“Kafka Dances” by Timothy Daly opened October 22 at Cyrano’s and is expected to be a big hit. The acting is top notch and the music is soothing. Anyone with an interest in Kafka or a love of the theater will enjoy this show.
The story is based on Kafka’s life while writing “The Metamorphosis,” Kafka’s classic story about a man who wakes up one day transformed into a huge bug and is shunned by those closest to him. This play provides a background into Kafka’s relationships focusing around his troubles with family, his fiancee, and his fantastic dreams.
At the beginning of the play, the neurotic and nervous Kafka, played by Jeff McCamish, finds himself in a dreamscape, surrounded by his family. His dream-family constantly torments him on how much of a failure he is and how he will never amount to anything.
Outside of his dreams, Kafka works for an insurance company as a claims adjuster. He is fine with this station in life and spends his nights writing. Discouraged by his family’s ambivalence to his stories and his lack of a social life, he decides to give up on writing. He eventually meets Felice, played by Schatzie Schaefers, and they start an awkward courtship in which the audience wonders how a woman full of life and wonder can be with a man always depressed and in self doubt. You can tell he is never confident with her, but through her love and affection he finds the ability to write again.
The acting in this production is outstanding. McCamish plays a perfect Kafka, running the full emotions of the tortured artist. His mother, played by Alice Welling, portrays the stereotypical ideal of the sorrowful mother who does everything for her children and is never fully appreciated. Mark Robokoff has a loud and powerful voice that demands attention as the lovable yet hypocritical father. Schafers and Lindsey Lamar, who plays Kafka’s sister, provide flawless antithesis to the brooding Kafka.
There is also an intriguing element of farce in this show. It was impressive to see the funny scenes put a comical spin put on the life of such a depressed literary figure. Robokoff and Welling fed on the Jewish stereotype for an entertaining shtick that kept the audience laughing. While they may have gone to far over the top, the audience didn’t seem to mind, and it did not detract from the dramatic themes of the play as a whole.
The power of this production and the writing presented in this play is for fans and non-fans of Kafka alike. The story is easy to follow and the characters and situations are as real to life today as they were in the early 1900’s. You don’t have to understand Kafka to understand his conflicted soul.