Tom Waits Sets Music to 18th Century Play “Woyzeck”, Dismal Yet Inspired Production
Waits’ Album Blood Money Narrates 18th Century Play
Tom Waits’ music will grace the Ashby Stage in their newest production Woyzeck through January 27th. The original musical score by Waits and Katheleen Brennan are songs from his album Blood Money. They accompany this more than 200 year old story of a soldier dealing with PTSD when he returns home from the army to find his wife cheating on him. Expect circus sounds, cracked-out dancing and a lead female role that looks like Sharin Foo of the Ravenonettes or Blondie. The play was originally completed in 1837 by Georg Büchner, but this version (with musical direction by David Möshler, directed by Mark Jackson) is certainly updated for our time.
Each character felt like an extension of a side of the different personalities that Waits portrays in his film roles and albums. The classic Waits archetype is down on his luck, scorned by a society that does not understand him and probably never will– the government is corrupt and parents are not competent to care for children. But at the least the devil is on his side. Oh and women always have red lipstick. Usually red clothing too. Hell, mostly they get both. This play is not for everyone. There have been countless re-writes over the last two centuries due to it’s famously fragmented nature. Many directors see the passion this story conveys and then work with the basic original script– director Jackson seems to have chosen to stick to the primal and rough feel of the story for this interpretation.
Personally, what I love about how strongly this play exuded a Waits aura was it’s quirkiness. But many songs and scenes that were meant to reiterate the fundamental feeling of life being cruel seemed too basic to me. Although that philosophical outlook fascinates many people, I personally would not mind a little complexity woven into the material Büchner gave them so many years ago. That being said, the actors had great commitment to their roles, and the band did a superb job with the broken down circus sounds, banging the drums at a hypnotic pace and volume, that kept the rhythm of the story strong and fascinating.
By Shauna C. Keddy