Friday, July 15, 2011
Metamorphsis on Stage
"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes." The Metamorphis by Franz Kafka
Aurora Theatre, the location for Metamorphis by Franz Kafka and adapted by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson, was small and intimate. The theatre fit a hundred filled seats. The set was simple; a living room with two chairs and a television, a kitchen with a table, a set of stairs with a framed door and the protagonist, Gregor Samsa's bedroom. His bedroom was a simple affair with a bed and a framed window however the room was slanted downward toward the living room. The angle of the room forced Samsa in his motions through the room to crawl, beast like through the area.
Alexander Crowther, who played Gregor, was made not into a insect which is implied by many translators of the novella, but is rather given a general unwholesome and despicable character. This characterization is closer to the German Ungeziefer which literally means "unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice" and is sometimes used colloquially to mean "bug." Kafka in the novella defines Samsa as an Ungeziefer. Crowther does a splendid job as a green lit beast crawling about the set with darkened eyes. With little costuming he conveys bodily the disgust that Kafka intended.
The play is set in America during the 1950s, an era of witch hunts, paranoia, and sci-fi flicks such as Them! The Samsa family is given a heavy schelack of "normality" which is shattered when their chief breadwinner, Gregor, is unable to work, he is a disgusting beast instead of a good worker. The family is forced to take on a renter, and the father employment. While the economics of the ordeal with Gregor is brings the plot along the interpersonal relationships within the family is where the core of action resides. The cast shows their acting chops with attempts to continue on as normal whilst having a blemish in their lives. Particularly riveting is Madeline H.D. Brown's skill in portraying Gregor's mother. Brown face shows the strain of smiling under duress. Her features portray the tender line between facing things with a smile and cracking under the pressure.
What was particularly interesting about this adaptation was its humor. The novella is an absurd story and this existential absurdity is translated on stage as comedy. There was something poignantly funny when the Samsa family dealt with their new found filth. I'm not sure that it was Kafka's intention for his story to be one of humour and laughter but there is something absurdly comical about a man who wakes one day to find himself a Ungeziefer.