(Emily Pucell as Marie and Sebastian Hawkes Orr as Woyzeck)
The alienation and ultimate destruction of a man who wants to be rational and moral sounds pretty contemporary, especially these days as the tea baggers and birthers shout down anyone who pauses for a moment of actual thought. But Georg Buchner, a German dramatist, got there way back in the 1830’s with his play Woyzeck, a fragmentary and impressionistic tale of, as the Theater Ninjas call it, A Proper Murder.
It’s a devilishly difficult script to bring to life, as it has very few right angles or traditional scenes that come to neat conclusions. This requires the audience to engage the material with an open mind and a sense of adventure. And if you do, you find yourself rewarded by a tight and energetic production under the direction of Jeremy Paul.
Woyzeck (an tortured Sebastian Hawkes Orr) is a barber who is trying to get a grip on his life. But those in the upper classes, such as a Captain and a Doctor (Elaine Feagler and Katelyn Cornelius respectively, who each play additional roles), continually beat Woyzeck down. The play abounds with animal imagery and it often seems that horses are more valued by society than those grubbing about in the lower class, like Woyzeck.
Progressively dehumanized, Woyzeck begins giving in to his hallucinations and snaps when he sees his mistress Marie (a self-loathing Emily Pucell) coming on to a drum major (Val Kozlenko). And that leads to the violent confrontation mentioned above.
While there are some telling lines—Woyzeck in his delusion sees the place where he sliced Marie and says, “Why is that red thread around your neck?”—the power of the play is abstract. And it probably will remain so for many.
This is the kind of play that one wishes was presented as “Rehearsing Woyzeck,” for it would be fascinating to hear director Paul as he guides the actors through this dense work. Failing that, this one-hour production is a dandy workout for your cerebellum, and an early example of the kind of theater that later playwrights would delve into with gusto.
A Proper Murder
Through Nov. 21 by the Theater Ninjas at
Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor Avenue,