Lost potential in Kafka’s Ape

Published on: August 10, 2014

Filled Under: SummerWorks Festival

Views: 1383


By Jeffrey Johns

First thing:  this play is at the Gladstone Hotel.  Which is not just a theatre venue.  The night we watched the show, there was some sort of corporate party that started in the bar beside the theatre area about twenty minutes into the show.  A very loud corporate party.  At least from where we were sitting, a lot of the play’s dialogue was equaled or even bested in volume by the groovy tunes emanating from said corporate party.  I don’t know if it will be like that for each night of the show but it was for ours and, I cannot lie, it may have, unfortunatley, affected the viewing experience.

Ok, on to the play itself.  It’s based on Franz Kafka’sA Report to an Academy”, a short story about an ape, Redpeter, that is captured in the wild and learns to act like a human in order to get out of captivity.  The story has Redpeter orating a report to an academy regarding his capture and transformation.

KAFKA’S APE follows this storyline, save that, in place of an academy, Redpeter addresses the shareholders of “Graywater”, a privatized military corporation (PMC).

In my view, Howard Rosenstein, as Redpeter, made up as an ape, acts his butt off in a demanding role that involves both a lot of physicality, and the delivery of lots of “read between the lines” type dialogue.  (Which made it doubly unfortunate about the party going on next door, as a lot of this dialogue ended up being delivered to a techno beat.)

And the adaptation of the short story into an examination of the rise and activities of PMC’s globally is a super-novel idea to get people to think about what many (including JJ!) consider to be a very serious and concerning issue.

That said…I didn’t really like it.  I didn’t feel like there were any moments that really communicated in a “Yikes, that’s troubling!” way, the activities of PMCs.  Nor was I crazy about actions of Redpeter that seemed to be for comic effect, or perhaps to show that he wasn’t so civilized after all, but that I just found distracting after a while – in particular, I could have done with a few less instances of the character’s repeated bouts of flatulence. I think I could see where the show wanted to go; it just didn’t get there.

Two Go See Its out of Five.

KAFKA’S APE is on at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W.) as part of the SummerWorks Performance Festival until August. 17th. For tix click here. 

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