A steady gloom settles casually to our shoulders, and suddenly twelve step upon the stage. As the white of the overhead artificial sun sets, we feel as though this dozen has stepped up to the gallows, awaiting their demise, as though before us played an annotated “Crucible”.
It is The Trial, written by Franz Kafka, adapted for stage by Steven Berkoff. What is presented bears the style of Berkoff’s other adaptations, including A Clockwork Orange (famously directed by Stanley Kubrick). It is a morbid, volatile production which director Robert McNamara offers, the stage a platter scarred with dark, blackened circles, the center of which holds a chair (wisely established by Kimberly E. Cruce).
Terrence Heffernan and Christopher Moss terrorize Christopher Henley in “The Trial.”
This is Joseph K.’s (Christopher Henley) chair. This is where the middle-class, single, work-obsessed Everyman will sit in judgment, charged with crimes even he has no knowledge of, defended only by an ever absent lawyer, Huld.
Huld is performed by Jim Zidar, in a performance topped by attributes only nature can bless a man with. Zidar’s booming baritone voice and imposing posture reflect only a single portion of a production so perfectly cast, one feels as though every breathing being must have been sorted through, one by one, until the perfect selection was made.
While this same perfection is not universal in every aspect of the performance, it is enough that this reviewer must confess, scarcely a note was taken. It is unprofessional; possibly, to scratch a piece on a play from memory, but what “The Trial” offered the eyes more than excuses the lack of attention to the pen.
“The Trial” is a captivating work, with astonishing lighting (crafted by four-time Helen Hayes nominee Marianne Meadows), impeccable sound and music selection (done by David Crandall), and costuming of simple beauty, dark cloth highlighted with red (Alisa Mandel).
And the actors!
They are captivating characters, farcical and yet human, performed with such empathetic absurdity Kafka would have applauded with a laugh. These thirteen thespian apostles (yes, more than a dozen, for even McNamara casts his Barnabas) meld humor and astonishment, nervous laughter with paranoia and trepidation, in such a wonderful way, we might weep and laugh at the filth before us, the crude, the vulgar, the unjust, the absurd, and yet the sheer pleasure of seeing art, of seeing theatre made for actors, directors, scholars, Everyman’s, and pedestrians the like — well, if we are masochists for wanting more when the final lights dim and the applause comes forth, so be it.
Adapted by Steven Berkoff from the novel by Franz Kafka. Directed by Robert McNamara. Design: Kimberley E. Cruce (set) Alisa Mandel (costumes) Jessica Wade (masks) Marianne Meadows (lights) David Crandall (sound) Ian C. Armstrong (photography) Chris Pifer (stage manager). Cast: Kim Curtis, Danielle Davy, Terrence Heffernan, Christopher Henley, Jai Khalsa, Robert McNamara, Michael Miyazaki, Christopher Moss, Maura Stadem, Svetlana Tikhonov, John Tweel, Jim Zidar. www.scenatheatre.org/