Tuesday, June 21, 2011
"Metamorphosis": ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Alexander Crowther is a gifted physical actor. It's a good thing, because it takes strength and balance to act the role of Gregor Samsa in the Aurora's production of "Metamorphosis," by Franz Kafka. The story is pushed forward a generation here, into the 1930s (Kafka wrote the story in 1912, at age 29), with Gregor doing most of his work on a slanted section of stage high above the other actors. He climbs, he runs around on all fours, he hisses, he hides under a bed in plain sight. He behaves like a well-dressed insect.
No one, including Gregor, has the slightest idea how his metamorphosis has taken place, seemingly overnight. Gregor went to sleep as a young, aspiring if overworked traveling salesman and woke up as a bug who cannot leave his room. No one notices at first -- until sister Grete realizes that Gregor never caught his train to work that morning. From that moment on, everyone's life has changed.
Kafka, in the only novella published during his lifetime, is not only critical of the staid, middle-class world of Gregor's sister and parents, but foresees the coming storm of fascism which would engulf all of Europe. Kafka used the word "ungeZeifer," to describe Gregor, which has been translated as "insect," but "ungeZeifer" was also the word used colloquially to refer to a Jew. Kafka, a Czech Jew, knew well the various meanings of that word.
Gregor's sister Grete (Megan Trout) gives us another, perhaps even more interesting metamorphosis -- from sweet, adoring sister to hard-nosed realist, chilling in those blond, Teutonic braids. Patrick Jones plays two roles, a smaller one as Gregor's supervisor and a larger, more important one as Mr. Fischer, a potential boarder for the Samsa family. Mr. Fischer is the barely-veiled Fascist in the room.
Filling out the cast are Gregor and Grete's parents, Madeline H.D. Brown as Mother and Allen McKelvey as Father, both helpless players in the larger drama being played out in their living room.
Kafka's story is timeless and the Aurora production is innovative and modern. Directed by Mark Jackson, the show is based on the adaptation by David Farr and Gísli Örn Gardarsson in 2006, which played to great success in London and New York. Nina Ball's set gives Gregor a chance to act like an insect while looking like a human, and the story is helped greatly by excellent musical choices by Matthew Stines which enhance the flow during fairly long silences in the action. The music is classical and violin-based, though in this production sister Grete is a dancer instead of a violinist as Kafka originally wrote.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Metamorphosis" Four Stars, one each for acting, directing, staging and adaptation. It is brilliant theater as well as a chilling reminder that, as humans, our attitudes take a long time to change.
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