Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
The Threepenny Opera
by Les Gutman
Director David Fuller seizes on the piece's intended nature and thereby exploits the inherent limitations of the Bouwerie Lane Theatre to great advantage. As the production opens, the audience sees the exterior of an even smaller theater, the façade of which splits to reveal the multi-level set on which the play will be performed. (Fuller also uses the aisles and exits extensively, and at appropriate times the audience finds itself brought into the show as Peachum's beggars panhandle those well-connected enough to be sitting on the aisle.)
That Fuller is able to fit the action on the stage is due in no small measure to Roman Tatorwicz's set, which manages to squeeze a remarkable number of nooks and crannies into a very small space and give it precisely the grimy look it ought to have. At times, it nonetheless seems too cluttered with set pieces; a little more simplicity and a little less verisimilitude would have made for a better balance. Giles Hogya's often shadowy lighting suits the show well.
How well one is satisfied with this production will depend largely on one's willingness to accede to its unlofty aspirations. Weill's superb score is rendered entirely on a piano. (Even the herald's trumpet calls announcing the pendant coronation is a keyboard flourish here.) The singing voices of the repertory company members are a mixed bag: none inadequate but only a few rising above average. If you can manage your expectations appropriately, as I did, this production will reward you well.
The cast for this production relies heavily on relative newcomers to the company. Of the Cocteau long-term veterans, only Elise Stone has a major role (as Jenny). Her performance is robust, though singing is clearly not her strong suit. (In particular, her "Song of Solomon" is disappointing.) The brightest lights in this show are three young actors making their Cocteau debut: Amy Lee Williams, who plays and sings both edges of Polly well; Natalie Ballesteros, who gives us a fine Lucy Brown; and Chad Suitts as the dashing, handsome rogue Macheath. The older generation is well-represented by Angus Hepburn and Marlene May as the Peachum parents, and Abe Goldfarb as Tiger Brown.
There are few shows that open with a song as infectious as "The Ballad of Mack the Knife". Go and let it draw you in. You'll be comforted, as you watch other more elaborate takes on the show, that you're informed of the genuine article.
Threepenny Opera in the Berkshires
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.