Coming out of the cage

Photo by Brian Morel
Photo by Brian Morel

Apes think with their bellies and when freedom is out of reach, the only solution is to cease being ape. Kafka’s Ape is a captivating monologue about Red Peter, a man who tells the story of his life from apehood to humanhood. In a renovated swimming pool, Infinitheatre presents the world premiere of Kafka’s Ape, Guy Sprung’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story, A Report to an Academy, at Bain St. Michel from Jan. 28 to Feb.17.

Members of the Peace Industry, the entrepreneurial world of mercenary soldiers, capture primate Red Peter and take him away from the Gold Coast of Africa. In his cage, he realizes he cannot be free, but he can escape by becoming Mr. Red Peter: a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking ‘Ou-man’.

Howard Rosenstein’s performance of Red Peter is not only physically impressive, but thought-provoking. The actor takes up the entire space and interacts with the audience. He shuffles from one end of the stage to the other, empties his glass of wine in a single gulp and leans over and looks straight into our eyes. Although his imitation of Homo sapiens is a satire, one can recognize one’s self and wonder: “but am I free?”

Red Peter’s wife, played by Alexandra Montagnese, remains off stage and yet, she is a fundamental element of the play. Much like a child, the she-ape is antsy and bored throughout Red Peter’s speech. In her full-out ape costume, she even succeeds in making some of the members of the audience genuinely uncomfortable. As the gap between human and ape narrows, the she-ape reminds us of how ridiculous we actually are: the shareholders who are quiet and too polite in our seats.

Kafka’s work was a major influence for the genres of existentialism and surrealism, but Guy Sprung really pokes our ribcage throughout the play. Many questions arise about our society and our freedom as Homo sapiens and animals. Whether or not we are different, or if we have merely domesticated and caged ourselves into thinking so.

Kafka’s Ape runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 17 at Bain St. Michel, 5300 St-Dominique St.

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