THE METAMORPHOSIS (Quintessence): Leave the bug spray at home

Douglas Hara (as Mr. Samsa), Kristen Bailey (as Gregor) in Kafka's THE METAMORPHOSIS. Photo by Shawn May.

Douglas Hara (as Mr. Samsa), Kristen Bailey (as Gregor) in Kafka’s THE METAMORPHOSIS. Photo by Shawn May.

Quintessence Theatre Group’s sensational production of Franz Kafka’s story THE METAMORPHOSIS, adapted for the stage by Steven Berkoff, as directed by Rebecca Wright, innovatively utilizes sound, movement, color, and light to transport the audience into the eerie world of Gregor Samsa (brilliantly rendered by Kristen Bailey) and his family.

Weary from his traveling sales job, Gregor returns home one day and retires to sleep. The next morning he wakes in his bed as an oversized bug, unable to move or even communicate as before. Certainly he cannot make it to the train to go to work to continue to support his dependent sister, mother, and father. His condition engenders feelings from fear, hate, and aversion to courage, caring, and stoicism in his family, who are careful to keep it hidden from all others. Gregor’s sister Greta (buoyantly portrayed by Gracie Martin), who is the most helpful and kind to him as he becomes more completely insect-like, feeding and caring for him at first during his transmutation, experiences her own change as well over the course of the play.

Julia Frey (as Lodger), Lee Minora (as Lodger), Alan Brincks (as Lodger), Kristen Bailey (as Gregor), Gracie Martin (as Greta), Douglas Hara (as Mr. Samsa), Anita Holland (as Mrs. Gregor). Photo by Shawn May

Julia Frey (as Lodger), Lee Minora (as Lodger), Alan Brincks (as Lodger), Kristen Bailey (as Gregor), Gracie Martin (as Greta), Douglas Hara (as Mr. Samsa), Anita Holland (as Mrs. Gregor). Photo by Shawn May

The cast engages with expressive movement and impresses with and their ability to accomplish quicksilver changes, in costume, action, and character. Kirsten Bailey’s phased manifest mutation, as Gregor to “ungeziefer”, is magical. Greta blooms beautifully in an hour and ten minutes via the talent of Gracie Martin. Douglas Hara’s body language and delivery as Mr. Samsa are delightful to behold, and Mrs. Samsa was lent an extra mellifluous élan by Anita Holland. Alan Brincks, as Lodger 3/Clerk, along with Julia Frey as Lodger 2/living portrait of Lady in Fur, and Lee Minora as Lodger 1/Cleaning women perform fabulously in their versatile roles.

A terrific mise en scène sets sets the tone for the well-executed ensemble work: sticky looking bug tracts and ethereal tiers (Colin McIlvaine, Danielle Ferguson), an awesome soundscape of the dissonance overlaying Gregor’s voice (Adriano Shaplin), evocative lighting (Maria Shaplin), and fabulously creative costuming (Katherine Fritz). The tension builds and dissipated effectively using the tools of the theater. All parts work together, including the colors: nuances of yellow-like various flavors of mustard, grays, browns, dun, the white of Greta’s apron changing hues under diverse lighting, sometimes dull, then a sparkling white. The interactive physicality of the actors’ as they enact various segments, or delineate a character’s mood in timbre with light, music, sound and story, gives the feeling of a series of well coordinated organic cogs working together to weave a wonderfully immersive dramatic web. [The Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Avenue, Mount Airy] February 4-March 1, 2015; quintessencetheatre.org.

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About the author

Lisa Panzer

Lisa Panzer has worked for many years in theater not only as an actor, but as a director, dramaturg, technical director, lighting designer, stage crew, and roustabout. A few of her favorite past theatrical roles include: Liz Imbrie in Philadelphia Story, Maria in Lend Me a Tenor, Mrs. Tarpey in Spreading the News, Mollie Ralston in Mousetrap, Trinculo in The Tempest, Bernice Roth in Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 and Felicia Dantine in I Hate Hamlet. In addition to theatrical endeavors, Mz. Panzer has also worked as a background performer in television’s Cold Case, Invincible, The Happening, several television commercials, and has played various roles in independent films including Project 21 productions and other commercial acting venues. (See http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3355274/ for additonal information).