To the editors:
As Justin Hayford in his review of the Turbulent Mirror production of Kafka’s Metamorphosis points out, it resists interpretation [July 6]. The critic who expects coherent interpretation, remains frustrated and angry. Many have pondered the imagery of the Metamorphosis year after year and came to different results and new conclusions, often depending on the current stage in one’s life or historical experience. This writer has made his first contact with Metamorphosis at the age of sixteen in a German gymnasium, 30 years ago, wrote his first staged version 14 years ago and has since performed the play in six countries, at three International Theater Festivals and more than 150 times. I have continued to revise and refine this mysterious masterpiece, to come ever closer to Kafka’s sensitivity. This for me has become analogous for the sensitivity of any responsive artist in this modern and alienated world. I also like to make Kafka’s dream accessible again and again to yet another generation of young audiences.
Should a critic, who just finished reading the text “an hour before going to the theater” (as Justin Hayford admits) be surprised that he “is still lost”? Perhaps it is impossible for one who has been spoon-fed information under the guise of education to admit that there are mysteries worthy to be lost in? When a mind, taught to observe the world from an 11th grade reading level, filled with mistrust for his own emotions, but set off from the rest of the world by the dubious distinction of being a critic, encounters mystery, his dissecting brain uses the pen as a sword and cuts off the limb he can’t comprehend.
Kafka was not written for the Allan Blooms of this world who insist that “creativity is the opiate for the masses,” reserved for the cultural elite, the critics and the professors. I am with Bruno Bettelheim who prescribed fairy tale mysteries for children and adults and would have seen no harm in involving one’s family (an ancient tradition of theater!) in the enterprise of bringing a mysterious story to life. If Hayford was looking for a Wait Disney version of the Metamorphosis he should have looked for it in some air conditioned plush place, paid for by the cultural industry, which he puts on the pedestal by criticizing the lack of comfort and wealth of this production.
Far from espousing a “kitchen sink realism which continues to dominate the American scene” (see article by Becca Manery in PerformInk July 5) this production is in the tradition of German expressionism, driving Kafka’s surrealist imagery to its consequent end: the dissolution of language. The other assumption that not realistic theater, though little understood by many critics, has no popular appeal, is also challenged here. The play was chosen best show of the year in Kalamazoo by critic Chisholm Gentry. It was praised by critics in Ann Arbor as “an interesting and absorbing piece of work” with a “keen sensitivity for Kafka’s world” (Jay Carr, Detroit News) and played to two sell-out houses at the University of Chicago. A young student after seeing the play, wrote: “The play forces the mind into analogies. In the concluding line of the play, the narrator speaks of how his sister leaped into the sunlight and stretched her fresh young body, and shows Gregor stretching instead. Because of all that garbage in his room and how they treated him, it will recur and haunt them. This Metamorphosis gives hints of the future where faces are faceless and the value of life is low.”