Friday, April 11, 2014

The Threepenny Opera @ The Linda Gross Theater

The dark dynamic duo has found a new home this spring at the Linda Gross Theater.  Of course I am talking about the gloomy combination of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill with their classic work, The Threepenny Opera.
The Atlantic Theater Company has done Brecht proud.  Martha Clarke’s gritty, in your face production often leaves the audience feeling scolded and uncomfortable, something Brecht often seems to hope for in his pieces.  The staging brings the right balance of operatic and theatrical styles, indicative of the work’s place as a historically transitional piece of theater.  Though the ending was delivered perhaps with more loving optimism and reform than Brecht intended; the overall feel of the story maintained his disdain for class separation.  Also, the addition and redistribution of musical numbers allowed for some extra character exposition, strengthening the audience’s bond with the story.
Michael Park’s Macheath was a perfect blend of class and swine.  With the exception of a few angry outbursts that lacked honesty, his delivery was smooth and redeeming even as he twisted the knife.
Macheath’s ladies, however, were the real show stealers.  Jenny, passionately played by Sally Murphy, delivers all of her songs with brilliant conviction and is a wonderful contrast to Park’s cool demeanor.  Laura Osnes' vocals in her portrayal of Polly Peachum are a beautiful blend of modern theater and classic opera sound, further solidifying the transitional feel of the work. Lilli Copper as Lucy Brown along with Osnes, are comic gold in their duet.  Copper plays the comedy of the jaded lover wonderfully.  F. Murray Abraham and Mary Beth Peil as Mr. and Mrs. Peachum are both solid musically and have a brilliant definition to their characters but lacked the precise timing needed to successfully pull of Brechts sarcastic humor.
The lighting was very interesting at times but often confused or drew attention from the action at hand.  As a scenic touch, having the characters carry candelabras while changing sets was visually pleasing but pulled the focus from the main action on stage.  The use of shadows to enhance the size of the crowds was an interesting idea, though in execution caused distraction more than atmosphere.
The set stayed simple but useful throughout.  The orchestra deserves an extra commendation for its dual roles of music and atmosphere, both skillfully and tastefully delivered.
All in all, a thoroughly classic rendition of The Threepenny Opera with a few minor twists and turns along the way.  If Brecht and Weill are an unknown to you, this production is a great place to start.

Review By: Paul Morin

Photos By: Kevin Thomas Garcia

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