He's turned Orestes into Orestes: I Murdered my Mother and rendered The Seagull as The Seagull: The Hamptons: 1990's . Now the Worth Street Theater Company's Jeff Cohen turns his attention to Georg Buchner's modernist classic Woyzeck. Cohen's new adaptation, set in the American Army during the civil rights movement, is retitled Whoa-Jack!.
The show, which started previews Jan. 15 and opened Jan. 18, was scheduled to run only through Feb. 7 but was later extended to Feb. 14. The theatre's answering machine message quotes laudatory passages of a New York Times review of the show -- certainly one reason for the production's extension.
In Woyzeck , Buchner communicated the horror and hopelessness of the modern world through the title character, a hapless, miserable soldier, who -- abused by his militia Captain and cheated upon by his wife -- is finally driven to the meaningless murder of his spouse. The fragmentary, prescient work predated such dramatic movements as absurdism and such social phenomena as the rise of the working class and the trend toward random violence in society.
Alban Berg later turned Woyzeck into an opera. Buchner's other plays include Danton's Death. He died in 1837 at age 23.
In Cohen's adaptation, Woyzeck is Private Jackson, a soldier made the target of his Captain's racism, a set of Tuskeegee-like medical experiments and the sexual betrayal of a white major. Accompanying the story is a soundtrack of jazz standards, sung by Queen Esther. Also in the cast are Michael D. Brown, Genie Sloan, Peter Shaw, Darius Stone and Roy Barnitt. Cohen directs. For information on Who-Jack! at Worth Street, call (212) 604 4195.
-- By Robert Simonson and David Lefkowitz