I have acting my blood, and this past weekend I was reminded of the effect good theater has on my soul.
Scott and I had the privilege of attending the Alliance for New Music-Theater’s adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis presented at the Wooley Mammoth Theater in partnership with the Embassy of the Czech Republic’s Mutual Inspirations Festival, an annual initiative focusing on cross-fertilizations between Czech and American cultures. Directed by Susan Galbraith, this departure from what I know to be the written word of Kafka was unexpected and innovative – a direction I not only support, but fully applaud.
Kafka is a lot to digest, but this version harnessed the inherent comedy and married that with the intense isolation that is felt through the main character Gregor’s eyes. For those who are unfamiliar with this tale, Gregor is trapped in a life supporting his family and working away his days in order to provide for his parents and younger sister Greta. One morning he wakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect – an incident that is one part far-fetched and another part tragic. The rest of the story revolves around Gregor’s family and how they deal with the transformation, which is equally tragic.
Scott and I were impressed with the show, but had differing opinions of the strengths of the show. We both agreed that the actor playing Gregor, Ari Jacobson, was the highlight of what otherwise is an ensemble cast. His physicality alone was spectacular, but paired with his strong presence and excellent interpretation of the downward spiral that his character would experience, he amazed throughout the evening.
Though Scott and I disagreed slightly on the rest of the cast, I was also taken by the actor playing Gregor’s father, David Millstone. Scott felt his character was so unlikeable that he had a hard time finding the performance likeable. I, on the other hand, was moved by the comedic timing that seemed inherent to Mr. Millstone. The father is portrayed as a lazy tyrant, unable to accept his son’s misfortune. As much as I wanted to hate the father, I couldn’t help but analyze the actor’s performance and was continually impressed by his decisions and commitment to the intricacies of the character. Though the mother (Pamela Bierly Jusino) and Greta (Lily Kerrigan) were both solid in their performances and had exceptional musicality, the men were the pulse and the heartbeat of the production, which allowed all actors to flourish in their portrayals.
The show wouldn’t be complete without the musical genius of cellist Yvonne Caruthers, who accompanied the actors throughout the production. I would easily say that she became the fifth member of this ensemble, and perhaps laid the most important framework for the adaptation. In addition, the actors played off of animation (thanks to Janet Antich) and used the set (designed by Joey Wade) expertly, no doubt in part due to the direction supplied by Galbraith. All of the elements found in drama, comedy, and musical were married in this one production, and we spent the evening absorbed in the troubled psyche of Kafka imaginatively brought to life by the Alliance for New-Music Theater.
If you have the opportunity, we encourage you to seek out an evening of art and literature brought to life by the brilliant talents in Metamorphosis, both on and off the stage. The show runs through September 21st and information (including tickets) can be found here.