Meet the Samsas

Meet the Samsas at UConn's Connecticut Repertory Theatre an inspired grownup
puppet production

By Kory Loucks

Imagine waking up one morning and discovering you have turned into a giant hard-shelled,
eight-legged bug. That is the premise of this highly imaginative adaptation of Franz Kafka's
"Metamorphosis" - a Puppet Arts Production through the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the
University of Connecticut.

In Kafka's story the experience, and his relationship with the world, is told primarily through the point
of view of the man/bug, Gregor.

In this inspired adaptation by Mary Gragen Rogers and S. B. Parks, you hear from everyone but the
man turned into a bug, who in this show is named Gordon. Gordon is one member of a family who
live in a reality television show based on their family exploits - complete with his father, mother,
sister, and the sister's date.

All the characters, except the voice of the director, played with dictatorial authority by Aaron
Johnson, are marionettes, expertly manipulated by a talented ensemble of puppeteers.

There is Grace, Gordon's sister, play by Brittaney Talbot, who fully-embraces the star-making
machinery that is their lives, the mother, Mrs. Samsa, played by S. B. Parks, and the father, played
by Fergus Walsh with menace covering a terror of being in financial debt, much like the Kafka story.

The articulation of the marionettes by the puppeteers is terrific -- even their ankles move. They walk,
sit, read the newspaper, and in the case of Gordon, crawl, through a miniature kitchen, living room,
and bedroom meticulously designed by Brian "Traz" Sharron.

How the puppeteers manage to stay in character as the voices of the individual marionettes and at
the same time articulate the movements of the multi-stringed puppets without running into each other
or getting their strings impossibly intertwined was remarkable.

Shih-hung (Ken) Ko, who plays Gordon the man/bug somehow manages to get across the idea of a
man trapped inside a bug's body through buggy-movements and fine bug-like clicking sounds.
The play like Kafka's original story is darkly funny and sad too. At one point the mother, Mrs.
Samsa, played by Parks, asks if they can bring in a doctor to look at Gordon, to which the father,
played by Walsh, says the doctor's visit would not be covered by insurance because he says, it isn't
an illness that ails their son - "This is clearly a metamorphosis."

With four television screens in each corner of the set, along with a special "bug-cam," this show is a
technical marvel too, technically directed by Alex Colodner with sound design by Rebekah Eyre, with
only occasionally some loud feedback noise, which hopefully can be eliminated in future

The idea of having a reality-type external world be more important to the characters than their interior
life illuminates how crazy our world can be, and how much importance our society collectively puts
into the myth of celebrity.
The Studio Theatre, which seats 100, is a perfect venue for this intimate show, which runs through

This review originally appeared in the Journal Inquirer, Manchester

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