Misery over mistletoe - Page 2

Shotgun Players mount Tom Waits' 'Woyzeck' for the holidays

Anthony Nemirovsky, Alex Crowther and Kevin Clarke in Woyzeck

The tale of this hapless soldier becomes a deeply resonant murder ballad in the hands of Waits and Brennan, a poignantly tragic love story that encompasses a wider wicked world in every beat and snaking melody. From the resounding opening theme, "Misery Is the River of the World," the music proves broodingly brilliant in its unfussy and crystalline poetry; alternately lilting, inebriating, and delicately forlorn in its inexorable pulse. An impressive five-member band (billed as Bob Starving and the Whalers) discharges its task with aplomb. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Cory Wright, Josh Pollock, (musical director) David Möschler, Ami Nashimoto, and Travis Kindred, the band perches on the second tier of Nina Ball's grimly urban split-level set behind the louche partition of a beaded curtain. The cast, meanwhile, renders respectable, if rarely exceptional, vocal treatments throughout. But the music is compelling enough that respectable works quite well.

Jackson (a Shotgun company member, and the principal conspirator behind last season's worthy premiere, God's Plot) takes a sure and playful approach to the staging, which pays off dramatically in several scenes (especially those involving the excellent performances by Estlack and Clarke). But the staging (including the costuming by Christine Crook) proves gratuitously naturalistic at times, drawing our attention in distracting directions through certain overloaded signifiers of status, like a fast food bag or, less intrusively, a candy bar that substitutes for a cigar (hey, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar). The almost perfunctory attempt to ground the action in an immediate American context also flitters across some of the line delivery, albeit only slightly, as when Marie (a generally solid and enchanting Brown) sings, in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," of forgotten soldiers from forgotten wars. While it may make perfect sense at one level, the production's self-conscious emphasis on the here and now can also muddy the waters of a work that otherwise peers deep into the abyss of a much wider sea. *


Through Jan. 27

Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm, $23-35

Ashby Stage

1901 Ashby, Berk



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