METAMORPHOSIS at Aurora is a knock-out performance

Gregor (top, Alexander Crowther) remains alone in his room, uninvited to dinner with Father, Mother, and Grete (seated l-r, Allen McKelvey,* Madeline H.D. Brown, Megan Trout), in Metamorphosis.Photo by David Allen

METAMORPHOSIS By Franz Kafka Adapted by David Farr and Gísli Örn Gardarsson, directed by Mark Jackson. Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA. (510) 843-4822 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (510) 843-4822 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit


METAMORPHOSIS at Aurora is a knock-out performance

If any local director could do justice to the disturbing world of a Franz Kafka literary work, it would be Mark Jackson. His reputation for quality theatrical endeavor is legion and his bio includes stints as actor, writer and director. His meteoritic rise might have started with the Bay Area Theatre Critic Award for his original 2002 one man show I Am Hamlet. My assessment of his ability starts with The Death of Meyerhold that he wrote and directed for the Shotgun Players in 2003 and continues with Metamorphosis at the intimate Aurora Theatre.

Conversion of Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis is the collaboration by British director David Farr and Icelandic actor-director Gísli Örn Gardarsson of Iceland’s Vesturport Theatre. It has since received accolades for productions in London, Ireland (Dublin), Australia and Hong Kong. Aurora’s magnificent staging is the first professional American production with an American cast. Aurora’s cast is absolutely first rate and using a line from Hamlet, "suit the action to the word, the word to the action."

The first glimpse of Nina Ball’s off-kilter set is very reminiscent of German expressionist theatre and is probably related to Jackson’s 2005 stint studying as German Chancellor Fellow of the Alexander Humboldt Foundation. The set is ideal for Kafka’s story since it is very Germanic and allegorical. Consider your feelings if you went to bed one night and awakened as a beetle type bug. That is the metamorphosis that has happened to Gregory (Alexander Crowther) who is stranded on the bed tilted on the 45 degree floor of his bedroom. The Vesturport Theatre emphasizes circus skills and Crowder, as the bug/Gregor, needs those skills.

Jackson is known for the physicality of his direction and he does not disappoint starting with upheaval of the down stage furniture when the family of Father (Allen Mckelvey), Mother (Madeline H. D. Brown), daughter Grete (Megan Trout) Stieti, Gregor’s boss (Patrick Jones) get their first look at the bug. The very athletic Crowther scurries, under his bed, up walls and swings from a light hanging from a ceiling actually gives a humorous patina to his actions.

There is a good deal of humor in the writing and in the staging that is well balanced with the incongruous concept of the terrible metamorphosis. Whereas the family has been dependent on Gregor for their financial support, as he is gradually isolated behind a locked door, there is a concomitant metamorphosis in the family into a self reliant whole. Father gets off his butt and returns to work. Mother is less disabled with her asthma and takes in sewing and Grete accepts her fate of being a shop girl with visions of becoming a supervisor.

Every member of the cast is superb with special mention to Patrick Jones who has a lesser but pivotal role as Grete’s boss and potential boarder. His German/Nazi attitude is pitch perfect, antagonizing all, allowing Jackson to stage a brilliant tableau with the family speaking in unison from their staggered positions on the steps to the bedroom.

Adding to the quality of Metamorphosis is the chilling sound design by Matthew Stines utilizing string motifs and atmospheric lighting by Clyde Sheets.

There would be a great advantage to have knowledge of Kafka in general and the 1915 novella The Metamorphosis in particular when you go, and it is a must, to see this 75 minute final show of the Aurora season.

Kedar K.Adour, MD

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