Woyzeck, Georg Büchner’s dissection of a soldier who murders his unfaithful lover—a play at once expressionistic and icily realist—was left in a fragmentary state when its author died, from typhus, at the age of 23. While the piece waited almost a century for its 1913 debut production, it now enjoys wide recognition as an eerie precursor to much of 20th-century drama, with its visionary antihero and pessimistic take on human freedom. The last decade or so has seen productions mounted by such theatrical luminaries as Robert Wilson and, in an iconic 1997 version, Sarah Kane.
While the Horse Trade Theater Group provides a Woyzeck faithful enough to make clear what the fuss is about, its staging only fitfully displays the raw power and strangeness of this ungainly classic. The questionable decision to saddle Büchner with a trio of weird Andrews Sisters, garishly made up and serenading the unhappy Woyzeck with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” mostly creates a distraction from the play’s tragic intensity. Stephen Arnoczy has a nicely over-the-top turn as the platoon’s unorthodox doctor, but in general the performers mute the horror of Büchner’s vision; both Ryan Nicholoff as Woyzeck and Dena Kology as his doomed lover Marie struggle with the play’s complex tonal shifts. My advice: Wait for Gísli Örn Gardarsson’s production at BAM later this month.