Threepenny Opera: An Old Lesson About a Contemporary Crisis
By: Jeannette de Beauvoir, May 14, 2012
ROBERT TUCKER/FOCALPOINT STUDIO - Garry Mitchell stars as Mr. Peachum, Jo Brisbane as Mrs. Peachum and Michael Weber as the Street Singer in Eventide Arts' production of 'The Threepenny Opera.'
Eventide Art’s production of The Threepenny Opera has one more weekend to run at the Dennis Union Church, and sold-out performances indicate that if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a good idea to reserve your tickets now.
Set metaphorically in 1837 in London’s back alleys and on the Thames waterfront, director Ellis Baker says the play is "really about what can happen to people when they are not assisted by society in general in lifting themselves up from their destitution. It’s hard to be ignored and overlooked and criticized as inadequate by a society largely looking out for private interests rather than the plight of others.”
As we were leaving the show, my companion remarked, “They must have updated the script to reflect what’s happening today.”
No such luck, I told her—Brecht would be appalled (although perhaps not surprised) to observe that the financial sector hasn’t changed appreciably since his time.
Brother, can you spare three pence?
The Threepenny Opera
Produced by Eventide ArtsDennis Union Church Gertrude Lawrence Stage
713 Rt 6A, Dennis
Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM through May 20.
Thursday through Sunday shows are SOLD OUT! Tickets for the Sunday matinee remain!
To reserve tickets ($25) call the box office at (508) 398-8588
After all, as the audience is asked at the end of the play, who is the greater criminal: the man who robs a bank, or the man who founds one? The message is, alas, timeless.
When the play opened in Berlin in 1928, its first audiences had reasons for despair. Still reeling from the punitive measures of the treaty that ended World War I (out of 440 clauses, 414 were designed to punish Germany), the country was deeply affected by a seemingly innocuous play situated in another time and place—England, 1837, in the days leading up to Queen Victoria’s coronation.
Under the direction of Maggie Bossi, Kurt Weil’s edgy music is perfect for this socialist take on the world: always sliding in an unexpected key change or odd rhythm to throw the audience off and keep them wondering what exactly is going on.
As a result, you never find yourself completely relaxing during the performance.
Brecht would approve
Eventide’s casting is a little uneven, with some brilliant performances and a couple of lackluster ones. There were a few missteps, but the general enthusiasm and extremely high energy of everyone onstage—not to mention the creative and brilliant scene changes and driving music—keep it moving forward. And what a ride it is!
The show is absolutely stolen by Michael Weber, who acts as narrator and haunts nearly every scene in the play. In his hands, characters toe the line between the dramatic and the absurd, between pathos and bathos, and one cannot help but think that Brecht would have approved.
Other excellent performances seize and hold your attention. Garry Mitchell as Mr. Peachum, who laments at the onset that “human pity is my business … and business is terrible,” is believable as a man riding the wave of capitalism; his voice fills the space with thunderous self-righteousness.
While the play is about layers of moral dilemmas, Holly Erin McCarthy as the prostitute Jenny shows all of them within her own complex character; you feel that of all the people onstage, she’s the one you’d most like to get to know.
And the trio of inept, dastardly, loveable, and thoroughly wretched sidekicks to Mr. Peachum and Macheath are positively Dickensian—until they open their mouths and say things that you initially laugh at … before the real meaning sinks in.
Judy Chesley’s brilliant costume design deserves special mention. Every single dress, suit, uniform and other attire is spot-on perfect and simply gorgeous. I’d probably go to a show just to see her work.
Twenty percent of the show’s profits go to Homeless Not Hopeless, a nonprofit that helps homeless people get back on their feet by teaching them the skills they need to contribute to the fabric of Cape Cod. After you’ve seen it, you may want to give even more.