I don't know why nobody has thought of this before!

Portrait of a Literary Giant, Hanging by a Thread

There are people who love puppets, there are people who love Kafka, and there is almost certainly a subset of people who love both puppets and Kafka. Their moment has arrived.

“Puppet Kafka” at Here Arts Center takes plot elements from a couple of Kafka's works and merges them with elements of Kafka's life to create a — well, to create something about 85 minutes long. It's not really clear what this piece, written by B. Walker Sampson and staged by Drama of Works, is trying to accomplish, but there are dashes of inventiveness and humor. Members of the aforementioned subset, at least, will feel well rewarded.

The focal point of the play is “The Metamorphosis,” Kafka's story about a man who turns into a giant bug. But there are also elements of “The Trial,” in which a character named K is arrested for unknown reasons, and exchanges between Kafka and his friend Max Brod, who preserved Kafka's works after his death against Kafka's wishes.

Most of the fun here is in the puppet creations. The bug is a delightful critter concocted from baskets and other odds and ends. A life-size inquisitor (manipulated at times by two puppeteers) has enough body language that you hardly notice his lack of a head. Flexible-necked lamps also come alive, to startling effect.

The puppeteers are fully visible, and the director, Gretchen Van Lente, has a fine time playing with perspective. The humans look like giants. It's disorienting, and maybe that's the point.

“Puppet Kafka” continues through May 10 at the Here Arts Center, 145 Avenue of the Americas, at Dominick Street, South Village; (212) 352-3101, here.org. (Source)

What it's missing is a fiery showdown with a giant Harry S. Truman puppet, but you can't have everything. Thanks, Dave!

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