Theatre 'd Art tackles Kafka's emblematic novel 'The Trial'
Who: Theatre ‘d Art
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays through Jan. 27
Where: Theatre ‘d Art, 128 N. Nevada Ave.
Tickets: $10, $5 students with ID, $5 admission with any current legal documentation (jury summons, subpoena, traffic ticket, etc.) or proof of employment for any legal worker; 357-8321 or theatredart.org
The world is full of victims and life can be patently unfair.
That’s one of the conclusions Brian Mann drew from Franz Kafka’s classic novel “The Trial” when he listened to the book on tape a year ago. The story, he says, immediately resonated with him. Mann will direct his own adaptation of it for Theatre ‘d Art. It opens Friday.
“It surprised me how, despite being written in 1924 and its incompleteness and holes, it aptly described the problems we still face in modern day society,” says Mann, who is also the company's artistic director.
In the novel, Josef K wakes up on the morning of his birthday, is arrested for no reason and then prosecuted for the unknown crime by an unknown authority. He becomes more panicked as his entanglement in a bizarre legal system escalates. He sees no way out and nobody can seem to help him.
“Lots of people can relate to it: The world is out to get you,” Mann says. “So much of the world is reliable, but it speaks to that Kafkaesque feeling that the world is so much bigger than you are. We rely on it to be organized, and when it’s exposed that it’s not as ethical as we thought it was, it comes as a shock.”
Mann’s adaptation is mostly faithful to the novel, though he retouches a bit and adds a few minor characters here and there.
“The Trial” is the second production in Theatre ‘d Art’s sixth season that’s subtitled "The Road to Upheaval." The productions, which include Ken Kesey's “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (produced with the Star Bar Players) and Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” are about taking on the "intangible pillars of our society," Mann says -- like politics, religion and law.
“People say (our company) does dark, weighty material. It’s because the world is full of horrible things, but we are blessed with the ability to laugh at ourselves. We lose a chunk of our humanity if we lose our sense of humor. Otherwise we’ll become mindless drones that oppress (people like) K.”
Aaaron Dewsnap read “The Trial’ after being cast as K. He couldn’t help but imagine what unknown crime his character is accused of committing that’s never revealed.
“A parking ticket,” he concludes. “That is the most hilarious (crime) it could be.”
K’s experience in the legal system, an environment so unwieldy and willing to gobble up a bewildered man, strikes a chord in Mann. He describes watching this man tangle with the law, one of society's "pillars," he says, and feeling his frustration at how impossible it seems to climb and conquer.
The play, much as the novel, doesn’t have the happiest of endings, but that’s fitting in Mann’s mind.
“It doesn’t end funny, but the absurdity of (K’s) world, it’s laughably ridiculous," he says. "Sometimes all we can do is laugh at the injustices in the world."