March 10, 2015

Georg Büchner, who died in 1837, was a playwright so ahead of his time that the theater is still playing catch-up. Before his young demise, he wrote the historical epic “Danton’s Death,” the odd comedy “Leonce and Lena” and perhaps his trickiest play of all, the unfinished “Woyzeck,” which exists only in jumbled fragments. A definitive text, production or even an ordering of scenes proves elusive. Based on a tawdry true-crime story about an unstable soldier who murdered his common-law wife, Büchner’s play gives the tale an eerie Expressionist twist, showing how the military, the medical establishment and conventional notions of sexuality and masculinity further unhinge the title character. Writers and directors like Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Robert Wilson and William Kentridge have all gone up against the play. The latest to step into the ring, at the New Ohio Theater, is Jeremy Duncan Pape, the founding artistic director of No-Win Productions. With “Woyzeck, FJF,” a reference to the character’s first three initials, he doesn’t walk away with the championship belt (much of the production barely lands a punch), but it’s a brave thing to take on one of world literature’s heavyweights.