Story: A creature does its best to shield itself from unknown dangers by building a burrow beneath the ground’s surface. It has stored food and constructed various living quarters within the compound, which it has designed for maximum protection from any and all adversaries.
It fears at times that other creatures have found their way into its lair. It worries also about unsettling sounds that it hears which may be real or imagined.
Is there a truly safe place in which it may seek solace? Is there any meaning to its life beyond contemplation of the sufficient food and warmth which it enjoys? Can it venture occasionally beyond its nest’s perimeters without fear of being attacked or opening its den to unknown and unwelcome intruders?
As it scurries about its refuge, does it think about anything but the here and now? Is that all there is?
Highlights: Based on an unfinished short story by seminal 20th century writer Franz Kafka, Burrow is a tidy little adaptation by Jeff Skoblow that in itself is a weird, fascinating, bizarre, melancholy and curiously interesting play.
Skoblow’s measured performance and some inventive technical work make this world premiere presented by YoungLiars something completely different as well as cleverly intriguing.
Other Info: YoungLiars refers to itself as “a loosely-knit collective of like-minded artists committed to creating unique inter-disciplinary theatre performance, including both original works and radically entertaining re-imaginings of the classics.” That description certainly pertains to Skoblow’s adaptation of Kafka’s unfinished short story which, like many of the author’s German-language works, described fanciful characters and situations in naturalistic fashion.
Performed in the basement of the century-old Centene Center for the Arts, Burrow features an ingeniously designed set by Kristin Cassidy that includes a ceiling and walls mostly covered in some sort of brown paper mache that is made to resemble earth.
That eerie look is accentuated with some bizarrely selected props, a number of suitcases arranged tidily by the character with a smattering of throw rugs and lamps throughout its abode. Audience members are seated in a circle around the walls of the enclosure, which is spookily lit by Jim Wulfsong. Director Chuck Harper adds an ominous, brooding sound design and Maggie Conroy dresses the character like some sort of hermetic misfit.
Skoblow maintains a steady timbre in his voice throughout as he outlines a character which seems solely motivated by survival instincts. Yet, when he references the abundant food supply available, he makes the creature seem almost joyful. Beneath the sturdy physical appearance, he conveys a consistently unsettling vibe of loneliness and quiet desperation, even as he talks apprehensively about being discovered by someone or something else.
Is this a social animal? Man most certainly is, and one can argue that Kafka, and Skoblow, have etched a character with human characteristics, one that cries out for companionship in its solitary existence, which of course could be any one of us. Kafka’s writings contain plenty of torment and existential angst, and Burrow fits right into that element.
Harper’s direction allows Skoblow to weave his way surreptitiously around the venue, often in the dark as a mole would go about its business. He maintains a steady pace in the one-act play that keeps one’s focus on the character and its strange behavior.
You can accept the character as just an animal with a fundamental sense of survival, or something much more eloquent. Whatever, Burrow is a beguiling piece of theater.
Company: Young Liars
Venue: Centene Center for Arts and Education, Basement, 3547 Olive Street
Dates: October 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29
Tickets: $20; contact brownpapertickets.com
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photo courtesy of YoungLiars