Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” at ArtsEmerson

Coco Nakase ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Stage Editor

Gisli Orn Gardarsson in "Metamorphosis." Photo Credit: Eddi
Gisli Orn Gardarsson in “Metamorphosis.” Photo Credit: Eddi

In 85 short minutes, Vesturport Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s production of Metamorphosis effortlessly sweeps the audience through a wide array of emotions. Promising to be “terrifying but bizarrely comic”, Metamorphosis has the power to make you laugh in one moment, then devastatingly silent in the next. Simply put, this is a theatre event that needs to be experienced.

Jack-of-all-trades Gisli Örn Gardarsson co-wrote, co-directed and stars as Gregor in this adaptation of Franz Kafka’s famous book. Filling out the rest of the strong cast is Selma Björnsdóttir as his sister Greta, Ingvar E. Sigurdsson as his father Herman, Edda Arnljótsdóttir as his mother Lucy, and finally Víkingur Kristjánsson as Herr Stiethl and Herr Fischer. The acting and direction are superb; each movement carefully choreographed and executed, creating a strong contrast between the fantastical, surreal world that Gregor finds himself in after his transformation and the strict, militaristic world of the family. The family’s actions are often grossly exaggerated, emphasizing the ridiculousness of their regime, while Gregor moves with a grace and athleticism that is stunning to watch, and speaks to his dream-like change.

Gardarsson’s vision for the play is clear and carried out beautifully. Every piece of the production fits perfectly together, complimenting each other subtly. The set reflects the start contrast between the two worlds: a very realistic downstairs dining room and a gravity defying Gregor’s room, just up the stairs. Cracks in the walls serve as foot and hand holds, the floor hides a trampoline, and the curtain turns into an aerial silk in the stunning conclusion. No detail is lost, no expense is spared and it reflects in this beautiful set. The costumes work well, particularly Greta’s, marking her own transformation from optimistic school girl to cruel working woman by the end of the play. One of the pleasantly surprising choices of the show was the decision for Gregor to keep his human appearance. The other actors compensated well, acting appropriately disgusted by Gregor’s appearance, denoting his insect exterior. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ music compliments the action onstage, adding an emotional scope and depth to the play, from the clockwork rhythm and routine in the establishing scene to the epic and surreal devastation during the climax.

In 85 short minutes, I was brought to stunned, beautiful silence. When the curtain closed, and the music stopped, I clapped with my fellow audience members, but when the cast came out, a majority the audience, including myself, was hesitant to stand. I would have been happy to clap for ages, but a standing ovation to me seemed unnecessary, out of place even. Metamorphosis isn’t that kind of show. It isn’t a show to visually dazzle you or impress you with its epic story. It’s something that this reviewer can’t quite put her finger on. But the impact it had on me, my emotions, my mind and my outlook is something that I will carry with me for a long time. In beautiful, stunned silence.

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