REVIEW: K. (The Hypocrites)

 

Allen goes coo-coo for Kafka

 

 

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The Hypocrites present
   
K.
   
Written and Directed by Greg Allen
at
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
through November 28   |  tickets: $14-$28  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

At the last three productions I’ve seen put on by The Hypocrites, arguably the local leader in avant garde storefront, there’s been some blatant reference to the originating text. In Sean Graney’s stage adaptation of Frankenstein last year (our review ★★), the pages of numerous copies of Mary Shelley’s book were pasted on The Hypocrites - K - by Greg Allen001the back wall. In No Exit (review ★★★), Inez splattered toothpaste all over the set and tacked on leaves from Jean Paul-Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. And in their season opener K., translated from “The Trial”, a semi-finished novel from that proto-surrealist genius, Franz Kafka, characters read, toss around, and swear upon a tiny copy of Kafka’s chilling story. The stage adaptation and direction are the handiwork of Neo-Futurist Greg Allen, a master of metatheatricality. The production unravels in the last few scenes, but the darkly funny story is an enthralling journey. One wonders, considering that Kafka died before finishing “The Trial” (or any novels, really), if this is sort of the point.

Allen first penned his adaptation in 1996. “K.” is Josef K., Kafka’s unwitting protagonist in his slamming critique of law, order, and bureaucracy. “The Trial” is pretty much an expressionist legal thriller, with less crime and more paperwork. K.’s monotonous life is disrupted when he is arrested one morning, but not detained and never told what offense he committed (the police don’t even know). The rest of the piece follows K.’s long, occasionally action-packed struggle to get his trial to go to trial.

 

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Allen cherrypicks from Kafka’s plot. He hits important characters and scenes, but he streamlines the piece. This works well for the adaptation; K.’s Sisyphean legal journey is easy enough to follow and digest. Allen then plugs the gaps with a self-awareness that shocks the story into a stage life, one that is very aware that it is theatre. The actor playing K.’s father, Sean Patrick Fawcett, must yank a program from the audience to prove to K. that he is, in fact, K.’s father. A painter sells works with titles like The Hunger Artist, The Penal Colony, and The Castle. And there’s a full-on Metamorphosis moment. These choices tap into themes that both resonate with the original text and go beyond it: the nature of narrative, and reality, for that matter.

Brennan Buhl’s portrayal of K. syncs perfectly with Allen’s vision. He straddles the script, keeping one foot in the story and the other in our world. Sometimes he is charmingly aloof, making it seem like he’s part of some dark improv set—ready to joke and riff off whatever happens to him. At other crucial points, he snaps into the plot’s reality with devastating somberness. Buhl’s performance is stripped of sentimentality; his whole world is funny and inconsequential until the agonizing futility of his situation beats him into submission.

The Hypocrites - K - by Greg Allen003There are a few times when the Allen’s meta-theatre meddling fails to produce the fruit, the ending being the prime example. K. has a possibly fatal encounter with his arresting officers, but the final outcome isn’t revealed, and Buhl sucks in the audience at the last moment….except we don’t know where we’re going. We get a sort of “what happened?” moment, and I was very confused as to what actually happened. Allen’s tight focus slackens here and the moment clogs up the heavy theatrical metaphor flowing through the piece.

Buhl is joined by a great supporting cast who all jump into a massive gumbo of personas. They do great things with Chelsea Warren’s set, which features plenty of doors to shift around, open, and slam. There’s an energy present here that isn’t seen often today, one that doesn’t mock the fact that theatre is happening, but lovingly accepts the art form while pushing its limits. Even with K.’s misfires, Allen has created riveting, intellectual theatre.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Brennan Buhl - Hypocrites Theatre - Greg Allen

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REVIEW: I Am a Camera (The Neo-Futurists)

How do you see yourself? How do others see you?

 Caitlin Stainken - "I AM A CAMERA"

The Neo-Futurists present:

I AM A CAMERA

 

created/directed by Greg Allen
through March 13th (more info)

review by Ian Epstein 

I AM A CAMERA appropriately begins with a slideshow.  The audience waits while a projector cycles through images taken from an anonymous childhood.  A slideshow in total darkness draws from the same atmospheric quality of being at a movie theater except that still images force the audience’s attention to examine each frame thoroughly.  Within seconds, the audience begins to wonder if the children in these photographs and the person in that one are the same.  Who are they?  What should I be looking for? 

Caitlin Stainken - "I AM A CAMERA" The anonymity hardly matters as soon as the second image appears, since holding one photograph up to another inevitably invites comparison.  The audience searches in the dark for clues that will shed some light on the relationship between what was there a moment ago and what is there now.  The succession of faces and places begins to hint at a story.

Then the projector stops and the lights come up a bit and Neo-Futurist ensemble member Jeremy Sher – playing Neo-Futurist ensemble member Jeremy Sher — enters from behind a broad white curtain.  A voice commands him to smile from some offstage, unseen, photographic location (the booth).  As he does a song begins to play and it plays and plays and plays and then as it ends there’s the familiar electric blue of a camera flash and the smile fades as Jeremy melts into the darkness and disappears offstage.  Enter Neo-Futurist ensemble member Caitlin Stainken (playing Neo-Futurist ensemble member Caitlin Stainken) – she repeats this process, a kind of unnerving endurance-performance mugshot.  The repetition underscores the fact that the length of a song is a very long time to sit still and stare at someone forcing a smile.  From its first moments, director Greg Allen toys with the tension between frozen images and breathing bodies.

Caitlin Stainken in "I AM A CAMERA"

As the play unfolds, I AM A CAMERA comes to life on a screen, on a stage, in front of a screen, behind a screen, in silhouette, in darkness, in a momentary flash, beyond a screen, back in the audience, in and out of the audience, with the audience on a screen, in photographs scattered across a table, in motion, in stillness, in any combination of these and, of course, here and there it bubbles out of the image world into words. 

Rating: ★★★

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PERFORMANCES: Opening Night: Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. Performances continue through March 13, 2010: Thurs/Fri/Sat at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 for students/seniors with ID, or pay-what-you-can during previews and on Thursdays.

Limited seating, reservations highly recommended!! Go here to reserve tickets…

 

 

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Theater Thursday: I Am A Camera (Neo-Futurists)

Thursday, February 4

I Am A Camera

directed and devised by Greg Allen 
The Neo-Futurists 
5153 N. Ashland, Chicago

iamacameraCome see Neo-Futurist founder Greg Allen‘s new show I Am A Camera. After the performance mingle with the cast and crew during which you will be supplied with plentiful amounts of beer from local brewer Metropolitan Brewing while simultaneously being fed different style pizzas from Apart Pizza.

Show begins at 8 p.m.

Event begins immediately following the performance (around 9:30 p.m.)

TICKETS ONLY $20 

For reservations call 773.275.5255 and mention "Theater Thursdays," or order online at www.neofuturists.org.

 

metrobrewery apartpizza

Theater Thursday: I Am Camera (The Neo-Futurists)

 

Thursday, February 4

I Am Camera 

directed and devised by Greg Allen 
The Neo-Futurists, 5153 N. Ashland, Chicago

iamacameraCome see Neo-Futurist Founder Greg Allen‘s new show I Am Camera. After the performance mingle with the cast and crew during which you will be supplied with plentiful amounts of beer from local brewer Metropolitan Brewing while simultaneously being fed different style pizzas from Apart Pizza.

 

Show begins at 8 p.m.

Event begins immediately following the performance (around 9:30 p.m.)

TICKETS ONLY $20 

For reservations call 773.275.5255 and mention “Theater Thursdays,” or order online at www.neofuturists.org.

Spend New Years Eve with Neo-Futurists

new-years-toastToo Much Light” New Year’s Eve

On Thursday, December 31, doors open at The Neo-Futurarium at 9:30 p.m. for non-alcoholic refreshments and hors d’oeuvres provided by Whole Foods Market Sauganash. A performance of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, created by Greg Allen, begins promptly at 11:00 p.m. (no admittance after 11:00 p.m.) The performance ends at 12 midnight with a New Year’s toast and The Neo-Futurists’ signature pizza. Admission is $40. Advance tickets are required and available online at www.neofuturists.org. Although “Too Much Light” New Year’s Eve is an all-ages show, it is not appropriate for children.

  • Thursday, December 31, 2009
  • Doors open at 9:30 p.m. for non-alcoholic refreshments and hors d’oeuvres provided by Whole Foods Market Sauganash
  • All-ages performance of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind begins at 11:00 p.m. sharp — no admittance after 11:00 p.m.
  • New Years’ Toast and pizza at midnight

ADVANCE TICKETS REQUIRED ($40): www.neofuturists.org

For more information, call 773-275-5255

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