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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Wednesday Wordplay – Cher before Bette Davis

Inspirational Quotes

A sailor without a destination cannot hope for a favorable wind.
            — Leon Tec, M.D.

If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at every time in your life.
            — Cher

The real power behind whatever success I have now was something I found within myself – something that’s in all of us, I think, a little piece of God just waiting to be discovered.
            — Tina Turner, O Magazine, December 2003

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.
            — Frank Lloyd Wright

In love, one and one are one.
            — Jean-Paul Sartre

Out of the strain of the Doing,
Into the peace of the Done.
            — Julia Louise Woodruff, ‘Harvest Home,’ Sunday at Home, 1910

America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.
            — John Updike, Problems and Other Stories

It has been my experience that one cannot, in any shape or form, depend on human relations for lasting reward. It is only work that truly satisfies.
            — Bette Davis, The Lonely Life, 1962

We must accept that this creative pulse within us is God’s creative pulse itself.
            — Joseph Chilton Pearce

If you take a pill to make everything better, then you don’t know when things are fucked up. If you don’t know when things are fucked up, then you can’t fix it yourself.
            — Alexa Junge, United States of Tara, Snow, 2009

I used to think of all the billions of people in the world, and of all those people, how was I going to meet the right ones? The right ones to be my friends, the right one to be my husband. Now I just believe you meet the people you’re supposed to meet.
            — Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, The Quest, 1995

Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.
            — Mark Twain

 

Urban Dictionary

Elf-Esteem

The feeling of being overworked, underappreciated and like you don’t exist to others during the holidays while in actuality the season’s success depends on you.
The sense of being 3 feet small when others would view you in high stature if they realized all you do to make the holiday’s happen.

I think Hermey is having some elf-esteem issues. He’s pulling the stuffing out of all the teddy bears.

Short story long

Something that could have been told in a more concise way but is dragged out because the teller doesn’t know how to tell a story. It’s a play on the annoying clarifier, "Long story short," people use to sum up a digression, which really never seems to be that short anyway. So instead you say the opposite.

So I was walking into the store the other day, I wanted to get some aspirin because I had this massive headache and I walked down aisle four but they only had Tylenol but that doesn’t work and I went to the counter and short story long this guy was holding up the store!