‘Metamorphosis’ presents sobering view of adolescent isolation

Avi Small, Writer

In Franz Kafka’s classic novel, “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a revolting creature. A new adaptation of this classic novel came to Shanley Pavilion this weekend as part of the Jewish Theatre Ensemble’s 2012-13 season. Using creative movement and impressive art design, JTE’s “Metamorphosis” presents a sobering view of isolation in the modern world.

Adapted and directed by Communication junior Matthew Moynihan, “Metamorphosis” tells the story of Gregor Samsa’s hideous transformation. Gregor awakes one morning to find himself transformed into a bug that can’t communicate with his disgusted family. As Gregor attempts to live in his new form, his family (who can’t even bear to look at him) becomes increasingly frustrated. Unfortunately, Gregor can never be anything more than a bug. The exasperation of the family confined to their small apartment is clear, and Gregor’s lack of control is chilling.

This adaptation of “The Metamorphosis” does a smart job of dramatizing the extraordinary aspects of Kafka’s novel. For a story that is so clearly grounded in fantasy (a character does, after all, turn into a bug), “The Metamorphosis” is surprisingly realistic; once Gregor has transformed, there are no fantasy elements in the plot. By adapting characters’ dreams into interesting movement sequences, Moynihan’s adaptation enhances the fantastical aspects of this story. In these dreams, the cast moves throughout the stage in innovative ways; human bodies suddenly can look like insects, and nightmarish fantasies play out under shadowy lighting. These dreams wordlessly convey the terror and isolation of each of the dreaming characters and convey these themes just as well as the dialogue.

Adapting Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” was a clever choice on behalf of Moynihan and his production team. The themes Kafka explores are especially salient for a primarily post-adolescent audience. Gregor is misunderstood by his parents, unable to communicate with the outside world and trapped in his home — it is impossible not to see the parallels with the college-age cohort. This element is especially clear in the first scene of “Metamorphosis:” As Gregor’s parents attempt to find out what is going wrong, they yell through Gregor’s locked door. Gregor shouts back at them, trying to explain, but his parents cannot hear a thing. Gregor is communicating to the best of his abilities, and yet his family cannot understand him.

There’s no happy ending to “Metamorphosis.” It’s clear nothing can be done for Gregor and the Samsas eventually give up trying. It’s a sobering conclusion powerfully delivered by this innovative adaptation of Kafka’s classic novel.