Kafka’s ‘Burrow’ Closes This Weekend At The Centene Center For The Arts In St. Louis

 In Culture, Feature

Let’s assume, for a moment, that your significant other doesn’t want to go out and have fun anymore.  Crazy, I know, but stay with me.

It’s become perfectly normal:  “siloing” is where people withdraw, deep in their own personal spaces, unaccountable to anyone they may regard as different.  As Woody Allen might say, it’s when people hunker-down to “create their own moral universe.” Dig up your hermit and take him to Franz Kafka’s very last, unfinished story from 1927, any way you can:  it could be the perfect antidote for social aversion.

In “Burrow,” one man hides from the world in an underground lair. Jeff Skoblow adapted the original, “Der Bau” for the stage (or, more precisely, for an eerie performance space) and acts out this unbroken 65-minute tale himself.

It all begins in the basement of the Centene Center of the Arts building, in the Grand Center Arts District. We are ushered (four at a time) through a heavy door, into a narrow, cave-like tunnel.  And we end up in a cramped underground room, which is very atmospheric.

Soon we discover that Mr. Skoblow’s  performance is nearly devoid of rhythm, but somehow full of rhyming manias—as if, untethered from the regular interruptions of other people, all his thoughts and theories go rushing one way and then another. Being devoid of the usual restrictions of time and space, everything exists for him in a single doomed, eternal moment.

The first half of the story is furtively descriptive of this man’s rituals, and his anxious will to protect secrecy and security.  Just looking at the circumstances, you’d say he’s mad,  but surprisingly it’s a performance devoid of itches and twitches.

In the second half he seems almost frantic, building a wall of suitcases at one end of the burrow, against some unknown “Beast” stalking him through the earth.  Or, it may just be the sound of his own survival instinct kicking-in, against an oblivious creation.

Chuck Harper directs, making “Burrow” more than a Halloween event.  In the end, it becomes a shadow-play of all men, enraptured by their own authority, but secretly in love with chaos.

Catch the performance, now running through October 29, at the Centene Center for the Arts.

Photo by David Phillips.

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