Buggin’ out! BAM’s ‘Metamorphosis’ is a real change

Buggin’ out! BAM’s ‘Metamorphosis’ is a real change
Photo by Eddi Jonsson

If you thought the book about a guy transformed into a bug was haunting, wait until you see it on stage.

Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” comes to life on stage this month at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene.

The classic tale of alienation, from Iceland’s hailed Vesturport Theatre, doesn’t use any extreme makeup or costuming to show salesman Gregor Samsa’s transformation from man to bug; rather, it hinges on actor Gisli Orn Gardarsson’s lithe, mesmerizing physicality. Thanks to some production magic — the second floor of the dual-level set can turn 90 degrees — as well as intense training on Gardarsson’s part, the actor can climb walls and swing from the rafters for some spellbinding aerial feats.

“It’s probably the hardest thing I have done in my whole life,” said Gardarsson. “The more awkward, and thus hard, [the movements], the better it seemed to look. Every morning after a performance when I wake up, I feel like I’ve been hit by a train.”

Lighting also plays a large role in conveying Samsa’s solitude. Upon turning into a bug — and no longer able to provide for them — his horrified family shuns him to his upstairs bedroom, a dark, shadowy place that contrasts to the drab, well-lit sitting room underneath. And then there’s the melancholy, dreamlike score by the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis that punctuates this darkly funny yet horrific tale about human nature.

“The energy and inventiveness that Gardarsson brings to his productions is a powerful reminder that there is no substitute for the sheer thrill of live performance,” said Joe Melillo, BAM’s executive producer.

Kafka, though, might disagree.

“Metamorphosis” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater [651 Fulton St. near between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at 7:30 pm, and Dec. 5 at 3 pm. Tickets $25-$65. For info, visit www.bam.org.