K | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

K., Neo-Futurists. Dramatizing The Trial, director-adaptor Greg Allen is up against some pretty stiff competition: Andre Gide, Harold Pinter, and Orson Welles have all tried their hand at Kafka's labyrinthine masterpiece of paranoia and alienation. But Allen's wiseass, rambunctious staging brings out one aspect of Kafka his much ballyhooed competitors forgot--his brilliantly funny dark comedy. At times, however, this frequently inspired but over-the-top work turns black humor into unevenly acted Marx Brothers farce, undermining Kafka's drama and his humor.

The well-paced, diverting first act is not only loaded with clever gimmicks but features Paul Tamney's sympathetic performance as Joseph K., the hapless functionary fighting accusations of guilt for an unnamed crime. Borrowing stage tricks from the Welles movie and adding some of his own--including a chilling shadow-puppet parable and a breathtaking dreamlike sequence in which K. is pursued by doors--Allen sporadically captures Kafka's spirit, if not always his words. But far too much of K. is given over to wooden supporting performances and cheap throwaways: the painter Titorelli effusively massaging his tit, Block the tradesman sucking off the esteemed lawyer Huld, and many Monty Pythonesque "Do you have the ending to this sketch?" self-referential jokes. Ultimately the chilling conclusion seems dull and uninvolving, as the audience, like poor Joseph K., wanders a frustrating and senseless maze from which there seems to be no escape.

--Adam Langer

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