I read Kafka’s book “The Trial” in freshman English class taught by the magnificent Jonathan Kaplan. I love it. This last week, so many decades later, I saw a play based on this classic at the Stray Dog Theatre in St. Louis (Stray Dog Theatre
2348 Tennessee Ave., Saint Louis, MO 63104,, 314-865-1995.
My friend Bobbie Williams appeared on stage there as The Manager.
Mostly, I found the show first rate…and the space of the Tower Grove Abbey gorgeous. The physical elements: scenery, props, costumes, stage set–were amazingly refined and polished. Loved the Dali-esque clock…and the scrim/white curtain stage right that showed us the shadow of the person speaking in the stage foreground. These elements underlined visually strong themes in the play. The shadows work well since much of the staging is oriented directly towards the audience, even when speaking to another character.
Of course the script has gone miles from Kafka’s original text…but, what the hey, no? The sexual innuendo makes it all the more arch and smacks us right back on our Freudian analytic couches.
The performances were uniformly excellent. (Naturally, I was charmed to see, for my first time, my friend Bobbie on stage.)
My main point of critique apart from my appreciations noted above, are the dynamics. As in music with crescendo and diminuendo, and/ pianissimo /to/ fortissimo/, I like this in theatre and films as well.
The play is long. It is language-heavy. Much of is in the forte to /fortissimo/ range. It crescendos quickly and takes a long time to modulate down. This dulls my senses and makes me want to escape because so much sound/noise is painful…especially coupled with all that angst/s/trum und drang/. The only way I can escape as an audience member is to tune out. I lean back into my seat and fall asleep…hoping that when I wake from my mini-nap it might be a bit quieter. The external sound is over balanced. It hurt my ears.
The bits of the play I enjoyed the most were the completely silent ones…mimed…something like a Charlie Chaplin movie. These are so witty, so clever…and reach me deeply. They are so well done.