The only bad thing to say about “Kafka’s Metamorphosis: The Musical!” is that you will not get a chance to see it at the Capital Fringe Festival. The company of the short musical popped down to the District for just four performances before returning to their tour of upstate New York, where the piece was conceived. In fact, another short run opened in Manhattan less than 24 hours after closing at Fringe.
We can only hope this fine production will return to our region in the future.
Like the writer who inspired it, it may not have been here long, but we are lucky that it was. The 75-minute show is tight and professional, with lively music and droll lyrics. The four cast members give both a brief biography of Kafka (who, we are told, came along before the world got Kafkaesque and when facts still existed) and a faithful version of “The Metamorphosis.”
Neither of these subjects is especially funny in itself, so creator Matt Chiorini plays up the absurdity. There are puppets (both hand and shadow), musical numbers than end in jazz hands, and literary puns. There’s even a brief scene of Franz trying stand-up comedy, and after bombing, saying, “After I die, please burn these jokes.”
The actors play the same parts in both Franz’s story and in Gregor Samsa’s, with one telling exception. Franz’s tyrannical father Hermann Kafka is never seen; Franz beseeches him for love and understanding in a series of brief monologues addressed directly to the house.
The outstanding Jack Rento plays both Franz and Gregor. Rento is lithe and gymnastic, and contorts himself acrobatically to hint at Gregor’s gradual transformation. Director Chiorini (who also plays Gregor’s father) made the wise choice not to swaddle Rento in a costume or a mask; the transforming Gregor wears the same drab suit as the human Gregor (and the human Franz). Rento’s twisting and flexing suffices to show us the change — as does the shock of seeing the outlines of an insect face that appears on his in blacklight whenever Gregor’s sister Grete enters his dark bedroom.
We can only hope this fine production will return to our region in the future. Until then, you can sample the show with the official soundtrack, which was released by Broadway Records just last week.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
Advisory: Recommended for ages 13 and up.
“Kafka’s Metamorphosis: The Musical!” ended its Capital Fringe Festival run on July 14. For information about the show, click here.