Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

The Aurora Theatre of Berkeley, never a troupe to back down from a theatrical challenge, is currently performing Franz Kafka’s METAMORPHOSIS as adapted by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson.

This is risky turf given that everyone who reads Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS entertains a personal relationship with the story not to be violated by a stage rendering.

Dramatically, the mood of the play oscillates between humor and horror: give yourself a little emotional distance, and the play is absurd and funny; cozy up to it and it morphs into metaphor: possibly targeting you.

Gregor (dexterously and gymnastically played by Alex Crowther) awakens to find he has become an insect; his family—which is financially dependent on him—sees the transformation more as a family fiscal crisis and an embarrassment, rather than as a personal catastrophe for Gregor.

While play uses trappings from the LEAVE IT BEAVER era—when father knew best and June (the Beav’s mother) wore heels and pearls at home: even in the kitchen—it retains its existential and absurdist, Kafkaesque feel and flavor.

The galloping set designer Nina Ball—perhaps the most acclaimed artist in the bay area—has broken free of traditional Euclidean fetters and abandoned the orthogonal lines of conventional stage architecture.

While the Aurora stage is a rectangular “Thrust Stage” as Director Mark Jackson describes it, Nina has successfully masked that fact, employing a brand of Picasso Cubism which allows the audience to watch Gregor climb the walls as would a cockroach.

The audience sees Gregor, in his room, as if were looking down from a ceiling fan while simultaneously witnessing the tepid responses of Grete, Mother and Father in the dining room.

While Gregor withers away, neglected and locked in his bedroom, the family icily remains focused on the dislocations, the ancillary problems and the inconveniences of the metamorphosis.

This is intelligent, provocative, daring theater at its best.

Would this play serve at a metaphor for the economic precipice that our country presently teeters on?

Find out: call the box office at 510-843-4042 or go to