Friday, September 20, 2013
Kafka under a Full Moon
With a theater company named Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, how could they not produce Kafka's The Castle! I got a ticket at the last minute to this Philly Fringe event last Wednesday, at a very intimate venue. I sat in the fifth of five rows. As I was driving into center city, I watched the very full moon rising over the skyline in a way that set the surreal mood. The postcard above, a painting by Otto Dix, perfectly captures the spirit of this adaptation from the story.
The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium notes that it is "recognized for its hilarious, well-crafted, accessible productions of complicated works by absurdist-leaning authors.." Yup. It was a brilliant production - funny, painful, familiar, haunting - all at the same time. The music was no small part of it. I was struck throughout by the choices for music.
In the program notes it only said "Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czechoslovakian-born German language novelist and short story writer, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century." Nowhere did it indicate that he was a Jew.
For some reason I had cut out and pasted in my journal the following quote by Julian Levinson from the September 2008 issue of Sh'ma. "Franz Kafka wrote his powerful, enigmatic short story "The Judgement" during a single all-night session on the eve of Yom Kippur in 1912. An acculturated Jew who was not observant in any traditional sense (though drawn to Zionism, the Yiddish theater, modern Hebrew and mysticism), Kafka described the writing session as if it had been his own private ritual of atonement. In his diary the next day, he wrote that it was like "advancing through a body of water...a complete unfolding of the body and soul."
At the end of The Castle, the music suddenly shifted into a rousing and familiar klezmer tune from the Eastern European Yiddish folk music tradition. Kafka's Jewishness was finally being indirectly acknowledged - through music! As I drove home under the astonishing full moon I realized that it was the first night of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the holiday where we dwell in temporary open huts (or at least share meals with family and friends in them), and are reminded of joy and community amidst fragility and transience. It all felt so Kafkaesque...