The Kafka hero played by William Atherton in Manhattan Ensemble Theatre's Off-Broadway production of the literary classic The Castle may never get through the door of the title edifice, but the show he inhabits broke through critical resistance and the winter slump to become a surprise Off-Broadway hit. After a two-week extension, the production will close on March 3.
The MET production, lauded for its set design and absurdist-comic staging, began previews Jan. 8 and opened Jan. 17. .
Joining Atherton in the cast are Catherine Curtin and Sean McCourt. Scott Schwartz is director.
The MET opened its new Soho space last spring with a dramatization of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. The Castle tells the bleak, nightmarish story of a man who continually tries and fails to gain entrance to the castle where he is supposed to report for work. Like the same author's The Trial, it is a grim depiction of the individual's losing struggle for meaning and equilibrium in a world of monolithic institutions and faceless, monstrous bureaucracy. According to MET, the English-language stage version being employed is by Max Brod, the friend of Kafka and executor of his estate who wisely ignored the novelist's decree that his manuscripts be destroyed after his death. The dramatization, once thought to be lost, was staged by Ingmar Bergman in Sweden in 1953, and in Tel Aviv in 1976. MET claims The Castle has never been produced for the English-speaking stage until now. Petra Lammers and Aaron Leichter rendered the English translation.
The MET 2001-02 season, which bears a distinctly European flavor, continues with The Golem by H. Leivick. David Fishelson adapted the Yiddish theatre classic from Joseph C. Landis' translation. Robert Prosky stars under Lawrence Sacharow's direction. The final selection on the roster will be Ordet. The new adaptation of the play by Danish dramatist Kaj Munk is drawn from both Munk's original text and Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1953 screenplay .
The MET space is at 55 Mercer Street in Manhattan. For information call (212) 925-1900.
—By Robert Simonson