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“Objection, objection! Strike ‘crazy’ from the court! Before it spreads like an infection! Humanity breeds insanity!” With such lyrics comes the new rock musical “Damned,” a tale with special interest to members of the criminal psychopath defense bar. Based on the career of Denis Woychuk, who at age 32 became the first full-time lawyer assigned to the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on New York’s Wards Island, the songs and script are not for the faint of heart. “I won’t say it’s everybody’s cup of tea,” Woychuk conceded. “Some people find that cannibalism is a little distasteful.” Not that cannibalism is all. To be sure, a full menu of ferocity is offered by the musical, an adaptation of Woychuk’s book, “Attorney for the Damned: A Lawyer’s Life with the Criminally Insane” (The Free Press, 1996). The production — notably for its elegantly savage songs — is very much the cautionary tale of what may happen to the psyche of a young lawyer whose clients are insane. “The hero is really haunted by his past,” said William Electric Black, the musical’s director, co-writer and lyricist. “He’s this Willie Loman tied-down character, and one day the memories start coming back. Like, ‘Hey, Denis, remember me? I’m the guy you got off, the guy who cut out his girl’s heart.’ “It takes a toll on him,” said Electric Black, also known as Ian James, a staff writer for “Sesame Street,” the long-running children’s television show. “It basically destroys his belief in the legal system. “He’s at the point where he’s had too many clients who’ve done hideous things. He either goes beyond the job — he’s starting to hear the voices his clients hear — or he has to leave the job. “When you do the right thing [as a defense lawyer], is it always right?” DIFFERENT SORT OF BAR As for Woychuk’s real-life choice in the matter, he opted to quit and open a bar in the neighborhood of his youth, a Ukrainian enclave of the Lower East Side, where his father was stabbed in the bad old days of the 1980s. Now age 48, Woychuk holds court, as it were, at the unusually situated KGB Bar, on the second floor of the former Ukrainian Home on East 4th Street. Conveniently, the building also contains two stages, the street-level Kraine Theatre and the upstairs house, known as the Red Room, where “Damned” is staged on Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 15. “It’s the downtown art scene,” Woychuk said of his little empire. “Nobody’s got any money, but everybody’s on the verge.” As a sometime lawyer, Woychuk frequently provides informal counsel to customers who engage in such blue-sky chatter as million-dollar book and performance contracts. “But I’m not looking for additional clients!” he insists. “I give advice, so long as they realize it isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on.” Since opening KGB and related stages in 1993, he has also had occasion for legal work on his own behalf. An assumed name for the bar and a long-running real estate squabble, for instance. “First I had to deal with the insanity of a corporate name clerk who insisted that it was illegal to name something the KGB,” Woychuk explained, with reference to the Committee for State Security of the former Soviet Union. Thus the official name of the place: the Kraine Gallery Bar, so called for the art gallery he first envisioned for the street level space. “Then I was only able to buy the building this year, after years of threatening litigation over the original verbal agreement.” The world of law was a natural choice for Woychuk. “Everybody in my family was a lawyer,” he said. “But that was back in the days when lawyers would go to the office and do a little work and then go play golf.” Before hiring on with New York’s Mental Hygiene Legal Services, Woychuk worked in private practice as a corporate litigator. That career path was short-lived. “One of our clients was trying to evict old people from their homes in Florida in order to convert the buildings into condos,” Woychuk said. “It was kind of hard for me to get fully behind this.” Defending those accused of gruesome crimes seemed more desirable. “Besides, there was a basketball court on the 11th floor. So I stayed for 10 years, mainly because I’d play with the cleaning staff. These were kids from Harlem who could ball like nobody’s business.” STILL WRITING Nowadays, he runs the bar and broods on his days at Kirby — and writes. At various stages are two manuscripts, “The Good Psycho” and “Cruel & Unusual.” Both, of course, deal with the deranged. “It’s what I know,” he said. “And anyway, we’re all living with madness. Any apartment house I’ve ever lived in, it strikes me that about 20 percent of my neighbors are seriously mentally challenged.” Woychuk has a less intense side to his personal and literary life. He is the father of two little girls, and the author of as many children’s books, “The Other Side of the Wall” and “Pirates!,” about the romantic adventures of a mouse called Gustav and a hippopotamus named Mimi.

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