Thursday, October 25, 2012

Woyzeck, a review

Things are not going well for Franz Woyzeck. The young solider is in love with Marie, a woman from the provincial German town where he is stationed. Marie and Franz' relationship has produced a child that was not born with the blessings of the Church. In order to earn extra money to support his child, Franz does odd jobs. He works for his captain who lectures him about the importance of morality. He has been paid to eat only peas for several weeks as part of a doctor's experiment. Franz is beginning to loose his vision, he is feeling weak. His dreams are haunted and he is starting to hear voices. On top of it all, Marie has grown tired of Franz and has turned her attention towards a handsome drum major. Franz Woyzeck is starting to lose it.

This is where the New Theater Production's rendition of Georg B├╝chner's "Woyzeck" begins. The dark play takes a look at a man as he loses control of his life, his body and his mind. EJ and I had the chance last Sunday to see the company's Halloween-conscious interpretation, which was light on narration and heavy on creepy imagery. The audience of 10 was led through the dreary Michigan basement of the Mix Theater by the master of ceremonies, a sinister, witch-like character who was about as comforting as a wolf herding sheep. I thought the whole thing was pretty spooky--not haunted house spooky--but there were times in that dark basement when I could really hear my heart pounding. EJ thought it was too scary, but she really doesn't like scary things at all. (She checked out emotionally about two-thirds of the way through and, by the end, couldn't feel feelings anymore. Only a burger and Boston Cooler at Sidetrack could revive her spirits.--Ed.) It should be noted that EJ did not read a summary of the play before attending it. (Huge mistake.--Ed.) She said that her confusion about what was happening in the play and what was about to happen made things a lot scarier.

Overall I thought that the New Theater Project did a good job with this season-appropriate material. The cavernous basement provided an opportune setting and traveling between spaces for the different scenes was both exciting and scary. The sets were very minimal yet visually striking. At times, the plot was a little bit confusing, though the sparseness of the narration was likely to emphasize the helplessness and slow descent into insanity that Woyzeck was experiencing. (And to scare the audience out of their bloomers.--Ed.) Linda Rabin Hammell's performance as the master of ceremonies was stupendous and a little disturbing. As the audience, you depend on her to guide you safely through the evening, but you also see her pushing the other characters to do terrible things. Throughout the play I felt very wary of her.

Here's the bottom line: Woyzeck is a great play for those of you who want to do something dark and spooky for the season, but might not want to go to a haunted house. The show runs this weekend and next from Thursday through Sunday. Performances are at 8pm and 930pm. Tickets are available online; students/industry cost $10.00 ($11.34 w/service fee) and grown-ups cost $15.00 ($16.52 w/service fee). Folks, if you are thinking about going to see this show, you should book your tickets soon: audience size for performances is limited to just 10.


  1. Want a far better rendition? Check out the Herzog film - way better.

  2. I saw it two weekends ago and loved it (as much as one can when being battered back n forth between scary and uncomfortable scenes)

  3. I've always thought of experimental productions like this to be rather unique (by walking the audience through and letting them experience the whole thing as if it really was happening). Though I think its appeal and impact would work only for productions that along the lines of woyzeck or had some intrigue in it.