evening of informative entertainment.
The play tells the story of Moritz Rabinowitz, a Norwegian Jew who built and owned a large clothing factory and store in his town. Originally from the small town Rajgrod in Poland, he was sent by his parents to Norway in 1901 to escape pogroms and persecution. He was given the opportunity to build a future for himself. In Haugesund, a small fishing village on the west coast of Norway, he discovered a land rich with opportunity. Although he is a wealthy leading employer of people in the town and large presence in the town, he experienced a good deal of prejudice and anti-Semitism. The only Jews in Haugesund, he and his family were treated as outsiders, rarely invited to social events or peopleï¿½s homes. From as early as 1918, Moritz Rabinowitz avidly wrote columns for local and national newspapers about anti-semitic problems in Europe and attacked these problems and theories of race biology. In time, the primary focus became warning to his countrymen about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. He was considered ï¿½the leader of the Jewish resistance in Norwayï¿½ when they invaded in 1940.
The production employs rod puppets and masks to tell the Rabinowitz story. These are cleverly used through the one hour production. The problem comes as a result of a script which seems to create a light hearted show. The cast, which manipulates the puppets, tells the story, and sings the songs do a very skilled job. Some of the lighted hearted songs just do not work in this production. During a dream sequence Hitler and Rabinowitz fly over Haugesund and have a dog fight. Rabinowitz and his wife spend part of their night in bed making silly remarks instead of dealing with their problems. A prisoner comic tells bad jokes in a Concentration Camp while being controlled by a Nazi puppet master. These sometimes over the top sequences do not serve this serious story well.
The cast, which manipulates the puppets, tells the story, and sings the songs does a very skilled job. The show was inspired by Nordic and Yiddish folktales. Fabrik has been written, directed, and designed by the Wakka Wakka ensemble which includes David Arkema, Gabrielle Brechner, Kirjan Waage, and Gwendolyn Warnock. Arkema, Waage and Warnock serve as the performers for the production. Music composed by the ensemble has been combined with a score created by Lars Petter Hagen from a palette of industrial noise, period and folk music. The original puppets, which are the best part of this production, were designed by Kirjan Waage. As you leave the theatre you will realize that a talented group of creative people have been overcome by a poor script. There is really no way to take a light hearted look at the holocaust.