Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: The Audience Plays Buchner

Not everyone should be a playwright. Especially an entire audience. It's no secret that Woyzeck, the Georg Buchner classic, was never completed due to his untimely death. Because of the incomplete script, scholars and artists alike have debated the way it should be presented. In Chop-Chop-Zig-Zag Woyzeck, director, adaptor, and translator Leanora Lange presents a modern retelling of the drama. The catch? The audience gets to pick the scene order. A literal choose your own adventure. The thesis is that Woyzeck doesn't need to be done chronological. The story can live in any order you see fit. Sadly, the random version doesn't quite work. At least in the version we crafted. There are parts of the story, predominantly in the beginning, that could be moved around but for the most part, a clear narrative is essential. Woyzeck’s journey to madness has a certain path. The way Lange presented this adventure was by placing two sheets of giant paper with scene titles and had the audience yell out the desired order as scenes would cut. The trouble with this game is with what Lange offered through text, if you had no prior knowledge to the Woyzeck story, you'd be entirely lost. The points were hit but the arcs were nonexistent. It truly was a chopped up adaptation.
photo by Satoshi Tsuchiyama
This production is a pretty stripped down show. The color coordination of greyscale and red was cohesive and a smart choice. But then the doctor wore green which threw things off. The theatrical presentation with red curtains flanking the paper and seating on the sides allowed for a dramatic environment and easy access to the action. The way Lange offered the piece was crafty. But by chopping the paper (once the roll of tape was gone) after suggestions, momentum was stalled. There was much lag time in between moments. Perhaps giving the audience the scene list prior to start and then pick the entire show at the top before the first scene begins would allow smoother transitions and a consistent flow.
Chop-Chop-Zig-Zag Woyzeck was more acting experiment than play. You can't deny the thesis was smart but it was also troubled from the start. Lange is on her way to something, but she needs to take back some power from the crowd.