Based on Franz Kafka’s The Trial
Produced by the-hypocrites
At Chopin Theatre
Allen’s imaginative K. is one act too long
Greg Allen, the founding director of The Neo-Futurists, bring his inventive adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial to the basement stage at Chopin Theatre for the-hypocrites. K. is the two-act nightmare comedy that retells the story of how Joseph K (Brennan Buhl) awakes one morning to find himself mysteriously arrested for seemingly doing nothing.
Greg Allen’s imaginative staging includes a set with ten doors and several on wheels (set design by Chelsea Warren),unique lighting (by Jared Moore). We see Joseph K wake up each morning to a breakfast of eggs – his redundancy and predictable life is shown six times with men in black striking matches (which nearly saturated the theatre with sulfur fumes) and Mrs. Grubach offering food. On the morning of K.’s 30th birthday, the men in black arrest him and strip him naked (literally) as they arrest him for a crime no one seems to know about. Brennan Buhl, as K., is the instantly lovable guy who tries charm, cooperation and peaceful resistance to deal with his trouble.
Act one finds doors slamming and mobile doors racing K. into a strange navigation through offices, lawyers, artists, priests, lovers, and whippers to determine his fate. Kafka/Allen use farcical absurdity, wordplay among other elements of his creative meta-theatrics style to keep us guessing and building the dramatic tension. Allen employs masks, shadow puppets, music and swift movement to enhance the absurdity. Act one is provocative and interesting. Rich humor vividly brings home the terror of being arrested without recourse. Allen’s theatricality effectively comes across as cautionary parable. His cast deftly lands the humor and the wackiness of Allen’s script and staging.
Unfortunately, act two has the story bog down into wordy, often tedious rehashing of philosophical themes that were vividly presented in act one. K. is like a dinner party where your guest is funny, interesting and engaging until he stays sitting in your parlor for hours after dinner wearing out his welcome. I’d cut about 20 minutes and make K. a swiftly paced provocative 85 minute one act. However, as it plays now, there is enough high quality acting (especially by the fearless Brennan Buhl) and enough theatrics to make K. worthy.
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St, Chicago, IL, 773-989-7352, tickets $28, $14 students/seniors, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 1 hour, 55 minutes with intermission.