The deliciously dark and bizarre world of Franz Kafka is skittering across The Rogue Theatre stage, where two one-acts adapted from the Kafka's writings are playing.
One works beautifully; the other falters.
In "Kafka's Monkey," an adaptation of the short story "A Report to an Academy," the horror behind the humor is palpable.
But the stage version of his novella "Metamorphosis" is so stripped down that the work is robbed of the impact it should have.
"Kafka's Monkey" is given a devastating brilliance by its sole actor, Patty Gallagher.
Gallagher is a mesmerizing physical actor, and her slightly disjointed moves, the way she tilts her head and her awkward gait underscore the nightmare of the tale of an ape captured in the wild and brought to the city. His survival, he explains, was dependent on his denying his nature.
This adaptation by Irish playwright Colin Teevan is almost exactly the same as the original. But to have Gallagher bring it to life adds layers to the story.
We listen as the character Red Peter explains how he was captured and what he needed to do in order to live: mimic humans, repress memories, diminish his brothers and sisters in the ape world.
As he talks of the life he left behind, and the world to which he will never belong no matter how much mimicking he does, the realizations of the terrible price that is paid for denying your nature, for assimilation, unfold.
Gallagher, directed by Joseph McGrath, got every disturbing bit of this, and watching her made Kafka's story and all it says a powerful experience.
The second one-act, "Metamorphosis," did not have the same luck.
The acting was strong - especially by Matt Bowdren, who played Gregor, who wakes one morning to find he has changed from a man to a cockroach.
Gregor has long lived in fear - of missing his train to work, disappointing his bosses, letting down his family, which depends on him.
He has spent years refusing to change his circumstances; it seems the spirits have decided to do it for him.
While his body is now a giant insect, his mind is intact, which accentuates the nightmarish state in which he finds himself.
His is not the only metamorphosis in this play - his family's is just as important.
And this is where the adaptation by Cynthia Meier, who also directs the piece, falls short.
Meier has the family behind a scrim through most of the play. As shadowy figures, their transformation, from dependents on Gregor to a family whose fortunes improve as his disappear, is murky.
Also central to this story, but not clear in this adaptation, is how absurd life is, and of the awful consequences when there's a disconnect between the mind and the body. Or of the horrific lack of empathy.
What Meier has fashioned is a straightforward tale of a man who wakes up to find he has become an insect. The ripples of what that means to Gregor, his family and, especially, to us all, is never really an element of this "Metamorphosis."
• What: The Rogue Theatre's production of two one-acts, "Kafka's Monkey" and "Metamorphosis," both by Franz Kafka. Cynthia Meier adapted "Metamorphosis" from the story of the same name; Colin Teevan adapted "Kafka's Monkey" from the short story, "A Report to an Academy."
• Directors: Joseph McGrath ("Kafka's Monkey") and Cynthia Meier ("Metamorphosis").
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 17. There will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on March 16.
• Where: The Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd.
• Tickets: $20 for Thursdays; $30 for all others; $15 for students with valid ID, available 15 minutes before curtain.
• Reservations, information: theroguetheatre.org or 551-2053.
• Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, with one intermission.
• Get there early: Pre-show music, under the direction of Paul Amiel.