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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: Kafka and Son is challenging

Alon Nashman is an accomplished actor and theatre creator last seen at the 2014 Chutzpah Festival with his one man show based on the life of legendary director John Hirsch. This year Nasham returns to the Chutzpah Festival with Kafka and Son, based on the life of German-language novelist Franz Kafka.

Kafka’s themes of surreal alienation, physiological brutality, and magical transformation in such works as The Metamorphosis, The Trial and The Castle which gave rise to the term Kafkaesque. He also was well known as a regular letter writer and Kafka and Son is based on an undelivered letter he wrote to his overbearing and cold father.

In this monologue, Nashman portrays his father as having a raspy, cruel laugh who espouses things like “employees are enemies” and when the son claims the father took things from him, he derisively dismisses the charge with “you have nothing I want”.

He goes on to say of his father: “I’m afraid of you” and “your self-confidence was so great you had no need to be correct, everything was wrong. You had opinions on things you didn’t know about but you were right”, and “everything I try is a failure.”

These samples of dialogue represent the challenge of the piece. How do you make a son’s rant against his father compelling and fresh? We don’t know a lot about the son, there are no real secrets, no reveals or twists and no stakes. It is an hour-long harangue.

Nashman is a very open and vulnerable performer and delivers the monologue with the earnestness of someone who wants to be loved. But the exercise fatigues, and fails to connect on an emotional level. It may stimulate some intellectually, and fans of Kafka might like the insight into his childhood, but listening to any adult son whine about his father is very trying.

The set design by Camellia Koo and Marysia Bucolc is striking with gold wire cages and gates arranged to represent a bed, a desk, and a gate. The desk grating is covered in five inches of feathers, and as Nashman ‘writes, an interesting effect is created as random feathers fall through into the desk. The lighting by Andrea Lundy and sound design by Darreen Copeland adds to theatrical flourishes creating various dramatic and surreal moments.

Kafka and Son adapted by Mark Cassidy and Alon Nashman from Franz Kafka’s Letter to His Father. A Theaturtle/Threshold and Richard Jordan Productions presentation as part of the 2015 Chutzpah Festival. No further performances.

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