METAMORPHOSIS at Aurora is a knock-out performance GYPSY at Contra Costa Civic Theatre a winner

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

Courtesy of


GYPSY: Musical Comedy. Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Arthur Laurents. Suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Directed by Daren A.C. Carollo. Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT) 951 Pomona Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530. At the corner of Moeser Lane and Pomona Avenue. Ticket Reservations (24 Hour): (510) 524-9132 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (510) 524-9132 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or Runs: June 17 to July 17, 2011

GYPSY at CCCT an entertaining evening

An oft repeated song in the marvelous musical comedy Gypsy is “Let Me Entertain You.” The Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT) production does that and more. The 30 plus cast members, accompanied by the up-tempo six member back stage band, sing and dance their hearts out deserving the rousing applause when Jessica Fisher as Mama Rose belts the finale “Rose’s Turn” with four huge marquee banners flashing “Rose.” The ambitious CCCT successfully staged Gypsy in 1999 and elected to re-stage it in the final slot of their 2010-2011 season. It is a wise choice since this quality production should stimulate buying of season tickets, especially since next season opens with Chicago with the penultimate show being West Side Story.

The original Broadway production of Gypsy opened in 1959 with Ethel Merman as Rose, Jack Klugman as Herbie and Sandra Church as Louise [nee Gypsy Rose Lee] directed/choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Based on the memoirs of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, it is story of "the ultimate show business mother." Mama Rose dreams of grooming her two daughters, June and Louise into stars, and thus gaining fulfillment for her own failed venture into show business. In real life, Louise became Gypsy Rose Lee and Baby June, June Havoc.

The fun begins with the hilarious first number as Baby June (Jocelyn Purcell) and Louise (Marianna Scott) audition for a spot on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s with “Let Me Entertain You.” This is the first inclination we get of Mama Rose’s aggressive behavior and Jessica Fisher is perfect for the part. Not only can she act, but she also can belt out the numbers reminiscent of Ethel Merman’s style.

The musical numbers have become standards and will have you humming the tunes long after you leave the confines of CCCT’s intimate theatre where every seat is a good seat. In the first act alone they include “Some People”, “Small World”, “Little Lamb”, “If Momma Was Married”, “All I Need is the Girl” and the “Everything's Coming up Roses.” In between these numbers the ensemble of youngsters take “Let Me Entertain You” to the nth degree with their antics and the introduction of a big-headed loveable cow to add a laugh or two. The lighting director, Adam Fry, deserves a bow for the clever use of flicking lights as the “babies” morph into young adults with Olivia Hytha as June and Morgan Frazier as Louise and Jack Sales as Tulsa performs a competent soft-shoe/tap routine.

Morgan Frazier’s transformation from tom-boyish Louise into the lovely, sexy Gypsy Rose Lee is a marvel. Ryan Weible as the much put upon, love smitten Herbie begins his entrance a bit hesitantly but is to be admired for his acting in later scenes. The orchestra under G. Scott Lacy’s direction never misses a beat. And one of the best for last is the show stopper burlesque queen number “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” by Tessia Tura (Ali Lane), Electra (Noelle Guerin) Mazeppa (Kerry Chapman).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of