When German playwright Georg Buchner died at the age of 23 in 1837, he left the unfinished text of "Woyzeck" for editors, adaptors and audiences to debate for the next two centuries. Working from an English version by Bryan Kampbell and Derek Davidson, Raconteur Theatre Company should be commended for producing this proto-Expressionist classic. Sadly, director Jason Speicher and his cast succumb to some of Buchner's challenges, unable to bring clarity to the play's inherent difficulties.

When German playwright Georg Buchner died at the age of 23 in 1837, he left the unfinished text of "Woyzeck" for editors, adaptors and audiences to debate for the next two centuries. Working from an English version by Bryan Kampbell and Derek Davidson, Raconteur Theatre Company should be commended for producing this proto-Expressionist classic. Sadly, director Jason Speicher and his cast succumb to some of Buchner's challenges, unable to bring clarity to the play's inherent difficulties.

In keeping with Buchner's politics and aesthetics, "Woyzeck" lacks a traditional dramatic arc driven by cause and effect. Instead, the brief scenes present Woyzeck (Travis Horseman) as a puppet of his social condition. A military barber, he suffers abuse at the hands of his superior officer, the Captain (Courtney Deuser). Because of his poverty, Woyzeck submits himself to medical experimentation by his doctor (Catherine Rinella) to earn extra cash. Woyzeck can't prevent the handsome Drum Major (Mike Doyle) from seducing his common-law wife, Maria (Mary-Aileen St. Cyr Reid).

These random humiliations accumulate, eating away at Woyzeck's already fragile sanity. Horseman plays him like a bundle of open nerve endings, reacting violently to every touch. Raconteur's casting of a woman as the Captain lends an odd sexual dimension to Woyzeck's otherwise innocent misery.

Applaud Raconteur Theatre for taking on "Woyzeck" and its difficulties. It's too bad that the production leaves us - in the words of the Preacher who feeds the title character's despair - little more than "bones, dust, sand and dirt."