I’ve always had a fascination with insects – the hive brain, the rigid delineation between workers and soldiers, queens and drones, a repulsive caterpillar breaking out of a hard cocoon as a delicate butterfly, the viciousness of praying mantis sex, spider babies eating their mother… just your average day in a realm all around us, a kingdom we barely notice.
Gregor Samsa, the unfortunate center of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, leads a life not unlike that of a worker drone, slaving away at a clerical job so that his family may live, in particular his beloved sister Greta. His creator, writer Franz Kafka, lives in a body progresively weakened and diseased while pining for his beautiful love Felice. Director Derek Goldman takes these two and morphs them together in his adaption for Synetic Theater of the story of a man waking up one morning to find himself transformed into a nasty and unwieldy insect body. Here, Kafka’s internal rage at his body’s weakness and his psychological wounds are directly manifested as he creates Gregor’s world.
Now through May 22, you can witness this grostesque and haunted world (“creepy,” as artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili said at opening) at Rosslyn Spectrum, where the stage has been incredibly and nauseatingly transformed into wild angles by designer Natsu Onoda. Your stomach will also be turned by the sound design of James Bigbee Garver, evoking a gooey, icky insect world. It’s all lit with eerie unnaturalness by Colin K. Bills. The production design is top notch.
The adaptation itself? It’s brave, and filled with some startling imagery, but ultimately left me cold. You may feel differently, but splitting the main character dropped the stakes significantly – I found myself unable to care for Gregor’s plight, and just wished Kafka would stay behind the writing desk. That being said, it’s an intriguing production whose merits I’m still debating. Continue reading