Writer: Frank Kafka
Adaptor: William Steinberger &InVersion Company
Director: William Steinberger
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
A German bureaucrat is inexplicably sent to the United States to create art for American audiences. With two other actor-bureaucrats in tow, he commandeers a Sunset Park couch surfer and forces him to play the role of Gregor in an adaptation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Against a circus-like setting, this is the exposition to InVersion Theatre’s Gregor.
William Steinberger’s production sets high hopes toward a weird and exhilarating experience. The emcee, played by Marisa Brau, openly acknowledges the application of avant-garde 20th century practitioner Jerzy Grotowski’s theories on the staging. Pre-show, Michael Calciano and Melissa Cesarano run through the theatre, silently greeting the audience and proffering popcorn, hearkening to a grotesque commedia feeling that would give a solid foundation to an adaptation of Kafka. Unfortunately, the experience one ultimately has in the theatre falls short of the promise perceived at the top of the show.
The presentational nature of this play means that naturalism is not always intended. Yet naturalism is where this cast shines. Andreas Damm as Gregor/couch surfer gives a compelling performance highlighted with physical dexterity as he personifies Gregor-as-bug. Brau, in her moments doubling as Greta, is connected and honest. It is the heightened, circus-like interweaving of the German bureaucrats that jostles the experience into something brash. Perhaps the most puzzling choice in this production is the cross-gender casting of Gregor’s parents. While a play like this ought not to cater to the audience’s perceived notions of comfort and normalcy, choices ought to call reality into question rather than merely subvert it. At the conclusion of the play, it is still unclear as to why this swap was necessary, save for campy sendups of gender stereotypes.
The duality of worlds, interweaving the performance troupe and the characters in The Metamorphosis, has merit and works in the context of this production. However, one cannot help but feel as though the collision of the two at the end of the play is meant to have a more jarring, haunting impact than it does. The ending raises more questions about the logistics of the two worlds than about the truths within them. The traditions that inspired Gregor are metatheatrical and uncomfortable, demanding that the audience question the nature of theatre itself. Perhaps later in its run, Gregor will rise to its own expectations.
Runs until 8 May 2016