Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Synetic Theater Metamorphosis

By • Apr 13th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Kafka’s Metamorphosis based on the 1915 novella by Franz Kafka, newly adapted for the stage by Derek Goldman
Synetic Theater
Rosslyn Spectrum Theater, Arlington, VA
Through May 22
1:30, no intermission
Reviewed April 11th, 2010

When his or her name metamorphoses into an adjective, an author attains a special distinction. Among the favored few author/adjectives are Pinteresque (sinister, unnerving), Mametian (aggressive, profane), Dickinsian (unflinchingly detailed misery) and, of course, Kafkaesque (uncanny, anxiety-provoking).

The most celebrated example of the unique Kafka quality is the author’s 1915 novella “The Metamorphosis.” The story begins, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from a troubled dream, he found himself changed into a monstrous bug, a sort of giant beetle.”

And then the uncanniness and anxiety provocation increases . . . and increases . . . and increases — like a troubled dream. Kafka’z famous story has provided the basis for movies, graphic fiction, an opera and various stage plays. The latest of the plays is an adaptation by director Derek Goldman. It is receiving its premiere production at Synetic Theater.

The show is assuredly Kafkaesque — all dark shadows, stricken acting and music that expresses either impossible longing or certain misfortune. There is a narrator character: Franz Kafka. Goldman anchors the original “Metamorphosis” story with details from early 20th Century Central European history and with biographical information about Kafka. The narration tells of anti-Semitism (Kafka was a Czech Jew), family dysfunction (an abusive father, an ineffectual mother) and respiratory disease (the author was wracked by tuberculosis and died at 40).

All these informational implants offer literal interpretations of Kafka’s baffling metaphors. But they detract from the haunting archetypal angst that was the writer’s trademark. His was the pure distillation of an age of anxiety, a universal early 20th Century mood. “The Metamorphosis” has been read, taught and analyzed in every imaginable modern language.

Goldman undermines the limitlessly creepy unease of “What is going on and why is all this happening?” with confining literal explanations: “It was all a matter of familial malfunction, anti-Semitism and tuberculosis. ”

Synetic’s Metamorphosis is a departure from the company’s customary no words staging — just the eloquence of action, music, lighting, costumes, dance and scenery. In this show, all the actors speak. And they do so with strikingly expressionistic diction. The voices are either hot or cold, hardly ever warm or just chilly. It’s as if an eery Fritz Lang silent movie had been enhanced with a soundtrack.

The actors portray Samsa’s mother, father and sister as well as his erotic fantasy woman and the boarders the family takes in when Gregor, their sole financial support, can no longer work.

The company serves up a smorgasbord of uneasiness, unwellness, untidiness, uncleanliness, unhappiness, unpleasantness and unsuitableness. John Milosich as Samsa and Clark Young as Kafka, however, generate a solid sense of pathos, even tenderness. They interact with a touching combination of sorrow and sympathy. It is as if both characters are understanding and accepting characteristics that society in general finds incomprehensible and unacceptable.

Goldman’s take on “The Metamorphosis” is grim and unsettling. But it is also provocative and absorbing. It prods one’s thinking: how do we ourselves react to currently conspicuous “characteristics that society in general finds incomprehensible and unacceptable.”

From the Artistic Director

When Derek Goldman proposed Kafka’s Metamorphosis, I knew that it would be a perfect fit or Synetic’s Dreams and Nightmares season. The story of a man who transforms into a monstrous vermin gives us the opportunity to play with movement and incorporate sound design in a uniquely Synetic way. And who better to adapt the production than Derek Goldman, whose adaptation of Lysistrata last year won over audiences with its edgy staging and dialogue. We are excited to welcome Derek once again to bring his world premiere adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis to the Synetic Main Stage.

We are very fortunate to be a prt of the thriving arts community in Washington, DC Metro area and recognize the amazing talents throughout the community. We hope to continue to collaborate with courageous artists that share the Synetic vision of pushing the limits in creating new works of art that synthesize multiple disciplines. I am particularly thrilled to deepen my working relationship with Derek and further fuse our artistic visions to create an engaging and innovative production.

In many ways, the story is allegorical for Synetic. It comes precisely at a time in which we as a company are growing and transforming. Growing pains are inevitable as we shed our old skin and shift to different entity from where we started nine years ago. As Artistic Director, I hope that our audiences, unlike Gregor Samsa’s family, will continue to wholeheartedly support us as we evolve.

Thank you to Derek for bringing us this play and for your dedication – it is truly appreciated. Special thanks to the terrific artistic and design team – Irina, Konstantine, Colin, and our new designers Natsu and James – for their selfless collaboration and teamwork.

Enjoy the show!

Paata Tsikurishvili
Founding Artistic Director
Synetic Theater


  • Gegor Samsa: John Milosich
  • Franz Kafka: Clark Young
  • Charwoman, Ensemble : Charlotte Akin
  • Father: Steve Beall
  • Chief Clerk, Lodger, Ensemble: Frank Britton
  • Felice Bauer, Lady in Furs: Caitlin Cassidy
  • Lodger, Ensemble: Vince Eisenson
  • Mother: Annie Houston
  • Grete Samsa: Catalina Lavalle
  • Lodger, Ensemble: Matt MacNelly


  • Director: Derek Goldman
  • Stage Movement: Irina Tsikurishvili
  • Set, Costumes, and Properties Design: Natsu Onoda Poweer
  • Lighting Design: Colin K. Bills
  • Original Music by: Konstantine Lortkipanidze
  • Sound Design: james Bigbee Garver
  • Stage Manager: Megan Allen
  • Assistant Director: Hunter Styles
  • Vocal Coach: Nadia Mahdi
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Elise Lemle
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Lauren Cucarola
  • Sound Engineer: Eric Lott
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Phoebe Duncan
  • Photographer/Graphic Designer: Graeme B. Shaw
  • Videographer: Abby Sternberg
  • Technical Director: Phil Charlwood
  • Production Manager: Abby Lynch
  • Set Construction: Van Pham, Dania Cramer, Brandon Carey, Mike Clark, Lisa Grant
  • Master Electrician: Cheryl Gnerlich
  • Costume Construction: Sandra Abarca

Disclaimer: Synetic Theater provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review; and ShowBiz Radio Editor Michael Clark worked on the set load-in and build crew.

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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

One Response »

  1. Thank you very much for the review! I just want to ensure that your readers are aware that although Synetic has been highly regarded for its staging of wordless productions, there have only been five wordless adaptations since its founding in 2001 (our sixth is coming up next – Othello). All other shows contain text integrated with movement, mime, dance, and music. Thanks!