TRIP SLAYMAKER ’18
When the Kafka Project premiered last week at the Main Stage at Austin Arts Center, There were undoubtedly few theatergoers who knew what lay in store for them. To those who were familiar with Kafka, much of the play they had come to would feel familiar, at least. But Not one audience member left at the end of the night without a dazzled feeling given off by the arrival of something completely different.
Less of a play and more of a fever dream, “Kafka” was full of a strange energy. It seemed to avoid all notion of a discernable plot, though there are countless important threads that tie each vignette together. These scenes were not a part of a greater story, but each was shrouded in a gloomy fog and felt (aided by costumes and set pieces) as though it was hauled directly from the dread fueled and depressed streets of Germany in the earlier part of the twentieth century- the place that spawned so many of Kafka’s writings.
Like those writings, “The Kafka Project” was not fully comedic, and not fully dark. It walked the line between the two elements, A balancing act paralleled only by a few rather literal ones that take place during the performance.
Of the relatively large cast, there was a nearly universal competence. Each member was able to successfully jump back and forth between the brooding blankness of one character, and the almost aggressive comedy of another. It was required of each actor not only to prepare for their roles, but also to prepare for each role in a scene: this is because more than once, and with what must have been extreme difficulty, several members of the cast would actually rotate through the portrayal of a single character. It was not overly easy to follow who was who, but because this was far beside the point, It was pulled off with surgical precision by a very talented, probably exhausted cast.
“Kafka” was littered with concept scenes and multi-media work: Silent film played a pivotal role in the project, as did music and movement, and even a few moments of audience cooperation. The sheer physicality of the performance was powerful and memorable. One scene found members of the cast hurtling through the aisles: while it is a small wonder that no one was injured, the action and closeness of the performance was felt all the more intimately.
One of the more interesting qualities of the show was just how seamless it all seemed: If there were missteps or fudged lines, they almost always came off as correct dialogue: the strangeness of Kafka would allow for just about any catastrophe and the audience would take it for granted as a part of the high art in front of them, a notion that might make Kafka himself laugh.
And so, In the aftermath, It seems that there are two ways to appreciate the ethereal and unforgettable Kafka project. The first is as a triumph of expression: the resurrection of the ideas of a writer long dead, and a reinterpretation of his work for a new era. Or, there is the simple entertainment value of the thing. Something so strange as a woman singing sweeping arias while squatting inside the ribcage of a gigantic metal snail will leave an impression on anyone who sees it. It is never wrong to provoke thoughts for their own sake. Whatever its effect, the Kafka Project represents a high point in Trinity’s arts world that will be difficult to top for some time. Let us hope that it will open the artistic floodgates on campus, and mark the beginning of a stranger, better new era.
TRIP SLAYMAKER ’18