K. The Hypocrites

Highly Recommended - "brainy, vivid, playfully faithful new stage adaptation..remarkably deft cast" - Hedy Weiss Chicago Sun Times 10/27/10


Critic's Pick - "K.’s existential crisis is largely played for dark, rich laughs in Allen’s production... sharp, chameleonic ensemble swirls around the impressive Buhl" - Kris Vire, TimeOutChicago 10/27/10

 

Critic's Choice - "...Allen's staging for the Hypocrites is smart, funny, often wise, and provocative on all kinds of levels"  - Tony Adler, Chicago Reader 10/28/10


"Smartly amusing..genuinely potent revival of K" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 10/26/10

Tix $28/14; 773.989.7352

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10/21/10 - 11/28/10

Thur-Sat 730p; Sun 3p


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Hypocrites give Kafka's tale a brainy adaptation: 'K.' faithfully recounts nightmare of alienation - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times 10/27/10

"It begins like any other day for Joseph K., even if it does happen to be his 30th birthday. The alarm goes off. He stretches and yawns. And his landlady knocks on the door to deliver his usual breakfast of eggs and toast.

Of course, those familiar with The Trial, one of Franz Kafka's seminal novels, know that something terrible is about to happen to Joseph, the guileless yet not stupid clerk at its center.

In fact, while he is still in his pajamas, two sinister guards will arrive at Joseph's door to inform him that upon orders of an unnamed authority he is now under arrest as the perpetrator of an unspecified crime. At first he thinks this is just a birthday prank devised by his office mates, and plays along. But it soon becomes clear this is not the case. And for the next year, until he meets the fate he begins to realize is inevitable (despite his insistence on his innocence), Joseph will be forced to navigate in an increasingly absurd and impenetrable world -- alternately blackly comic and wholly menacing. He is the ultimate hapless victim, the alienated modern man.

With "K.," his brainy, vivid, playfully faithful new stage adaptation of Kafka's novel now being mounted by the Hypocrites (the company that triumphed in David Cromer's "Our Town"), writer-director Greg Allen, founding director of the Neo-Futurists, has ingeniously captured the spirit of the book while adding just the right postmodern edginess to the original. And his remarkably deft cast of eight is with him on every page of Joseph's disorienting journey into what might be reality, with all its injustice, but just as easily could be the twisted, guilt-infused imaginings of his own psyche.

Fittingly, an endless series of doors leading to nowhere (a Dickensian and Kafkaesque view of the legal system) serves as the leitmotif of this production. And Chelsea Warren's set is perfection.

Joseph passes through some of these doors, but they also tellingly pass "through him" at times. And at one moment Joseph even wakes from a dream encased in a cockroach shell, a reference to Kafka's best-known tale, The Metamorphosis.

As Joseph, Brennan Buhl -- dark, slender, wide-eyed and just clueless enough -- is the ideal Everyman, capable of both anger and humor. Tien Doman, the only woman in the cast, is irresistible as the many different female figures in his life, and her ebullience puts Joseph's vaguely suppressed sexual terror in clear relief. Clint Sheffer is outstanding as Titorelli, the sharp-minded court painter. Clifton Frei is all smarmy debauchery as Huld, the lawyer. And there is first-rate work by Erik Schroeder, Dana Granata, Ed Dzialo and Sean Patrick Fawcett.

Kakfa, born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, is often credited with having had an eerie premonition of the Holocaust. But as "K." suggests, the writer (who died in 1924) saw many other aspects of man's "future" as well".

'K.' by The Hypocrites: Greg Allen's 'K.' can be unfeeling, but it showed the way - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 10/27/10

In 1996, when Greg Allen first produced his distinctive adaptation of Franz Kafka's “The Trial,” the heady but slyly self-aware work at Chicago's Neo-Futurarium had few peers. Fourteen years on, winks, nods and clever in-jokes — the meta-this and the meta-that — suffuse all branches of the American theater, from the fringe to Broadway musicals such as “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

On Saturday night, a few minutes into the smartly amusing revival of “K.,” remounted by Allen for The Hypocrites theater company in the basement of the Chopin Theatre, I started pondering how he really has never got his full share of credit for that trend.

Theater referencing itself goes back to the Ancient Greeks, but Allen, the founding father of the Neo-Futurists, channeled metadrama into a very distinctive, specific, and much-copied way of doing business. Without Allen's work I saw in Chicago in the early and mid 1990s, there would have been no “Urinetown,” Tina Fey would not have found her TV career as smooth, and many of the edgy, arch companies in numerous American cities that combine theater, comedy and improv would not be in quite the same business. No question. Allen was a pioneer.

Allen's work invariably emphasized the comic — a happily dweeby, quizzical and restless kind of farce — and that's what “K.” does, at the expense, for sure, of some of the genuinely nightmarish qualities of the Kafkaesque source. Aside from mostly eschewing raw terror, Allen also always left it to others to fully encapsulate the emotional possibilities of his kind of work — and some of those others have made a great deal of money from that encapsulation.

The same limitation plagues “K.,” even now. You don't ever feel much. The center is elusive, and even Kafka needs a heart.

But although the multiple doors and the “K” T-shirt worn by the hero are still very much around, this genuinely potent revival of “K.” is better acted (and staged with far more complexity, if not the full compliment of urgency) than my fading memory recalls of the original.

The play loosely follows the story of “The Trial,” in which a man, Joseph K., is charged by an inaccessible authority for unknown reasons. Whether stripped naked or standing wondering about his unspecified crime — we all wonder about our unspecified crimes, don't we? — the bemused Brennan Buhl is a consistently interesting and engaging presence in the title role of title roles. And Tien Doman, who plays a love interest who knows full well she is nothing so much as a character in Joseph's narrative of his own invention, is similarly intriguing and enigmatic. As things play out, you come to see this is a revival of an important piece of Chicago theater.

Beyond that, you have many men in suits — benevolent, malevolent, paternal, confounding — leading a mostly amused, slightly intimidated human rat through the most theatrical of mazes, albeit sadly devoid of any pieces of cheese.

But then Allen's work, like the life of Joseph has a complex relationship with audience incentives and external rewards.

Critic's Choice - Tony Adler, Chicago Reader 10/28/10
Franz Kafka's The Trial tells the tale of Joseph K., a bank clerk arrested by mysterious authorities for an unnamed crime. K. spends the following year trying to figure out what's going on and how to stop it, but the judicial system is a rigged game, as immutable as it is inscrutable. Not even the people who make it run know how it works. Kafka left the novel unfinished at his death in 1924, though in the last chapter he wrote, the same two agents who arrested K. show up again to carry out a sentence of death. Evidently that doesn't sit right with Neo-Futurists founder Greg Allen, whose meta-theatrical adaptation of The Trial supplies a surprisingly upbeat alternate ending. The intent, as I read it, is noble--where Kafka rejects all hope, Allen suggests that malign bureaucracies have only as much power as we give them and can therefore be beaten. But Allen's ending also comes off as Pollyannaish, seeming to deny the real-world savagery of the state. Don't let a quibble about the ultimate point of the show keep you from seeing it, though. Allen's staging for the Hypocrites is smart, funny, often wise, and provocative on all kinds of levels. Brennan Buhl's Joseph K. is delightful: at once bewildered and knowing, he subverts every expectation.

Critic's Pick - "K"  - Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago 10/27/10

 No door leads the same place twice in Allen’s 1996 adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, here revisited in a new production for the Hypocrites. Joseph K. (Brennan Buhl) wakes up on his 30th birthday to discover he’s being arrested, only the agents arresting him don’t know what he’s charged with and don’t take him anywhere. The court is a shadowy entity that seems inaccessible to K.; he’s told that hearings are taking place, but his every attempt to learn about his case leads him to self-serving lawyers, suspicious neighbors and opaque bureaucrats, and further away from the truth, if such a thing exists.

K.’s existential crisis is largely played for dark, rich laughs in Allen’s production, which often employs the Neo-Futurist founder’s metatheatrical leanings. K.’s father (Sean Patrick Fawcett) borrows a program from an audience member to prove his identity to his skeptical son. After a tryst with a neighbor (Tien Doman), K. asks if he’ll see her again. “Not as this character,” she replies. Scenic designer Chelsea Warren’s set, festooned with more doors than an episode of Let’s Make a Deal, smartly speaks to K.’s dilemma: Though he’s seemingly presented with any number of options for engagement or escape, none delivers what it promises. A sharp, chameleonic ensemble swirls around the impressive Buhl, whose standard air of off-kilter bemusement gradually hardens with confusion and resentment as K.’s situation becomes ever more impossible.

Critic's Choice - Tony Adler, Chicago Reader 10/28/10

Franz Kafka's The Trial tells the tale of Joseph K., a bank clerk arrested by mysterious authorities for an unnamed crime. K. spends the following year trying to figure out what's going on and how to stop it, but the judicial system is a rigged game, as immutable as it is inscrutable. Not even the people who make it run know how it works. Kafka left the novel unfinished at his death in 1924, though in the last chapter he wrote, the same two agents who arrested K. show up again to carry out a sentence of death. Evidently that doesn't sit right with Neo-Futurists founder Greg Allen, whose meta-theatrical adaptation of The Trial supplies a surprisingly upbeat alternate ending. The intent, as I read it, is noble--where Kafka rejects all hope, Allen suggests that malign bureaucracies have only as much power as we give them and can therefore be beaten. But Allen's ending also comes off as Pollyannaish, seeming to deny the real-world savagery of the state. Don't let a quibble about the ultimate point of the show keep you from seeing it, though. Allen's staging for the Hypocrites is smart, funny, often wise, and provocative on all kinds of levels. Brennan Buhl's Joseph K. is delightful: at once bewildered and knowing, he subverts every expectation.



K - Monica Westin, NewCity Chicago 10/27/10


Greg Allen’s adaptation of Kafka’s “The Trial” is a fairly standard treatment for the Hypocrites: with a lot of poetic license, Allen replaces vast amounts of the original text with self-aware banter that constantly draws attention to its own recycled nature. What results is a play that’s much lighter than reading Kafka; the ominous, heavy tone of “The Trial” is replaced by something of a bedroom farce, with constantly slamming doors and sex jokes about how arousing an accused man is. Allen also plays up the connection between the plot of the novel—a man is tried for a crime neither he nor the audience know the nature of—and improv acting, and Brennan Buhl as main character Josef K. borders on precious in his adorable self-aware aiming-to-please showman/buffoon who slowly gains awareness and nihilism. The other actors handily take on the farce with sustained energy and intelligence. But in the second half of the play, the parodic momentum grinds to a halt when the show suddenly takes on all the heaviness of the original novel, and then some; we’re simply not prepared in the last half hour for solemn K. and a priest arguing passionately over the interpretations of another famous Kafka text about fate and law, and there’s no reason for us to care when the trial finally does end and K. meets his fate. The play is meta-theatrical to the point of trying too hard, and there are so many references to Kafka’s other stories and novels (Joseph has a dream about waking up as a cockroach, etc.) that it’s easy to feel a sense of intellectual anxiety about how much the story has been watered down (at one point the novel, or “scripture,” is called “too literary”). Ultimately this sense of effort—along with the play’s gratuitous nudity, blowjob jokes, and jarring moments of surrealism—hit us over the head with how clever the show is supposed to be, making it hard to enjoy.


 


From The Hypocrites - K., a harrowing tale of one man's alienation. One morning, K is arrested for an unknown crime. His attempts to navigate an oppressively dizzying legal bureaucracy prove futile. As his personal life crumbles around him, K must choose to submit to the will of a tyrannical court or to face the dire consequences.

Author
Franz Kafka

Director
Greg Allen

Performers
Brennan Buhl, Tien Doman, Ed Dzialo, Clifton Frei, Dan Granata, Sean Patrick Fawcett, Erik Schroeder and Clint Sheffer

Production
Light Designer - Jared Moore; Sound designer - NickKeenan; Scenic Design - Chelsea Warren; Costume Designer - Alison Siple; Puppet Design - Dan Kerr-Hobart; Stage Manager - Dawn Wilson

Tags: Theater, American, 2010