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Students take on `Woyzeck'

"Woyzeck," an unfinished play written by Georg Buchner in 1836, is being produced as a UNM student production at the Riverside Theatre.

A German physician and revolutionary activist, Buchner died of typhus at the age of 23, and none of his plays were staged in his lifetime. "Woyzeck" is loosely based on the true story of a soldier who suffered from schizophrenia and was executed for the slaying of his mistress. It is presented as a series of short, beautifully written scenes.

"Woyzeck" was the first working-class tragedy ever, according to Victor Price, who translated it into English.

"In writing it, Buchner departed radically from his previously expressed aim of keeping as close to historical truth as possible," Price wrote in the introduction to his translation. "He was concerned to write a tragedy, and his achievement was to do so with material, which 50 years after his death, was still regarded as unsuitable."

Critics have interpreted the play as Marxist, nihilist, expressionist and atheist, among other things. Though written in 1836, it was not produced until 1913.

Nick Lopez, a UNM senior and theater major, co-directs and stars in the production at the Riverside Theatre. He said he was exposed to the play in a contemporary drama class at UNM.

"Nobody else in the class understood it," Lopez said. "But, I felt like it was a play that needed to be done."

The play is a difficult one to produce, said Joe Pesce, Riverside Theatre's artistic director.

"It takes a lot of courage to stage something like this," Pesce said.

Lopez and his cast have added a few musical numbers, such as a lip-synched version of "Runaround Sue," which contrast nicely with the dark, heavy aspects of the story.

Lopez said he borrowed his father's old military-issue camouflage for the soldiers' costumes. No video monitors, special effects or other theatrical gimmicks are used in the show. The minimalist staging and overall absence of a set design allow the audience to focus on the words of the text.

Overall, the production is as unpretentious as its central character, and the acting is good enough to make the show worth seeing.

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The play runs at the Riverside Theatre Friday and Saturday at 8p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Call 254-8393 for ticket information.

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