Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Teen's Perspective: Metamorphosis at Aurora

SHOW: Metamorphosis
VENUE: Aurora
DATES: Tuesday – Sunday, June 10th – July 24th
PRICE: $10 for high school students (advance sale only, at 510-843-4822)
RATING: Recommended!

Some of you may be familiar with Kafka's short story, but if you aren't, here's a quick summary: Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has transformed into a bug. Chaos ensues.

A simple enough premise, but the complex range emotions raised by Aurora Theater Company's production of David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson's adaption of Kafka's Metamorphosis prove that this show is anything but simple.

With deft and crisp direction from Mark Jackson, Metamorphosis explores not only the physical transformation of Gregor into an insect, but the emotional transformation of his family as well – especially that of his sister, Grete. The balance of physical and emotional is key in this piece, where the movement in the story (from ballet to crawling to frozen tableaus when the doorbell rings to stylized scene transitions set to music) is just as important as its emotional arc.

Just as the type of insect that Gregor transforms into is never specified in the short story, it is intriguing that the audience never gets to see Gregor as a bug – he is merely a human being in human clothing with a human voice. This makes it all the more painful that his family cannot see Gregor under whatever exterior they do see (and judging by their screams, it's something ghastly). The horror of his unfortunate transformation is even more jarring in juxtaposition with the clean and appearance-oriented 1950's setting, well-conveyed through Christine Crook's characteristically captivating costumes.

As Gregor, actor Alexander Crowther crawls and skitters nimbly around, above, below, and through Nina Ball's impressive set, an ideal 1950's home tilted and warped just like the family itself. His frustration, mortification, and torment are almost palpable as he scales walls and hides behind chairs. Madeline H.D. Brown is alternatingly hilarious and heartbreaking in the role of Gregor's mother, a 1950's housewife obsessed with appearances and prone to fainting -- her transitions from a plastered-on smile to a clenched jaw and worried eyes are riveting. Megan Trout's transformation from a young girl devoted to her brother to a young woman disgusted by him is convincing and distressing – and her ballet routine is as funny as it is beautiful. And luckily for those of us who found the tension of the Samsa household increasingly stressful, Patrick Jones brings welcome and finely-tuned comic relief in his roles as Gregor's boss and a potential tenant of the Samsa's.

Metamorphosis' gripping transformations from comedy to tragedy, from scene to scene, and from “perfect” characters to monstrous characters, make it an enjoyable and stirring show – and not to be missed.

Production photos above taken by David Allen.

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