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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

'Opera' devilishly delightful

By Lauren Hoffman
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 15, 2005

If you’ve already seen Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil’s “Threepenny Opera,” chances are you’re still thinking about it. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for something pretty remarkable. Telling the story of Mack the Knife’s life as one of the most notorious criminals in London, this production continues to run in Kelsey Theatre this weekend.

The show is packed with solid performances by a uniformly strong cast, but there are a few real standouts.

Polly Peachum and her parents, played by Elizabeth Ghandour ’06 and faculty members Jim McKeel and Mary Martz, singing “Life’s a Bitch and Then You Die” is delightfully irreverent, charmingly choreographed and impeccably sung.

“What Keeps a Man Alive?” stands out as one of the only pieces performed by the company as a whole. Innovatively staged, it showcases the vocal strengths of the ensemble while reiterating Brecht’s view of life’s inherent darkness.

The show’s narrators, Max Wojtanowicz ’06 and Amy Trowbridge ’05, have the unenviable task of singing the same tune close to a dozen times throughout the course of the show, but they pull it off. Their sassy and fun choreography starts off with fresh energy each and every time.

“The Pimp’s Tango” sung by Jenny (Kate Olson ‘06) and Mack (Tom Borger ‘06) and danced by Becca Trombly ‘06 and Ben Hyde ‘05, presents the life of a pimp and his whore through words and dance – executed unflinchingly, with great artistry and without a hint of glorification.

Finally, in an intentionally unrelatable show, moments in which the audience can identify with the ethos of the characters are rare. In “Pirate Jenny,” however, Olson’s lament over her desperate desire to escape creates an undeniable audience empathy.

An amazingly complex show from a technical standpoint, “Threepennny” is nonetheless incredibly united. Its design, which melds the feel of Victorian England and 1980s punk rock, gives the show an almost timeless feel while remaining visually pleasing – especially the punk feel of the light and costume design.

The central set structure remains the same for the duration for the show which, complimented by the professionalism of the technical staff, makes for smooth transitions and overall cohesion in the piece.

The show does stutter slightly a couple times along the way – Mack performs numerous songs prior to his death, and while they are sung very well, they drag a bit. There are also moments, though they are few and far between, when some of the vocals are difficult to hear. Because of the complex nature of the show, there are a few elements of the piece that are hard to understand after only one viewing. And if you are looking for a happy ending, you aren’t going to get one (and you’re going to be subtly mocked for wanting one) – though most people, including this reviewer, will probably see this as a strength.

It’s dark, it’s seedy, it’s sexual, it’s raw but it’s also real. The underlying message of the show is that if “Threepenny’s” reality is something that offends you, do something about it.

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