Franz Kafka began his first novel, Amerika, in 1912, a year after he'd become infatuated with Yiddish theater--considered a backward, embarrassing cultural artifact by "respectable" (that is, assimilationist) German-speaking Jews in Prague. A champion of this extravagant, schmaltzy, shabby form, Kafka befriended impresario Itzhak Lowy and even lectured on "the Yiddish tongue." In Ken Prestininzi's dizzying, vibrant Amerikafka, Yiddish theater literally comes back to haunt the dying writer, as Lowy brings his troupe to Kafka's sickroom to enact an absurd, fractured adaptation of Amerika. Prestininzi's hallucinatory script swirls in a hundred directions as though the bold, cheap exaggerations of Yiddish theater were blowing apart in Kafka's tubercular imagination. Director Kate Hendrickson thankfully does nothing to simplify Prestininzi's bewildering text, trusting the suggestive power of confusion. While the players' exaggerated performances often degenerate into histrionics, the sheer volume and force of the acting help keep this unwieldy script, now receiving its midwest premiere, barreling forward. Through 7/30: Thu-Sat 8 PM. Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, 773-384-0494. $17; two for one Thu.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Beata Pilch.