A thing of change – METAMORPHOSIS

A DOUGLAS ANDERSON THEATRE DEPARTMENT REVIEW

The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts opened a seven-performance run of Frank Kafka’s “Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "Metamorphosis"” on April 18, 2015. This provocative play will run through April 25, with performances on that date at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm.

If the title sounds familiar, then you may have seen another play with the same title by Mary Zimmerman which DA presented some years ago, with actors cast as Greek gods and goddesses splashing about in and around a shallow pool that filled most of the stage. This isn’t that play.

Kafka wrote Metamorphosis as a novella in 1915. It was adapted for the stage by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson in 2008. The title comes from biology and refers to a profound change in form from one stage to another in the life cycle of an organism, such as the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly.

Although the original story was set in 1915, the playwrights advanced the action to the early 1930’s, during the rise of the Nazi party, and presented is as an allegorical study of the pending genocide which would soon engulf Europe.

The play is set in the Samsa home in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and begins with silent actors, who use stylized movements while walking, dressing, and engaging in other activities of daily life, accompanied by the ticking of a metronome. As this ritualistic behavior ends and the metronome is silenced, a family breakfast begins with Father Herman, Mother Lucy, and Gregor’s sister Grete. All are concerned that Gregor remains in his bedroom upstairs, when he should have been on his way to work. He is employed as a traveling salesman by an insurance company, and is the only household member who works.

Unfortunately, Gregor is struggling with the inexplicable experience of change with which Kafka begins his story: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature.”

Actor Cole Fowler accomplishes an amazing portrayal of a grotesque life form using physical gestures and contortions, rather than costumes and makeup, reminding us of “The Elephant Man,” which relies on similar techniques to portray disfigurement. Mr. Fowler’s command of athletics is extraordinary. He is joined by two silent characters who are identified as Infestation. The scene is often horrific as the three actors interact, rolling about on the floor, climbing the walls, and attacking each other as red blood smears their bodies and drips on the floor. Violinist Karl Singletary becomes Gregor’s voice at times.

The family at first seems sympathetic. Sister Grete (Kaiti Barta) is the most caring, taking food to his room, and trying to enlist the help of his parents. His mother (Emily Horan) also visits the room, and tries to help by removing furniture so Gregor can move about more freely, but soon becomes too disturbed to return. However, the father (Logan Vaccaro), who has always been at odds with his son, is far more concerned about the loss of Gregor’s financial contributions to the family than with his impairment. All the family members will have to begin working, and what might have been compassion turns to resentment and rejection.

Stietl (Jacob Sims), a representative from his employer, drops by, but his only concern is that Gregor is not at work; he has no interest in his health.

The family advertises for a lodger, and takes in Herr Fischer (Gino Liardo), who is not made privy to the secret in the upstairs bedroom. Fischer makes it obvious he is politically minded, and a strong advocate of the police state and the eradication of citizens regarded as vermin. Fischer discovers the creature confined to the bedroom and is asked to leave by the angered family.

We will leave the ending for you to discover.

The play directed by Michael Higgins is a well-staged visual parable. For the audience, it is an affecting work, filled with elements of physical horror and issues of societal and family disintegration.

While all members of the cast brought laudable intensity to their roles, Cole Fowler as Gregor is notable as one of the most emotionally naked and pitiable humans audiences will ever see on stage, and the Infestations (Cey’Wan Herah and Connor Driscoll) gave menacingly disturbing performances.

As no set designer is listed in the program, we assume Mr. Higgins was instrumental in its creation. The Production Crew Heads included: Stage Managers(Brooke Azzaro & Avery Sedlacek), Technical Director (Tinesha “Tutti” Tutt), Costume Mistress (Mallory Hobbing), Painting Supervisor (Sydney Yeoman), Lighting Designer Craige Cain, Sound Supervisor (Emily Laino), Prop Supervisor(Genesis Rodgers) Deck Crew Supervisor (Nicole Searcy). Over fifty hard-working students were involved in various aspects.

The production is a challenging and powerful experience, a one-act, about seventy-five minutes long, which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

For more information, please call 904-346-5620 or visit www.da-arts.org.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.
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