Meet the Samsas at UConn's Connecticut Repertory Theatre an inspired grownup puppet production
Three Stars (good)
Location: Studio Theatre, 802 Bolton Road, Storrs.
Production: A Puppet Arts Production, inspired by Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Original adaptation by Mary Gragen Rogers and S. B. Parks. Costume design by Marti Simmons. Scenic design by Brian "Traz" Sharron. Lighting design by Brad Seymour. Sound design by Rebekah Eyre. Technical direction by Alex Colodner.
Running time: About one hour without intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through April 6.
Tickets: $11 to $25. Call 486-4266 of visit their Web site atwww.crt.uconn.edu.
Aaron Johnson … The Director
Brittaney Talbot … Grace, puppeteer
Fergus Walsh … Mr. Samsa, puppeteer
S. B. Parks … Mrs. Samsa, puppeteer
Shih-hung (Ken) Ko … Gordon the Bug, puppeteer
Zach Dorn … Gordon the Man, the Date, puppeteer
Daniel Sheridan and Mary Gragen Rogers … Commercial voice-overs
By Kory Loucks
Storrs— Imagine waking up one morning and discovering you have turned into a giant hard-shelled, eight-legged bug. That is the premise of this highly imaginative adaptation of Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" — a Puppet Arts Production through the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the University of Connecticut.
In Kafka's story the experience, and his relationship with the world, is told primarily through the point of view of the man/bug, Gregor.
In this inspired adaptation by Mary Gragen Rogers and S. B. Parks, you hear from everyone but the man turned into a bug, who in this show is named Gordon.
Gordon is one member of a family who live in a reality television show based on their family exploits— complete with his father, mother, sister, and the sister's date.
All the characters, except the voice of the director, played with dictatorial authority by Aaron Johnson, are marionettes, expertly manipulated by a talented ensemble of puppeteers.
There is Grace, Gordon's sister, play by Brittaney Talbot, who fully-embraces the star-making machinery that is their lives, the mother, Mrs. Samsa, played by S. B. Parks, and the father, played by Fergus Walsh with menace covering a terror of being in financial debt, much like the Kafka story.
The articulation of the marionettes by the puppeteers is terrific— even their ankles move. They walk, sit, read the newspaper, and in the case of Gordon, crawl, through a miniature kitchen, living room, and bedroom meticulously designed by Brian "Traz" Sharron.
How the puppeteers manage to stay in character as the voices of the individual marionettes and at the same time articulate the movements of the multi-stringed puppets without running into each other or getting their strings impossibly intertwined was remarkable.
Shih-hung (Ken) Ko, who plays Gordon the man/bug somehow manages to get across the idea of a man trapped inside a bug's body through buggy-movements and fine bug-like clicking sounds.
The play like Kafka's original story is darkly funny and sad too.
At one point the mother, Mrs. Samsa, played by Parks, asks if they can bring in a doctor to look at Gordon, to which the father, played by Walsh, says the doctor's visit would not be covered by insurance because he says, it isn't an illness that ails their son— "This is clearly a metamorphosis."
With four television screens in each corner of the set, along with a special "bug-cam," this show is a technical marvel too, technically directed by Alex Colodner with sound design by Rebekah Eyre, with only occasionally some loud feedback noise, which hopefully can be eliminated in future performances.
The idea of having a reality-type external world be more important to the characters than their interior life illuminates how crazy our world can be, and how much importance our society collectively puts into the myth of celebrity.
The Studio Theatre, which seats 100, is a perfect venue for this intimate show, which runs through Sunday.