Monday, December 21, 2020

418. DER PROZESS [The Trial]. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

DER PROZESS [The Trial] [Dramatic Revival/German Language] AD: Jan Grossman; SC: Franz Kafka’s novel, The Trial; D: Oscar Fritz Schuh; S/C: Ursula Schuh; L: Heinz Kraile, Friedrich Schoberth; M: Eckart Ihlenfield; P: Gert von Gontard Foundation presents Szene 1971; T: Barbizon-Plaza Theatre (OB); 11/9/71-11/14/71 (8)

Note: No photos of this production are available.

Small-scale German-language productions offered by visiting German companies were a moderately regular part of the local scene in the early 70s, unlike recently where foreign-language theatre—aside from places like the Japan Society—has been extremely rare. The present work, presented by the touring group Szene 71, was a respectable version of Kafka’s nightmare novel about the tribulations of Josef K (Hans von Borsody). It appeared in repertory with Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe.

The Trial tells the kind of nightmarish tale that has come to be called Kafka-esque: a man is on trial for a crime about which he has no idea. He also has no idea of who is trying him.

“The production," wrote Richard F. Shepard, the sole critic covering the work, "is not an incandescent one, and it is possible that this was not the aim. Josef K, the enmeshed protagonist . . . emerges again according to the director's specifications, as a very average fellow. This, too, is valid, but on the stage the work does not build up as excitingly as it does in the book.

This ignores the fact that The Trial has received several notable productions over the years, most famously the one adapted and directed by the great French actor, Jean-Louis Barrault, who also starred in it. (If you have access to my book, From Stanislavsky to Barrault, you can read about it there). And, of course, there is the film made by Orson Welles, which he considered his masterpiece.