Review: Marie It's Time Takes on Woyzeck and Kinky Sex
Minor Theater presents Julia Jarcho's three-actor remix of Büchner.
It is tempting to suspect that Georg Büchner was visited by time-traveling dramaturgs when he began writing Woyzeck in 1836. Although never officially completed, its economical scenes and unflinching look at the indignities suffered by the working class feel more contemporaneous with Brecht and Treadwell than with Schiller and Goethe. Woyzeck is undoubtedly a play ahead of its time.
Julia Jarcho's Marie It's Time is a play very much of its time. Developed by Minor Theater and now appearing at HERE, it takes a "fresh stab" at the events of Woyzeck, the story of an overworked, undernourished soldier named "Franz" who murders the mother of his child in a jealous rage. Jarcho, who also appears onstage, has stripped the story down to its central characters: She shares the role of Marie, the "doomed baby mama," with Jennifer Seastone (several scenes feature the two Maries speaking to each other, opening up the internal life of the character). Jarcho also takes on the role of "Frank," a guy that certain unsavory corners of the Internet might refer to as a "cuck."
Several male characters from Woyzeck have been distilled into a band front man, played with magnificent swagger by Kedian Keohan. Styled like a bad boy from Degrassi (subtly perfect costumes by Hahnji Jang), Keohan saunters across the stage in an alluring synthesis of sexiness and laziness. Their vocal fry and perma-smirk betrays a dude just barely out of adolescence, someone who takes amusement in the pain of others.
Throughout the evening's 75 minutes, Keohan performs several tinny synthpop numbers (music by Jeff Aron Bryant, lyrics by Jarcho) with Jarcho and Seastone occasionally serving as backup dancers (simple and fun choreography by Pauli Pontrelli). Ebony Burton dynamically lights these moments, dazzling us with several strings of Christmas lights. Despite Meredith Ries's overly complicated and incredibly wide set, director Ásta Bennie Hostetter makes these moments feel like a concert in an underground bar. It's certainly a more exciting place for Marie to be than at home with the baby, whose presence is felt through a jarringly looped squeal (sound by Ben Williams and Elliot Yokum).
Much of the script is spoken through microphones, an increasingly overused device that nevertheless provides a level of intimacy here. In a sadistic spin on ASMR, the three actors articulate foul sexual requests and make degrading comments about one another's bodies in a dark demonstration of art imitating life imitating art (specifically our increasingly baroque pornography, which has surely had some influence on sexual expectations away from the computer screen). "I'll keep hitting you the whole time I'm inside you," Jarcho intones. "I wanna see how still you can be."
Do women merely tolerate this kind of talk from sexual partners they find attractive (or materially useful)? Or are some genuinely turned on by the intersection of sex and violence? These are interesting questions when the dating market has been radically expanded to all of Tinder, and the only barrier to socially acceptable sex is consent.
However, in reframing Woyzeck as a story of sexual possession and perversity in hipster land, Jarcho omits complicating details that might lead to a richer drama. The character of "Frank" has been reduced to a barber, completely erasing his side hustle as medical test subject as well as his full-time position as a soldier (a state-sanctioned purveyor of violence). Woyzeck possibly consented to the latter (although he may be a conscript), and he certainly consented to the former, consuming only peas for three months in order to earn extra money for Marie and the baby. Just because he agreed to it, does that make it OK? In a time when it is impossible to raise a family on one full-time income (unless you are an investment banker or artistic director of a large not-for-profit theater) Woyzeck still has more to say about our world than Marie It's Time.