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“I adore a funeral!” utters a chic, pin-thin matron clad in black as she welcomes the audience to Hanafuda Denki
, the Tokyo-based Ryuzanji Company’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera.
Performed in Japanese with English subtitles, this avant-garde interpretation is set in the 1920s, in a downtown Tokyo funeral home owned by a dead family; when their only daughter, Katura, falls in love with a living boy named Kitaro, patriarch Danjuro plots for a drop-dead-handsome nonliving boy to seduce Katura into the underworld. Though this crafty, raucous retelling sometimes struggles through a purgatory of muddled narrative and hellish humor, its bold concept provides ingredients for a well-balanced Brechtfast. Performed excitingly with a neo-Kabuki flair, the songs are sung into a single microphone passed around by the highly committed ensemble, who sing to kitschy, karaoke-like instrumental tracks that are funny and sometimes familiar (listen for Chicago
's “All I Care About”). You might ponder the point at first, but stick with the show: A piercing revelation at the climax will haunt you on your way out. (Visit our Fringe Festival page
for more reviews, and fringenyc.org
for more information.)—Derek Smith