When Karl Rossmann steps off the boat in New York Harbor, he is thrust into a whirlwind of adventures. The world he discovers in "Amerika" is beautiful and grotesque—he finds work in a hotel with forty-seven elevators, shares a room with a magnificently rotund opera singer named Brunelda, and seeks out the fantastical Nature Theater of "Oklahama," where hundreds of actors dressed as angels play trumpets from atop golden pedestals.
Begun in 1911 and never finished, Kafka's first novel is a wild fantasy of the New World, drawn from travelogues, news reports, and a hefty dose of his own imagination. Both a utopian vision of the future and a nightmare of capitalist excess, Amerika represents the little-known, more playful side of this great twentieth-century master. After a hugely successful collaboration on The Miser, the A.R.T. welcomes back director Dominique Serrand and the Theatre de la Jeune Lune for this exciting world premiere.
The bridge that joins New York and Boston hung graceful over the Hudson, and trembled when you screwed up your eyes.—Franz Kafka, from Amerika
Produced in association with Theatre de la Jeune Lune and Montclair State University's Office of Arts & Cultural Programming.
The seventeen year-old Karl Rossmann has been banished to Amerika by his parents, because a maid seduced him and had a child by him. As his ship arrives in New York Harbor he realizes that he has left his umbrella below deck, and he sets out to retrieve it. Karl meets the ship’s Stoker, who is lodging a complaint against a fellow employee. Through a series of extraordinary coincidences, Karl finds himself representing the Stoker before his long lost uncle, now a state senator and a shipping magnate.
Karl’s uncle takes him to his New York apartment, where he learns English and the National Anthem. It isn’t long, though, before the boy is swept up once again in a whirlwind of adventures that leads him to a mysterious country estate, a massive hotel where he works as one of forty-seven elevator boys, and the secret hideout of Brunelda, a soprano so large you might mistake her for a sofa. In each episode the characters that Karl meets, and the adventures they lead him through, become increasingly grotesque, until he arrives at the strangest place of all—the infamous Nature Theater of Oklahama.