Franz Kafka's letters to his father get a theatrical treatment in Greenwood Heights

The Brooklyn Paper
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Fans of Oedipal anxiety and existential terror rejoice!

“Letter to My Father,” an hour-long solo show that resurrects Czech writer Franz Kafka, puts him behind a desk, and has him read an unsent message he wrote to his father while on his deathbed, opens May 10 at Magic Futurebox Theatre on 33rd Street between Second and Third avenues in Greenwood Heights.

“Basically it says, ‘You have emotionally abused me my entire life and because of that I am a shell of a human being, but it’s not you, it’s me. It’s my fault I’m so sensitive,’ ” said James Rutherford, the director. “Kafka’s father was like a god to him, and the piece by being so personal for Kafka is also so personal for anyone who hears it.”

Rutherford decided to bring the letter’s intensity closer to the audience by piping it directly into the their ears through headphones linked to a microphone on the desk where actor Michael Guagno — an old friend of Rutherford’s and a Park Slope resident, now making his Brooklyn debut — sits and speaks.

“Kafka talks ad nauseum about the barriers between his father and himself, so it adds to the piece to have this barrier between the audience and myself,” said Guagno, who will also use a laptop to cue atonal music and play sound bites whenever the author quotes his father’s words.

Rutherford said that he found Magic Futurebox — a 20,000 square foot warehouse — to be the ideal location to put on such a neurotic and cerebral piece.

“It’s an incredible space, really wild. I think of it as being like the inside of a human mind. And it’s a great challenge to create a sense of claustrophobia in such a huge place,” said Rutherford.

If all this sounds a little odd, and, well, a little uncomfortable, then Rutherford accomplished his goal.

“This isn’t the kind of play where the lights go down and the audience forgets they exist for a couple hours. It’s an overwhelming sensation and it’s impossible to not step back a little bit and consider your own relationship to your father,” the director said.

“Letter to My Father” at the Magic Futurebox Theatre [55 33rd Street between Second and Third Avenues, Greenwood Heights. (646) 470–6321] May 11, 7pm. Visit

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at
Updated 5:32 pm, July 9, 2018
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