In the Penal Colony, Franz Kafka’s 1919 short story about a torture machine in a prison camp that goes haywire, is the stuff of nightmares.
The plot centers on a camp official obsessed with a vicious contraption he's invented. It executes prisoners by slowly carving the alleged crime they've committed into their flesh. The torture ends when the machine kills them. When a visitor invited to witness the execution of an inmate using the machine refuses to see its merits, the official turns the device on himself. But the crazed torturer doesn't ultimately get the justice he's seeking.
And, come to think of it, so very, very timely.
"Kafka’s prescient story foreshadows much of what we are feeling today as our democracy faces so many challenges and seems at risk," says Brian Staufenbiel, the director of a new production of a chamber opera adapted from the Kafka story that plays Oct. 5 and 7 at Philip Glass' annual Days and Nights Festival in Carmel.