Woyzeck on the Highveld 

Hailed as a cutting-edge combination of art and technology in its birthplace, this evocative if bleak South African production synthesizes puppet theater and film animation to tell the story of "a good murder, a genuine murder, a beautiful murder." A coproduction of the Johannesburg-based Handspring Puppet Company and Market Theatre Company, it's directed and designed by William Kentridge, whose script is adapted from Georg Buchner's unfinished 1837 tragedy Woyzeck. Buchner's play, based on a true crime, concerns a poor soldier who murders his common-law wife after discovering she's having an affair with a drum major, though Buchner eschewed the story's inherent sensationalism and focused on the social pressures contributing to his everyman protagonist's descent into madness. In Kentridge's version Woyzeck is a black mine worker, but the rest of Buchner's chilling critique of class inequities is left largely intact. This striking show features nearly human-scale rod puppets manipulated by (and sometimes interacting with) actors. The puppets' actions are remarkably believable despite their expressionistic, rough-hewn features; the interaction of Woyzeck, his doomed lover, and their child, for example, is touchingly delicate and ominous as the puppeteers' skill draws us into a world as real as any the theater can create. (Buchner's performing horse is replaced by a fully articulated puppet rhinoceros that rears up on its hind legs.) The onstage action is closely synchronized with projected images--charcoal cartoons that depict Woyzeck's deteriorating mental state through intricate use of symbols, including a bloody magnet that hangs over the landscape, pulling the characters toward their fates. This is grim stuff--stark, moody, and quietly relentless--that demands and rewards close attention. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 722-5463. Opens Thursday, September 15, 7:30 PM. Through September 17: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM. $18-$26.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ruphin Coudyzer.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Albert Williams

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery Water Tower Place
June 16
Performing Arts
The Book of Joseph Chicago Shakespeare Theater
February 02

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories

Follow Us

Sign up for newsletters »

 Early Warnings
 Food & Drink
 Reader Recommends
 Reader Events and Offers