Tragic Love for the Holiday Season
We’re in the holiday homestretch, but even as jingle bells grow louder, some theaters have opted to keep the "no" in Noel. Let us travel first to Shotgun Player’s Ashby Stage, where the production may be a musical, but not one with any rest for ye merry gentlemen. Indeed, the first song in Tom Waits’ score for "Woyzeck" is titled "Misery Is the River of the World," and its lyrics declare that "if there’s one thing you can say about mankind, there’s nothing kind about man.’’
German playwright Karl Georg Buchner died in 1837, before he could tie together the fragments of his play "Woyzeck," which has lured numerous adaptors to mold the material in different ways. Alban Berg’s opera and Werner Herzog’s film are two famous examples, and in 2000 gritty folksinger Tom Waits, his wife and songwriting colleague Kathleen Brennan, and avant-garde director Robert Wilson teamed for the third time to create a Woyzeck of their own. Frequent Shotgun director Mark Jackson is putting his own stamp on the Waits-Brennan-Wilson concept.
"The music seemed to set something free on a poetic level that straight translations of the text alone had never done for me," Jackson says. "Music is the universal language that articulates feelings that words alone can’t get their tongue around."
Played by Alex Crowther in the Shotgun production, Franz Woyzeck is a low-ranking soldier who takes on a series of demeaning jobs to augment his salary and provide for his companion and their child. When he learns of her affair with a strutting drum major, both the betrayal and his own grueling history lead him to murder. Buchner based his text on an actual event that ended with a specificity that the playwright didn’t get to provide for his drama, and which is another open door for adaptors to pass.
"Woyzeck’s tragic love for Marie and, through her, the society he fought for and is now spurned by, is quite palpable," Jackson says of the humanizing elements that the songs bring to the grim story. Woyzeck will run through Jan. 27 at the Ashby Stage; tickets at www.shotgunplayers.org.
Encore for Hedwig
The Boxcar Theatre is celebrating during the holidays if not exactly for the holidays, inasmuch as the title of the show at hand references a botched sex-change operation. But the reason for celebration is that Boxcar is remounting its summer hit production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" with a few new flourishes to an already radically reconceived production.