Philly Fringe reviews: Franz Kafka’s ‘The Castle’ and ‘Saint Joan, Betrayed’

 Ethan Lipkin (left) and David Stanger in the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium's production of

Ethan Lipkin (left) and David Stanger in the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium's production of "Franz Kafka's The Castle." Photo courtesy of Johanna Austin.

FRANZ KAFKA’S “THE CASTLE.” Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel, which was completed by his editor and published in 1926, makes a perfect fit for the city’s edgy Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium.

“The Castle” is pure Kafka, and this Philly Fringe Festival entry, highly entertaining. A land surveyor called to work at a distant castle finds he’s up against a bureaucracy whose control is paramount and whose reasoning is nil.

 

He also finds, of course, that he’s up against ideas that will overpower him; the very notion that there is a castle is questionable. “Does everything have to be unclear?” the land surveyor asks a villager, whose town’s culture includes long-time acceptance of mores that make little sense to outsiders. “Perhaps” is the answer.

David Fishelson and Aaron Leichter adapted Kafka’s work from another dramatization, and Tina Brock, a founding member of the theater company, smoothly directs the black comedy, creates the cartoonish sound design and plays a role. Sometimes objects are hurled from backstage over the edges of Anna Kiraly’s scenery or tossed around, yet it all seems pretty reasonable in a world without reason.

David Stanger is the befuddled land surveyor, and Ethan Lipkin, Jerry Puma, Kirsten Quinn, Jerry Rudasill, Sonja Robson, Tom and Michael Dura are fine and fun in a cast of 13, dressed in Erica Hoelscher’s appropriate villager/peasant costumes.

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“The Castle” by Franz Kafka runs through Sept. 22 at the Adrienne Theatre, on Samson Street between 20th and 21st Streets.  For information on all FringeArts shows in the festival, including dates, times and venues, visit www.fringearts.com

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SAINT JOAN, BETRAYED. For an example of the way theater can change your perception of a story by spurruing you to think of the tale in a wholly different way, check out the successful Fringe festival experiment by two of the city’s bold theater artists, Mary Tuomanen and Aaron Cromie. Their “Saint Joan, Betrayed” is a two-part telling of the story of Joan of Arc, the teenager who led French troops in war to kick the British out of southern France in the 1400s. 

First comes a little show by Cromie who, among his many stage pursuits, is a puppet and mask designer. He offers a modern retelling of the lives of Saints Catherine and Margaret, two women whose voices Joan of Arc said he had heard. Cromie also talks briefly of Saint Michael. He uses different forms of puppetry or illustration to tells these life stories in an amusing 10-minute presentation.

Part two is Tuomanen’s. She uses puppets and masks created by Cromie to tell Joan’s story. At one point she is an archbishop whose relationbship to Joan becomes clear only toward the end of her telling. At others, she is Joan, or an officer and a soldier in a remarkably effective two-sided mask, or others. She does several voices — Joan herself speaks mostly in French, but you needn’t understand her to know what’s happening — as she nimbly moves around the mostly empty stage. Tuomanen is captivating in her performance; in her thrall, a Sunday afternoon audience was still as a midsummer day as she unraveled the plot of Joan’s life.

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 “Saint Joan, Betrayed” runs through Sept. 14 at Theatre Exile’s Studio X, 1340 S. 13th St. For information on all FringeArts shows in the festival, including dates, times and venues, visit www.fringearts.com

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