Review: Joey Hood Delivers a Breathtaking Tour de Force Performance in W

By: Aug. 23, 2016
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W is a new play that is a translation of Woyzeck which was written by Georg Büchner. This new translation by John Hood has been adapted by Zachary Christman. Büchner's original work remained incomplete at the time of his death. It has been posthumously "finished" by multiple authors, editors and translators. Woyzeck is one of the most performed and influential plays in German theatre. It is believed Büchner began writing the play in 1836 and it remained in a fragmentary state when he died in 1837. Woyzeck was first published in 1879, some 42 years later, in a heavily reworked version by Karl Emil Franzos. It would be another 34 years before the play was first performed on November 8, 1913 at the Residenztheater in Munich. Considered both naturalistic and expressionistic in tone, it is loosely based on the true story of Johann Christian Woyzeck, a Leipzig wigmaker who later became a soldier. In 1821, Woyzeck murdered Christiane Woost, a widow with whom he had been living, in a jealous rage. He was later publicly beheaded.

W, like Woyzeck, addresses the dehumanizing effects of doctors and the military on a young man's life. It is also an exploration of social conditions and poverty. At the core of the play's message is how characters of higher station equate wealth and status with morality. These characters are permeated by the belief that Woyzeck cannot have morals because he is poor. His exploitation by the Doctor and the Captain end up pushing him over the edge.

Franz Woyzeck is a soldier in provincial Germany. He lives with Marie, the mother of his child born out of wedlock and earns money for his family performing menial jobs for the Captain and by taking part in the Doctor's medical experiments. One of these experiments restricts Woyzeck to eating nothing but peas. These experiments break down his mental health causing him to experience visions. Marie, having grown tired of Woyzeck, sleeps with a handsome drum major. When he suspects Marie of infidelity, Woyzeck confronts the drum major, but ends up beaten and humiliated. In a jealous rage, Woyzeck stabs Marie to death by a pond. The fragment, as left by Büchner, ends with Woyzeck disposing of the knife in the pond and trying to clean himself of the blood.

This new version, W, hews very closely to the traditional story in the unfinished version by Büchner. Where it varies from any other production, or version, that I have seen, or read, is that all of the characters are played by a solo actor.

Joey Hood takes on all seven roles in this production in a breathtaking tour de force performance. Mr. Hood's performance is a master class in character development, tone and body language. Watching his work in this piece is absolutely spell binding.

Director Adam Roberts has done a phenomenal job with this mesmerizing production, guiding Mr. Hood with great style, impact and grace.

The tech work in this production is quite remarkable. Tyler Mabry's original score permeates and underscores the entire evening and is hauntingly eerie. Scott Ferguson's scenic design of antiques and found pieces draped in white and uncovered throughout the performance by Mr. Hood are striking in their simplicity. Jenny Lavery's lighting is devastatingly beautiful and superbly effective. While from my seat, I could not clearly see the film work by Jared Slack that served as punctuation to moments in the performance, the light overhead from those flickering images provided a sublime atmosphere to the proceedings due to the haze created in the room. There was no credit in the program for sound design, however, the sonic soundscape created for this production is remarkable.

It is quite likely that you will leave the theatre with many questions and much discussion of the experience you just had. And W is an experience, make no mistake. W is a new, thought provoking take that does exactly what the best theatrical experiences should do.

W, based on WOYZECK by Georg Buchner, Translated by John Hood, Adapted by Zachary Christman.

Running time: Approximately 70 minutes, no intermission. Please be advised this production uses haze and audience members should avail themselves of the rest rooms prior to curtain.

W, produced by The Austin Jewish Repertory Theatre and presented by JCC Austin - A Branch of Shalom Austin, at Trinity Street Black Box Theatre ( 901 Trinity St, Austin, TX 78701).

Playing August 17 - August 27, 2016. Performances are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8 PM.

Tickets available at