Originally a novella by Franz Kafka, “Metamorphosis” was adapted to a stage production by London Theatre Group founder Steven Berkoff. The show’s director, Kelvin Wong, comes from The Theater School’s class of 2015, leading a cast who put on a mesmerizing performance.
This is the story of Gregor Samsa, an overworked traveling salesman single-handedly supporting his aging parents and young sister. Their financial dependence on Gregor is suffocating as they constantly ask him about his sales and income. One morning, he awakes from a turbulent, dream-filled slumber to find that he has metamorphosed into an insect. His family soon ostracizes him as they struggle to deal with his contorted presence in their household.
Gregor, played by Trevor Bates, gives a dedicated performance, juggling the roles of both insect and man. It is a very physical performance as Gregor scampers up and down a massive metal structure built into the set. It is an abrasive version of a climbing wall found on a playground and is used extensively by Gregor and the other actors. The wall adds to the sterile atmosphere of the minimal set, and it later becomes apparent how necessary this visual aspect is in creating the theme of oppression in the performance.
As Gregor progresses deeper into his transformation, two more performers (Erinn Fredin and Sam Krey) come onstage to represent, quite literally, parts of Gregor’s insect body. The duo, clad in white clothing and painted faces, scuttle, squirm and screech as one unit. Throughout the show, the pair physically attaches themselves to Gregor as he falls deeper into his metamorphosis.
While Gregor’s humanness falls victim to the creature taking over him, his sister Greta (Kayla Holder) is the only one brave enough to enter Gregor’s room. Holder gives an impressive performance as the one family member with enough courage to go into the insect’s cage and feed her brother, who can no longer enjoy the human food he once consumed. Her empathy steadily feels real and solid — an important part of the audience’s own internal battle with our tolerance of Gregor.
Holder is a sort of rock for the audience, as she is the youthful, positive light that gives us hope that there might be an eventual acceptance of Gregor when the odds seem slim. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa are much less optimistic. Mr. Samsa (Hugh Smith) rejects Gregor as his son, quickly declaring, “He is not our son anymore. Our son left us.”
Mrs. Samsa (Regan Deal) shows greater patience for the bug, repeatedly asserting that Gregor is “still my son no matter what,” yet she is too afraid to go into her son’s room to clean and feed him. As the show moves on, Gregor’s family begins to abandon the idea that he might go back to his human state, which buries him further into his insect body.
“Metamorphosis” shows us the universal human struggle of acceptance of those unlike us. Receiving those outside of our community or clan is one task, but tolerating a transformation in one of our own kin is entirely another. “Metamorphosis” asks the burning question: Could we learn to love, to accept, to tolerate our own brother if he turned into something we saw as repulsive?
“Metamorphosis” runs from Feb. 6 to Feb. 15.