by Ed Malin · March 8, 2015
Mackenzie Knapp, Evangeline Fontaine, Jason Wilson, James Kautz, Isreal McKinney Scott | Russ Rowland
No-Win Productions presents Woyzeck FJF, Jeremy Duncan Pape and D.L. Siegel’s adaptation of the dark, experimental German play by Georg Büchner. Unfinished at the author’s death in 1837, Woyzeck has been reshaped over the years by adventurous dramatists, opera dudes, Tom Waits, etc. The main character is the soldier and eventual menace to society, Franz Woyzeck. What is “FJF” for, then? These are apparently Woyzeck’s first three initials. Let’s just say this production—true to this new company’s mission of examining humanity's struggle against obstacles that cannot be overcome—is about the man and how he feels.
But it’s set in an asylum; Alfred Schatz’s set has padded walls; these are not the barracks where the likeable Woyzeck (James Kautz) and his shell-shocked companion Andres (Isreal McKinney Scott) might be expected to live. The Doctor (Alessandro Colla) walks mechanically, greets Woyzeck and checks on his behavior and regular eating habits. The Captain (Jason Wilson) visits Woyzeck to get shaved. Woyzeck is involved with the gorgeous Marie (Evangeline Fontaine). The Drum Major (Mackenzie Knapp), mostly on his best behavior, is apt to make Woyzeck jealous. These are the recognizable elements of Büchner’s play.
However, director Pape has started the play near the end, with Woyzeck only slowly realizing what he has done to get himself deprived of his liberty. I won’t get into the violent, well-choreographed abuse that Woyzeck inflicts on others. I suggest you see it and think about how close a lot of people in the world may be to snapping. Perhaps some borderline individuals such as the real soldier in Leipzig who inspired this story might be riding the bus with you today. There is a compelling overlap of the asylum where Woyzeck ends up and the soulless, routine, dehumanizing army and other institutions which might not have changed much in the past 200 years. Indeed, Andres spends a lot of his time deep in thought playing a stylized game of backgammon against himself, grunting at the incomprehensibility of it all. It has never been an easy play, and it might not make you feel better afterwards, and yet it it remains interesting and relevant.