KAFKA AND SON adapted by Mark Cassidy and Alon Nashman from Franz Kafka, directed by Cassidy (Theaturtle/Threshold). At Miles Nadal JCC (750 Spadina). Runs to March 18. $10-$25. See Continuing, page 81. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Kafka and Son solidly enshrines the archetypal antagonism between fathers and sons. Director Mark Cassidy's and actor Alon Nashman 's adaptation of an unsent letter from Franz Kafka to his difficult (and probably to a degree fictionalized) progenitor, the piece is filled with grim humour as well as some devastating personal anecdotes and perceptions about the relationship.
The father, with a derisively gurgling laugh, seems to disparage everything his diffident 36-year-old son does or wants to do, from his writing to his desire to marry.
Words like "disgrace," "shame," "fear" and "anguish" pop up regularly in the letter. No wonder the son flees any association with his father, including his business and religion, yet can't escape the commanding elder's control.
Nashman conjures up both central figures, physicalizing them splendidly. The father fills his chest and reaches out to take up space, his deep voice dominating the stage; the son shrinks into himself, the space around him turning airless, his voice complaining and thin.
The design is equally striking. Andrea Lundy 's razor-sharp lighting and Camellia Koo 's adaptation of Marysia Bucholc 's set marked by cages and black feathers suggestive of ashes tell their own tale of entrapment.
Darren Copeland 's soundscape is often eerily dissonant, though an occasional klezmer melody suggests a rare moment of happier times.
If the piece has a problem, it's an overall sameness of tone, a fault with the writing rather than the production.
Kafka makes his point early on, and then, as if to drive it deeper and deeper, reiterates variations on the servitude insisted upon by Kafka Sr. and rather too obligingly, though complainingly, endured by his offspring, who, despite everything, admits to an admiration for the older man.