Nineteenth-century German playwright Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, an unfinished horror story of the common man crushed by military and medical machines, has been fodder for myriad adaptations throughout the last century, and there’s no sign of its relevance or resonance abating. Woyzeck (Christian Levatino) is a troubled soldier, barely able to support his unhappy and unfaithful lover, Marie (Sierra Fisk), and their infant son. To make ends meet, he volunteers to perform petty tasks for his captain (Allen Andrews) and submits to abasing medical tests, predicated on a diet of only dried peas. The more his body and mind deteriorate from this treatment, the more he is targeted for abuse from everyone around him. Director Bob McDonald places the action in a nebulous world of contemporary Western politics and military confusion. Despite his rapid pacing, he mines every powerful emotion and moments of ugliness and cruelty in stark detail. Areta Mackelvie’s outstanding light design is the more impressive in this small, spartan space, with its obviously limited supply of lighting instruments. Married to the fine lighting is a sharp and sometimes shocking sound design by Adam Phalen, which magnifies McDonald’s intensity. My only quibble comes with several comic interludes, which seem a bit forced, in the style of British music hall, taking it out of the present-day hell so vividly imagined by the creators. Little Victory Theatre, 3324 W. Victory Blvd., Toluca Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Dec. 14. (818) 841-5422.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: Nov. 7. Continues through Dec. 14, 2008

LA Weekly