Bertolt Brecht’s wry works are a distilled cocktail of bitterness and levity, love and death. His heroes are often unlikable, but their hardship filled stories entice an audience like a car wreck.
“Threepenny Opera” smiles coldly on the cruel reality of capitalism; 85 years after its debut in Berlin, the social ills still resonate.
Frank Theatre has brought the show to the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, where it runs through May 4. Critics have taken turns loving “Threepenny Opera” or feeling belabored by it. What’s your take? Is it “outstanding” or a “bit of a slog?”
Frank Theatre’s founder and director, Wendy Knox, has visited (and revisited) Brecht throughout the company’s history, from Mother Courage to an earlier production of The Threepenny Opera. The German creator’s fierce, honest approach to theater matches Knox’s own, and she relishes the opportunity to challenge our perceptions of what makes “entertainment.”
The Frankists do outstanding work with the Weill songs, starting with the always luminous Bradley Greenwald as the cheerfully evil Macheath. Greenwald charms, preens, smiles – and creeps us out entirely… Long, yes, but this Three Penny Opera is definitely worthwhile. The story is good. Director Wendy Knox, as always, dishes up an energized and intelligent production… And the music, of course, thrills.
Though sometimes underlit, Knox’s “Threepenny” is notable for the sheer assembly of vocal talent, all under the proficient musical direction of Sonja Thompson. Highlights include the “Jealousy Duet,” a startlingly gorgeous number by Juul and Lace Hawkins outside Mack’s prison cell. The two women’s voices interlace like two birds whose spiraling flight could be for fighting or courtship
One thing any production of “Threepenny” must struggle with is that the once-groundbreaking story and techniques of “Threepenny” are now commonplace in theater and film: “The Cellblock Tango” from “Chicago,” the emcee from “Cabaret,” the minimal set from “Our Town,” the marauding chorus from “Sweeney Todd” — they all come straight from Brecht, and they’ve all helped lessen the impact of what once felt revolutionary. And, when it doesn’t feel revolutionary, “Threepenny” — which the friend who attended with me accurately redubbed “The Threehour Opera” — can be a bit of a slog.