A Review of Theatre AUM’s “Woyzeck”

This production comes from the mind of the director Val Winkelman, professor of theater at AUM. Her style in this production takes a deeply scarred character and adds whimsical illusions that cast a broken, steely light onto the strange scene. Each night’s order was determined by the audience. What should’ve been a chaotic mess of narrative pieces hurled into the audience’s lap instead fell together like sharp-edged puzzle pieces onto a black stage. Each scene presented itself on the edge of Woyzeck’s scattered mind, ready to fall into nothingness if done wrong. Additionally, Woyzeck’s character is juxtaposed between the ridiculously fantastic circus scene and the cloudy insanity that takes ahold of him as the play progresses. The audience does not see it this way, from beginning cracking to full mental break, but rather as short insights, like letting a book fall onto the floor, picking it up, and reading whatever page has been opened, over and over again. Uniquely, this does not make the play incomprehensible, but rather more intriguing.

Photo by Frank Williams.

The most powerful and memorable parts were the actor portrayals. Kodi Robertson, who plays the title character, insightfully and empathetically oozes the intricacies of Woyzeck’s insanity. Eyes unblinking, hands and fingers out like they are reaching for light in the darkness, and jaw taut, Robertson displays the complex and austere feelings Woyzeck has for his life. The character is frustratingly confused and paranoid, especially of his lover, Marie (played by Brittany Vallely). Considering the unique timeline this production takes, Robertson fantastically switches between murderous Woyzeck and his calmer, earlier self. The skill and mastering of such strong emotions, only to be switched so quickly, is astonishing talent that is sure to only keep building.

Photo by Frank Williams.

Additionally, the supporting characters in this production were, by far, the most memorable, comedic, and relieving parts the play offered. Andes, played by Chris Mascia, is Woyzeck’s main confidant. Their friendship is Woyzeck’s only light, arguably. Mascia’s quick, short responses are perfectly timed and provide respite from the harshness of the surrounding narrative. The Doctor was my favorite character; Kate Saylor’s rapid-fire lines, spider-like stance, and Frankenstein-esque insatiability is twisted, dark, and hilarious, much like the wig she wore. Another standout performance was Tara Fenn’s rendition of Grandmother. With gypsy-style clothes and deep, echoing laugh, she is unforgettable.

Importantly, every actor and actress was phenomenal and provided emotionally charged, beautiful performances. If you missed this production, you missed a brooding, nearly morose production that spun you around but did not make you dizzy. Theater AUM is set to perform two plays in the Spring, and those will similarly be wonderful.

Photo by Frank Williams.

By Dana Horton