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Adapted by Steven Berkoff

the Catalyst Theater Company

to Oct. 9

Like a modern-day child actor, Gregor Samsa supports his family members doing work he didn’t choose, and he’s enslaved by their dependence. Rather than escaping via drug abuse or private security work, Gregor wakes up one morning transformed into an insect. Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis begins as Gregor (Scott Fortier) struggles to get out of bed at 8 o’clock, four hours behind his regular schedule. It’s difficult, you see, managing all the new legs and the exoskeleton. And Gregor’s bourgeois family isn’t interested in his problems; they care only that he get on out to work and not cause them embarrassment by, say, requiring a doctor. Mr. Samsa (Nigel Reed), retired because of ill health, seems actually relieved of the burden of being grateful to Gregor. “It’s not like he’s our son any more,” he says, “…that creature.” Mrs. Samsa (Valerie Leonard) coos encouragingly, but she suggests that Gregor is changing in order to get out of work he hates. (Even so, she’ll never face the truth about what he has become.) Rounding out the family is Gregor’s chirpy sister, Greta (September Marie Fortier), the only one who can bear to care for Gregor as he becomes even more imprisoned by his insect body than he was by his previous life. Once the immediate crisis passes, the family becomes surprisingly functional and self-sufficient, with no room for a dung-beetle son scurrying under the furniture. The Catalyst Theater’s brisk, intense production, directed by Jim Petosa, alternates between an arch formality of the supporting Samsas in their right-angle world—thanks to Alexander Cooper’s square-tiled floor and sliding chain-link panels, which transform from walls to Gregor’s cage as they close in on him—and the messy animal chaos of Gregor’s transformation. Fortier becomes an insect not by concealing himself with costume or makeup, but in the same way he became John Merrick in last year’s The Elephant Man (for which performance he won a Helen Hayes nomination): through his own incredible contortions. Having gone to sleep as a man, he wakes up as an insect by freezing interminably in mid-abdominal-crunch, forced to listen to his family’s speculations on his failure to go to work. He walks on knees and fingertips, his disjointed motions and distended shoulder blades creating the framework of his insect body. Ultimately, Gregor prefers to spend his time on the ceiling, and Fortier crawls, jumps, and clings to a kind of hanging pot rack over his bed. His round eyes and frantic clicks and hisses communicate his panic as, finally, his family ceases to attend to him. Petosa draws out the humanity in the lesser Samsas as they begin to flourish following Gregor’s transformation. Where once they marched in lockstep around his room, Father now comes to suggest a nice walk out in the fresh air, and when they bring in a lodger to make up for Gregor’s lost income, Greta’s flirtatious looks suggest that there might actually be a whole world for her outside the Samsa terrarium. After all, Gregor was sacrificing himself anyway.—Janet Hopf