'Woyzeck' parallels mental health today

“Woyzeck” is not just another tragic love story, a classic “Romeo and Juliet” play. However the show was much less about the love story between Franz and Marie and directly highlighted the issue of mental illness.

The unfinished manuscript of “Woyzeck” was originally written by Georg Buchner. It has been finished by a number of authors, editors, and translators since his death in 1837 and is now a remarkable and widely performed play shown around the world. 

 Born in 1817 in Germany and the son of a doctor, it is no wonder Buchner wrote a playwright based off of a case he was familiar with in Germany in 1821. Johann Christian Woyzeck was publicly executed in 1824 after a public health officer proves he is not clinically insane and in fact fit to withstand the consequence for his heinous/grotesque crime. His life consisted of bouncing from odd job to odd job just to survive after being orphaned at the age of 13 and provide. After reconnecting with is ex-lover in 1818 things took a turn for the worse.

“Woyzeck” follows a soldier named Franz Woyzeck who has a degrading mental state and a diet consisting of just peas for a science experiment that he is involved in for extra cash to support his lover and child. It is set in Germany in the 1800’s yet the complex issues of mental health and domestic abuse highlighted in the plot are problems that are still all too familiar today.             The performance was captivating, humorous at times, and keeps you on your toes.

Right off the bat, actor Chris Goodman fantastically illustrates Franz’s issues with mental illness as he cries to his captain that he can hear voices coming from the ground and the wind while the captain dismisses him and even mocks him.       
    The audience gets a quick and clear character setup as the next sceneshows a townsperson calling Marie, Woyzeck’s lover, a slut for having a baby out of wedlock.
     These first couple scenes wonderfully set up the plot and provide the audience with a clear understanding of the characters, who they are and what to expect from them.

Although the plot is set in the beginning of the 19th century, the language of the play and tone of voice had a very modern feel.
     In addition, the tone was very slack rather than proper English that you would expect from a show set in the 1800’s. On the other hand, the costumes added to the time period and gave the audience a better sense of the setting.

This show is directed by Paul Draper who is Director of the Acting Program at Sonoma State University as well as a professor at Sonoma State University, teaching the Directing Workshop in addition to other courses. He focus on Shakespeare, Büchner, Brecht and Comedy.
     Draper has directed count
less other theatre shows including “Twelfth Night, ” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,”  “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Monkey King and Other Children’s Tales from Around the World” and many more.

“Woyzeck” will be showing in Ives 119 October 4 through 13. Tickets are free for Sonoma State University for staff and students with their student ID cards, as well as high school student groups. Tickets for the public range from $5-17.