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The Threepenny Opera

  • Theater, Musicals
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The Threepenny Opera. Atlantic Theater Company (see Off Broadway). Book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht. Music by Kurt Weill. Adapted by Marc Blitzstein. Directed by Martha Clarke. With Michael Park, F. Murray Abraham, Mary Beth Peil. Running time: 2hrs 5mins. One intermission.

The Threepenny Opera: In brief

Director-choreographer Martha Clarke brings her fruitful imagination to bear on Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's classic musical (in Marc Blitzstein's seminal English adaptation), a cynical Weimar update of John Gay's 1728 satire The Beggar's Opera. The fancy cast is led by Michael Park, Laura Osnes, Mary Beth Peil and F. Murray Abraham.

The Threepenny Opera: Theater review by Adam Feldman

Martha Clarke’s staging of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 1928 The Threepenny Opera, a scabrous and disjointed work of epic musical theater, is almost perverse in its bloodlessness. This is, after all, the story of a killer: Adapted from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, it tracks the gangster Macheath (a dapper Park), also known as Mack the Knife, through scrapes with sex and the law. (It is also a jaunty satire of capitalism—the show’s criminal syndicates are businesses, above all—and human treachery.) But Clarke approaches it as though wearing Macheath’s trademark yellow kid gloves.

The director's emphasis is on the decadent picturesque, with help from Donna Zakowska’s ravished costumes and Christopher Akerlind’s jaundiced lighting, at the expense of the visceral; it’s all suggestively empty space and languid, distracting side vignettes (plus one adorable dog). Though a few performers evince some spine—notably the bell-voiced Laura Osnes as soiled ingenue Polly Peachum and Mary Beth Peil as her caustic mother—the direction yields a diffuse and desultory pageant that beggars the material.—Theater review by Adam Feldman

THE BOTTOM LINE A treat for the eye but a snooze for the mind.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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