Woyzeck at St. Ann's Warehouse
First, a little Woyzeck backstory. The author of this relentlessly bleak play, the Prussian Georg Büchner, died in 1837, age 23, of typhoid fever. And in fact, he never even finished what has become one of the most influential, most frequently performed plays in all of German theatre: Woyzeck was only discovered after Büchner's death, in draft form, with its scenes separately bundled, and unnumbered, so no one really knows how it's "supposed" to go. And it was the first piece of German literature in which the working class—in this case, common soldiers—were the main characters. AND it was based on a true story, about a man named Woyzeck who had his head chopped off for murdering his mistress.
OK, cut to last Friday night, Dumbo's cavernous St. Ann's Warehouse, a packed house, me in row H, seat 111, not really sure why I'm there (other than I like to try new things), never knew any of the above, no idea what to expect. Because I'm such an amateur "experimental theatre"-goer, I'll just give a few overall impressions...
I thought the production's design was beautiful: the sets, the lighting, the propping, all of it... especially the way the enormously deep stage was transformed into a (somewhat creepy) forest. And Woyzeck's tricycle—both innocent and pathetic—was very effective. And that swinging window. And the jukebox, too.
I appreciated the blasting of loud music numerous times throughout the story (vintage Elvis Preseley was the big star... not usually my thing, but it worked well here), both as an audience jolt and because it nicely punctuated the narrative.
I thought the deliberately overwrought acting style was tedious, terribly distracting and totally uneccessary.
I thought Edward Hogg as Woyzeck did a tremendous job of evoking the horrible, consuming agony of betrayal and heartbreak and jealousy and rage.
I thought the book itself was alternately compelling—ruminations on class ("virtue is a luxury the poor can't afford"), and the taming of man's "animal" instincts, and Woyzeck's uncertainty about his sanity—and ridiculously mopey, with our hero prone to say things like "Look at the thick gray sky. Makes you want to stick a nail in it. And hang yourself."
I thought the play's ending, though inevitable, was unbelievably depressing.
I thought St. Ann's Warehouse was a very cool venue, and will definitely keep an eye out for other new things to try there. Woyzeck is running through December 3.