Thursday, April 19, 2007

Woycezk Scores Big for the Monmouth College Theatre

Despite the proclamations in the program and the protestations of the cast, George Buchner’s dramaturgy and Professor Janeve West’s directing skills trumped Bertolt Brecht’s alienation theories last night at the opening of the Monmouth College Theatre’s production of Woycezk. Right from West’s opening image of the toiling characters pushing a heavy and barely yielding world, with no assistance from a deus ex machina, was there ever any doubt that the audience was going to be on the side of the downtrodden masses. No amount of direct address, placard like scene announcements, inserted songs, or open to view lighting effects were going to deter us from hating the swilling and pontificating minions of the academic/scientific, business, and political worlds and attaching ourselves to good soldier Voyczek and his Marie.

Though written in the 1830’s and then literally lost for some fifty years, the play now seems ripped from the daily headlines. Woyczek begins hearing strange voices and acting unusually. Science can only offer him a curative diet of peas while the rest of society offers up liberal doses of alcohol, phony religious fervor, and chicanery to dull the senses. There is no solace anywhere and Voycezk begins to crumble under the onslaught. With his beloved Marie attracted to another soldier, his aberrations move inexorably toward violent pathology. And like so many others in both real life and fiction, he snaps and takes his revenge--not on those in high places, but on his fellow sufferers. Whether in 19th century Germany, Bagdad, Oklahoma City, or Virginia, it is the innocent who seem to pay when Everyman cracks.

The student acting ensemble gives their hearts to multiple roles and it is hard to single out anyone other than to say that they are playing together with style and youthful energy. Doing double duty as lead actor and scene designer, senior Greg Malek caught the downward spiral of a soul heading for hell impressively. Stephanie Haas as Marie shared the single most impressive scene with Malek as her murder was replayed time and time again under the canopy of a filmy and amorphous puppet. It brought to my mind the conclusion of the film of Ambrose Bierce’s Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge when the heroine runs time after time toward her love just before the hangman’s rope tightens. Other expressionistic moments see the cast mimicking in unison various military or scientific movements in the background.

The set by Greg Malek is lit with perfection by Professor Doug Rankin, the music is just about perfect, and magnificent stage pictures are the order of the day. Voycezk plays again on Friday, April 20 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, April 21st at 2:00 PM at the Wells Theatre on the Monmouth College Campus. Call 309-457-2104 for more information. It will give you plenty to think about.

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