The reviews are in for Frank Theatre’s Threepenny Opera

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?”

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

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.”

From John Olive at

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.

From Rohan Preston at the Star Tribune:

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

 From Chris Hewitt at the Pioneer Press:

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.

  • Karen Seay

    At the excellent panel discussion after this afternoon’s performance of Frank Theatre’s Threepenny Opera, the point was well-taken that any production of this or any other Brecht work should start with the expectation that the producers/director will consider and embody current political and social realities. Brecht himself expected no less. This production does just that, shining an eerie spotlight on the easy re-emergence in our era of societal values not considered morally defensible since the Gilded Age. While entertaining and even, ironically, fun, the production raises the question in my mind as to which despicable characters in Threepenny Opera I disapprove of most and why. In the end, I conclude that whoever it is and whatever the reasons, I must indict myself alongside them, because I know all too well the types of justifications and compromises they all offer for their moral failings. Most of us readily use them to disclaim much responsibility for the common good, particularly for common good that includes those already on society’s margins or beyond. The play holds up a mirror, not for us to admire ourselves, but perhaps to actually see ourselves as we are vis a vis our fellow human beings, many of whom we may rarely really see or think about.

    Bravo to Frank Theatre for their first 25 years and for having the courage, wisdom, and skill to offer our community another compelling opportunity to both enjoy and learn from Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.