Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Trial
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of The Way of the World

Shu-nan Chu, center
Photo by Johnny Shryock
Franz Kafka wrote his novel The Trial more than a century ago, but his themes of disorientation and paranoia are equally, or more, timely today. Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia, brings audiences into the nightmare of Kafka's protagonist, Josef K. (Shu-nan Chu), in its unrelenting, visually brilliant 90-minute adaptation of the novel.

Director Paata Tsikurishvili adds to the surrealistic nature of Kafka's story by picking up a device the author used in his story "Metamorphosis," which Synetic also has adapted. As Josef finds himself accused of a nameless crime and struggling to find answers, his tormentors are hideous, human-size insects (costumed with ingenuity by Erik Teague). Josef retains his human shape, including his bookish glasses, while he is surrounded by creatures—even his landlady (Kathy Gordon) and his neighbor (Tori Bertocci)—with antennae, sharp appendages attached to their hands and arms and, in some cases, glowing eyes.

Nathan Weinberger's text adaptation uses dialogue, unlike many of Synetic's productions, but the words are used in a way that adds to Josef's growing awareness that nothing means anything. He can't fight the charges against him if no one can or will tell him what they are; he's tortured for asking questions; he seeks help and finds only corruption, predation, or advice to just give up. The most striking examples of this are Huld (Ryan Tumulty), a grotesque lawyer who rides around the stage in an electric cart, and his carnivorous attendant, Leni (Gordon).

Irina Tsikurishvili's movement design emphasizes the paradox of reality and unreality on Daniel Pinha's set. Figures crawl through windows and hover upside down, they emerge from holes in the floor and slither up and down stairs, as Brian S. Allard's lighting design shoots out beams in hot colors and washes the stage with a curtain of light. Composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze and sound designer Thomas Sowers add to the unease with an aural undercurrent based on a threatening industrial roar.

Synetic Theater
The Trial
January 19th - February 18th, 2018
Based on the novel by Franz Kafka, adapted by Nathan Weinberger
Josef K: Shu-nan Chu
Anna: Tori Bertocci
Willem: Chris Willumsen
Franz: Thomas Beheler
Inspector/Judge/Priest/Huld: Ryan Tumulty
Clerk/Mrs. Grubach/Leni: Kathy Gordon
Karl: Lee Liebeskind
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili Movement by Irina Tsikurishvili
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 866-811-4111 or