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NY1 Theater Review: "The Threepenny Opera"

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The latest staging of "The Threepenny Opera" has come to life at the Atlantic Theater Company. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.>/i>

Considering that Martha Clarke, a celebrated choreographer, staged this production of "The Threepenny Opera", it's rather odd to find that the show is best when it sings. It's of course no surprise that Kurt Weill's marvelous score with lyrics by Bertholt Brecht would be a highlight, but the rest of this uneven revival feels rather flat-footed.

Written in 1928, Brecht's Threepenny became an instant classic. And its unrelentingly cynical outlook continues to resonate today. But it requires the right combination balancing Brecht's satirical style and downbeat perspective while appealing to a mass audience.

The story centers on Macheath, notorious crook and philandering scoundrel, He's just married Polly Peachum whose own parents are con artists, running a scam business with phony beggars. Along the way we meet an assortment of prostitutes, cops on the take and henchmen - all of them corrupted souls.

Clarke's staging is problematic with poor pacing and strange directorial choices. The era is Victorian yet the costumes suggest 1930's. Transitions are slow and awkward; and energy is further dissipated as lead characters deliver their lines way upstage or off to the side. And except for the presence of an adorable bulldog, the production is rather predictable.

Happily, it's in fine voice. And the seven piece band under the direction of Gary S. Fagin performs those fabulous Kurt Weill tunes with rich authenticity.

So nice to see F. Murray Abraham and Mary Beth Piel as the Peachums though the company has yet to find a consistent acting style. With her dulcet soprano, Laura Osnes, one of our loveliest leading ladies, is perhaps too lovely for this work. And Michael Parks cuts just the right figure as that charismatic cad Mack the Knife.

Clarke's going for a naturalistic staging with nudity and suggestive choreography. But it takes more than bared breasts to evoke the kind of heat this production sorely needs.

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