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Review by Sean McQuaid

Woyzeck was a funny thing for the UPEI Theatre Society to tackle as its latest major production. Funny as in odd, not funny as in ha-ha (there's not much to laugh at in Woyzeck, though there are a few black chuckles to be found). It's a somewhat unsatisfying play-short and none too sweet, an unfinished meditation on man's inhumanity to man and the resultant erosion and corruption of the individual psyche. This territory has been covered in a meatier, more entertaining fashion by other playwrights many times over (Beckett, Mamet, Miller, Pinter and Stoppard all spring to mind), so I'm not sure why UPEITS would focus its energies on a work as fragmentary and fleeting as Woyzeck.

The play is certainly not without merit-but it's not exactly the pick of its thematic litter, either; and with a running time hovering somewhere around an hour, it's not the fullest evening of entertainment one might hope for-assuming, of course, one is entertained at all. Many might regard Woyzeck's cavalcade of cruelty and futility as depressing and pointless, though one man's meaningless misery is another man's thought-provoking revelation. At the very least, Woyzeck (like the recent Rorschach) might have been well-served by pairing up with another short work to form a somewhat more substantial double bill, perhaps with a less dismal companion piece to serve as a counterpoint.

Setting aside the virtues of the play itself, UPEITS did a creditable job of bringing Woyzeck to life. Richard Thomas Haines's stark, bleak direction captures the feel of the piece with minimal sets, costuming and props-little is present to fill out the dreary twilight world of Woyzeck apart from the actors themselves, who seem appropriately lonely and solitary figures in more than a few scenes. The quality of the performance is inconsistent, though; Ben Hughes is a great superficial match for the title character, looking and sounding every inch the broken man, but his Woyzeck sometimes seems more lifeless than hopeless--and on a more technical note, Hughes was one of several cast members who seemed to be having trouble with projection in the MacKenzie Theatre space. When a great deal of the dialogue (including much of the lead's lines) verges on the inaudible, something is amiss.

On a brighter note, several of the supporting players make consistently strong contributions. Nick Kenny exudes a smarmy self confidence as the Drum Major, for instance, and Trenton MacKinnon is a hoot in his several roles, most notably the cheerfully sadistic doctor who helps drive Woyzeck to madness. Overall, though, this production echoes the uncertain quality of its source material: a darkly thoughtful but uneven and vaguely unsatisfying work.

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