Emilia Di Luca
Tunes from the lobby outside pound at a closed door while guests quietly chuckle and sip pints around bistro tables in the dimly lit, ultra-hip Gladstone Hotel. Next to me, Mrs. Redpeter (Alexandra Montagnese) sips whiskey. She’s an ape.
Mrs. Redpeteris the wife of Redpeter (Howard Rosenstein), a humanized ape, whose only chance of survival after his capture is to be human and represent the Graywater Corporation. Based on Kafka’s short story A Report to an Academy, Kafka’s Ape, directed by Guy Sprung, invites the audience, as shareholders, to a Graywater presentation hosted by its success story, Redpeter.
For those who may not know, sitting next to an ape (in a dress and Marilyn Monroe wig to be exact) is deeply uncomfortable, especially when she leans on your table, plays with your purse, and grinds her pointy teeth. The uneasiness of this experience is a testament to the show’s brilliant acting and daring theatricality.
In a tux, Redpeter begins his speech just beyond two monitors, while his less civilized wife sits next to me “oo-ooing” and “hee-heeing”. Redpeter slips in and out of his ape nature, at times, passing gas and revealing his ape derriere. So when he shakes the hands of audience members, you bet the entire room stiffens. The venue implicates the audience and erases the absurdity of the situation (a corporate presentation hosted by an ape-man).
The realness of the show also stems from the costume and make-up team (Ariane de Miomandre and Vladimir Alexandru Cara). I practically feel the sweat and salvia dripping down Redpeter’s glistening face. Mrs. Redpeter’s face, eyes, and skin disguise any human traces; the only thing missing is the smell.
The script remains a background to what is really happening: the tension of man versus ape toggles. Eventually, I grow a kind of sympathy for my neighbour, Mrs. Redpeter, which only makes me wonder: who’s the animal and who’s the human?
See Infinithéâtre’s Kafka’s Ape at the Gladstone Hotel as part of Summerworks Juried Series from August 10-17th. For more information, visit http://summerworks.ca/2014/portfolio/kafkas-ape-2/.