The Trial of K
For the first time, Synaesthetic Theatre, a theatre company from New York, has crossed the United States’ borders and has performed away from their country. It was yesterday evening at the Teatro de Caja Duero. The performance had been signalled as one of the main highlights at the Festival Internacional de las Artes de Castilla y León. The show lived up to the expectations.
The theatres of Salamanca had never hosted a staging of “The Trial” by Franz Kafka similar to the one that was shown last night. “The Trial of K” captured the audience’s attention from the very beginning with the use of live video surveillance equipment. This represents the surveillance which the protagonist of Kafka’s novel was constantly put under, but also that which the government of the United States currently imposes on its citizens, ultimately asking them to even observe each other.
The actors of Synaesthetic Theatre gave their all at their first European performance, demonstrating their ability to be versatile. Most of them went on to play numerous roles, interchanging from male to female parts regardless of their own sex. The extreme portrayal of this versatility was that of the protagonist who is male in the play but female in real life.
The play is marked by its originality, its script bears resemblance to Film noir characteristics and expressionistic influences that are apparent in both costumes and settings. It is based on Kafka’s novel “The Trial”; nevertheless, the final performance is a collective work created by the actors, directors and other members of the company who added their interpretations to produce a unique spectacle.
Described by The Sun as “a nonsensical theatre soup”, “The Trial of K” incorporates physical theatre, dance, music and live video surveillance, a blend welcomed by with audience with a standing ovation.
Synaesthetic's artist collective nature pours forth from its
fantastic ensemble. Everyone works in equal parts on this show and that pays off in a very stylistically even presentation.
Margaret O'Sullivan delivers an absolutely stunning performance. She plays K. with so much focus that I could see her making
connections to the character before my very eyes. She made me forget that she is a woman playing a man. The women of the ensemble,
Aubrey Hardwick, Ginger Legon, Tina West, and Joy Lynn Alegarbes, all play male roles at some point but when they
are not playing men they throw feminine sexuality about the stage with playful roughness that is quite rousing. It is interesting
to note that the three men in the show, Ted Hannan, M.A. Makowski, and Clinton Powell, at some point all have a feminine quality
to their characters. I really enjoyed the bending of gender roles in this production. Two performances that stood out for
me were Ted Hannan as the naughty, lap dancing judge and Aubrey Hardwick as the painter with connections.
The co-directors, Joy Leonard and Chris Nichols, create a unique world that is episodic, like a dream interrupted by the
reality of bureaucracy. Their focus of the eroticism of K.'s thoughts makes the show into a sort of "Trial of K., S & M".but
that works for the film noir style they establish early on .... Overall, I like that they don't attempt to over-interpret
the text and instead leave much of the meaning for their audience to interpret.
The technical aspects of the production are outstanding. There is a short film directed
by John DesRoches that illustrates Kafka's culminating parable of the door splendidly. David Crittenden's costumes are fabulous.
The lighting, provided by Paul Hudson, is attractive and evocative. The original music composed by Rench is a lulling trip-hop
fantasy in and of itself. Finally, David Szlasa's set is an innovatively practical design in which set pieces lift right out
of the stage.
The production values for this remarkable piece of theatre are equal to its insights into our current society. You don't have to know Kafka's
novel to enjoy the show, but you will want to bring your appreciation for high art.
The Synaesthetic Theater's version of Kafka's "Trial of K" has clearly never met a trick it didn't poach. Live-broadcasting digital video cameras, a spooky author character who slinks around the edges of his creation, and a dozen queasily sexual dance numbers all blend to make some nonsensical theater soup.
(New York Sun)