Prague Fringe 2015
An ape named Red Peter has evolved to behave like a human. He presents his tale and the details of his former life to a top scientific academy. Based on the short story by Franz Kafka and adapted by acclaimed German director Gabriele Jacobi.
Kafka’s work can be tough to present. Somehow he always seemed to find the bleakest point of view in anything he wrote about. Bleak can be dramatic, but it also can be unrelenting. These details of the life of an ape, expressed in human terms, are pretty raw and visceral with little or no hope for a glimmer of happiness. SCENA, the production company, gives this show a brave try.
Mr. McNamara brings a circus ring master voice to the material, which lifts it above morbidity. SCENA sets him on a bare stage with just a couple small tables, a chair and a stool. In the otherwise unadorned Studio Rubin venue the visual effect is as if the character is still in an ape’s zoo cage, minus the bars. Mr. McNamara wears a rumpled suit, black, red striped tie, and a black fedora hat with a red band and torn sneakers suggesting that apes are not much for sartorial splendor. As the ape, Mr. McNamara struts in front of the audience pointing to the wounds he received when being captured. Half of his face is painted red as if scarred and his pronounced limp remind us of the places where the bullets landed.
Mr. McNamara is a strong actor with a physicalization that slightly indicated an ape. His transformation from ape to human was subtle and I could not tell when he intended it to happen. His ape does not have much of an emotional life. This made it difficult for me to relate to the character or to sympathize with it, which is appropriate for a story by Kafka.