From the start Kafka and Son imprisons the imagination with imagery of metal cages and falling feathers which bring to mind Marilyn Frye’s landmark feminist analogy of the birdcage. The performance will guide you through all of the small oppressions, which Kafka saw as making up the bars of his confinement. The show never shies away from the pressures of attaining approval through masculinity felt by Kafka while living under the shadow of his father, the patriarch. This is a concept which is still quite relevant to many young men today. The performance is strong in both delivery and content. There are very few weaknesses in the performance, and even then, one would venture to call them weaknesses.
Granted, the performance is drawing from a strong source material, Kafka being one of the great writers of the 20th century, but the piece is able to take on a life of its own through strong performance which brings Kafka to life right before your eyes. So, in essence, both the writing and the performance benefit from having one another, and this makes for a wonderful spectacle presented for the pleasure of the audience.
Kafka and Son flows through stories, thoughts, and concepts with ease and imagination, and presents the troubled Kafka’s words with abstract originality. It grabs on to the most seemingly insignificant actions of a father, such as the way he eats his meal, but these actions transcend into life affirming or life denying gestures through the eyes of a child. However, It never forgets the larger issues such as body image and self-confidence, put forth as well. One fully sympathizes with Kafka as he discusses feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing, placed upon him the failure to attain a stature suitable to his father’s expectations.
For the the writers, among others in the audience, it will be a grand experience seeing the word of Kafka spoken so thoughtfully on stage, and it is a pure delight to see Kafka himself being resurrected through the performance. Many will identify with Kafka’s expression of writing as a form of therapeutic release, though it is also done with a level of anxiety and painful resolve, and be able to relate entirely.
The stage props are a very important factor in setting up the mood of the performance. The metal cages invoke feelings of solitude and claustrophobia within the audience. They are taken through many different functions of all the metal pieces strewn about the stage. The dim lighting and the way in which it seems to flow along with the dialogue, will guide the emotional trip through all its ups and downs, twists and turns.
The performance as Kafka is superb and clearly done with a level of admiration. At times the performer slips into the character of Kafka’s father as well, whose cackling laughter will set one’s teeth on edge as he goes about the stage with the masculine and arrogant pomposity. These are the characteristics which Kafka attributed to his father in the letter which serves as the source material.
The performance will weigh heavily on one’s emotions, but there is enough wit and humor to keep the audience from slipping too far into a depressed stupor. This works through a performer who clearly knows the timing and delivery of the piece through and through. He was delivering the lines for an entire hour, and the flow was completely and utterly natural. One is convinced that it is Kafka in front of them.
Though this was most likely intentional, the character of Kafka’s father seemed over done. He was like a caricature of the father presented in Kafka’s letter. One couldn’t wait for the brief periods in which the performer slipped into the character to be over and welcomed the sanctuary of Kafka’s words when they returned. This is not a complaint, though it does make the piece come of as biased and a bit one sided, but this is case with any form of storytelling.
Overall, this was a wonderful performance, and one that should not be missed by an Fringe goer. It is an hour filled with brilliant dialogue, strong acting, and a carousel of emotions. One will feel a level of intimacy with Kafka that cannot be attained through reading his writings. If you get a chance to check it out, write up a comment, and tell us your own thoughts on the performance!
– Mason Parker, Prague Film & Theater Center