Unhappy Ending

In this tragedy, humanity is drowned in a sea of artifice

Chad Deverman, meanwhile, appears to be channeling every Hollywood romantic lead from James Dean to Tom Cruise in his personification of Büchner's anti-hero. Impossibly fresh-faced and handsome with a penchant for staring intently into middle distance as Russell Crowe might from the bow of a ship, Deverman looks no more beaten-down by the end of the drama than he does at the beginning. Far from being "stripped away and oppressed," this Woyzeck is almost superhuman. The constant presence of sound and music designer Cliff Caruthers' "mood-enhancing" backing tracks only serve to heighten the contrivances of the acting. Deverman doesn't perform his role like the other actors in the play, but the portrayal of his character is no less synthetic in its own way.

The problem with all this artificiality is that it leaves no room for even the smallest glimpse of humanity. If we are to understand what it is that drives Woyzeck to commit suicide in such a difficult, unnatural way, we must see Büchner's protagonist first and foremost as a human being. Only then can we begin to understand his demise. In Herzog's film it's precisely because of the increasing haggardness in Kinski's face and the tightness in his body that his watery suicide rings true. His is a profoundly desperate performance — a true, "poor, bare-forked animal" — whose only recourse is to follow that knife to the murky depths.

David Sinaiko (as the Captain) and Chad Deverman (as Woyzeck) in a scene from the play.
Rob Melrose
David Sinaiko (as the Captain) and Chad Deverman (as Woyzeck) in a scene from the play.


Through April 7
Tickets are $15-25; call 419-3584 or visit www.cuttingball.com.
Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St. (at Eddy) S.F.

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In the Cutting Ball's boldly erratic production, the nearest we get to the world of flesh and blood is a two-minute scene involving an actor pretending to be a horse. The dehumanized suicide — rendered all the more stylized through the use of mime — fits the dehumanized character. But the integrity of Büchner's apocalyptic vision of humanity sinks hopelessly out of sight.

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