There’s an old line about no one ever walked out of a play whistling the scenery. But in the YoungLiars production of Burrow, an adaptation of a Franz Kafka short story that probably was left unfinished before he died of tuberculosis, the set is a grabber, before the lights dim and an actor appears.
It’s a one-man show, adapted and performed by Jeff Skoblow. Anyone familiar with Kafka will know it’s not surprising that it leaves the audience guessing, at least a little. Skoblonow’s character has created the burrow, a sort of hobbit hole. He’s very proud of his domain, passages and widenings and the “castle keep”, a large central area. At first he seems almost to be agoraphobic, afraid to go back out into the world above ground, but once out, he frolics in the freedom and light. It’s when he returns to the burrow that things begin to get dicey.
The unnamed character is, one eventually realizes, probably not a human. But his thought processes chart a course that evokes what may be a delusional very human illness. So is this really a burrow or a human-style abode? There are no answers here, just questions – not unlike the previous YoungLiars Show, The Dispute. Skoblow is almost hypnotizing in his hour-plus monologue. No other actors, no intermission.
The company is using the basement of the Centene Building, and guests gather in the lobby before being led downstairs and seated in small groups at curtain time. They warn the audience that it might be a little claustrophobic for some, and if anyone leaves, they cannot be readmitted, cautions that probably will be unnecessary.
The set, or as they describe it, scenic environment, is from Kristin Cassidy is so fascinating, it becomes another world. Every old suitcase in Midtown seems to have been gathered (a couple of which may have belonged to my grandfather, from the looks of them) as the beginning of this excellent hodgepodge. James Wulfsong did the lights, the sound design is from Adam Frick and Maggie Conroy was in charge of costumes, including the excellent crocheted skullcap Skoblow wears. Chuck Harper directs.
There are shows where the costumes are the eye candy, where the language is what draws the patron, where the acting mesmerizes. But here, one has to give the set as much credit as the adaptation and the acting.
through October 29
Centene Center for Arts and Education