nytheatre.com Woyzeck Martin Denton · January 6, 2005
Claustrophobic and rather sensationally vivid, Andrew Frank's new production of Buchner's Woyzeck is every bit the angst-ridden young man's fever dream that it is billed as. It begins with a brutal murder: Woyzeck, the alienated young soldier at the center of this play who is widely regarded as drama's first "modern" protagonist, slits the throat of his pretty young wife Marie. Twice. The rest of the play, in flashback, tells us why, or at least tells us as much as it's possible to tell about why anybody does anything, which is indeed the crux of the play. It won't spoil a thing to say that it ends with a more detailed and bloodier rendering of the same murder, followed by Woyzeck's own death. It feels inevitable in the context of the drama; the question to toy with is whether it or anything is inevitable in life.
Jason Howard inhabits Woyzeck so organically that he holds our sympathy throughout, no mean feat. His is a very physical, very meticulous performance, and in the confined space we see it as if under a microscope. The rest of the actors are equally impressive: Nancy Sirianni, hard-edged and opaque as Marie; Edward Sears, stern but sensual as the Drum Major; Jeffrey Plunkett, dripping puzzlement and noblesse oblige as the imperious, enigmatic Captain; and, in smaller roles, Daryl Boling, Maximillian Davis, Fiona Jones, Mac Rogers, Benjamin Thomas, Jennifer Gordon Thomas, Kim Vasilakis, and Lex Woutas (who gets to deliver my favorite line in the play, as a drunk at a tavern: "I wish our noses were two of those flowers that clowns have, and we could spray each other in the neck").
Having never seen a production of Woyzeck before this, I am glad to have had a look at it. Frank and his colleagues satisfy our curiosity about this famous but not-so-frequently-done work of theatre. And they pique our interest in whatever they have in mind to do next.