Chillingly eccentric take on Büchner

Sean Graney offers up a chillingly eccentric take on Büchner.
By John Beer
5 stars

Büchner, inconsiderately enough, died before completing his 1837 masterpiece of visionary angst, thereby leaving interpretive quandaries galore for generations to come. Graney’s exuberantly eccentric production layers Woyzeck with apparent distractions, including numerous German-language tags and a stuffed reindeer. That it also yields a bracing, inspiring performance may be a tribute above all to the capaciousness of Büchner’s haunting scenario.

Not surprisingly, Graney spotlights the comic aspects of Woyzeck’s plight—his fussily condescending commanding officer, the pea-obsessed Herr Doktor. But it’s a feverish comedy, as bits of ominous dialogue circulate repetitively around the stage and Woyzeck’s enormous knife makes frequent appearances. The ferocious violence of the play’s climax turns out to have been perfectly prepared by the piece’s Kubrickian opening: The performers come on in hazmat suits, as though the play itself is radioactive. With its coda, in which the risen Marie (Gavel) congratulates us for watching a “beautiful murder,” this fiercely inventive take suggests it just might be a little toxic.