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Review Roundup: Atlantic Theater's THE THREEPENNY OPERA

Atlantic Theater Company's revival of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's musical The Threepenny Opera, directed and choreographed by Martha Clarke, opens tonight, April 7 and plays through Sunday, May 11, 2014 off-Broadway at the Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th Street).

THE THREEPENNY OPERA features a celebrated cast of 15, including Academy Award winner F.Murray Abraham, Sophie Bortolussi, Jon David Casey, Lindsey Dietz-Marchant, Timothy Doyle, Lilli Cooper, Rick Holmes, John Kelly, Sally Murphy, Tony Award nominee Mary Beth Peil, Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes, Emmy Award winner Michael Park, Cristina Spina, Paola Styron and John William Watkins.

THE THREEPENNY OPERA features scenic design by Robert Israel, costume design by Donna Zakowska, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind, sound design by Clive Goodwin, animal training by William Berloni, and casting byTiffany Little Canfield, CSA, Telsey + Company.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Unfortunately, this chic-looking but pallid staging of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's scabrous musical drama is also pretty toothless. Directed and choreographed by Martha Clarke, the production moves efficiently and with a stylish gait through the underworld of London thieves, beggars and whores scheming to get ahead in a cutthroat world. At just over two hours, with intermission, it's certainly the thriftiest "Threepenny Opera" I've yet seen. But while Ms. Clarke does a fine job of composing decadent yet decorous stage pictures, she doesn't seem able to elicit performances with the requisite salty tang from her talented cast.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: [Clarke's] overall atmosphere, at times almost dreamlike, is neither terribly edgy nor cartoonishly vulgar...Diverse staging ranges from sprightly (a group of beggars indoctrinates a new member in their deceptive arts), to vaudevillian (inept sleeping cops unwittingly aid a jailbreak) while allowing pauses for poignant renditions of dark and often abrasive ballads...Clarke's presentation of the Brecht-Weill classic may be more dreamlike and less harsh than other New York productions have been, but retains the essential core of dark humor that softens the bleak heart of this musical.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: But Ms. Clarke, who came to fame as one of the founders of Pilobolus Dance Theatre and has since specialized in dance-driven performance-art works, is less at home with words. Not only do the dialogue scenes lack bite, but the staging is unfocused (too much stylized group movement, not enough here's-who's-talking clarity). While I've never heard a "Threepenny" production that was better sung or played, the rough edges of Weill's score have been blunted in the process. It doesn't help that the cast is for the most part both smooth-faced and pretty-voiced...To be sure, this small-scale production, for all its polite polish, is far more to the point than the Roundabout Theatre Company's glammed-up 2006 Broadway revival--but it lacks the sock-in-the-jaw impact without which no "Threepenny" revival, however well sung, can hope to hit the mark.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Broadway has had two big disappointing attempts at this mother of all alienation dramas in recent memory -- once with Sting in 1989, the other with Alan Cumming in 2006. But not until the Atlantic Theater Company's new intimate version, directed and choreographed by image-visionary Martha Clarke, have we had a high-profile "Threepenny" that captures the pleasures and critiques of corruption, subversions and debauchery without feeling like a post-decadence fashion show. This is a rough and slinky production, condensed to a little more than two hours. It is relatively free of tricked-up effects, unless you count the charismatic, absurdly well-behaved bulldog that licks corpses, hangs out with the gangsters and, spoiler alert, plays Queen Victoria at the coronation with a killer deadpan.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: It's not a good sign when a show's most memorable and colorful performance comes from the four-legged cast member. But that's the way it goes for the Atlantic Theater Company's anemic and sometimes tinny-sounding reboot of "The Threepenny Opera."...Despite a cast of seasoned pros, Clarke's vision of the dark and moody Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht opera, fails to come together in a compelling or cohesive way.

Check back in the AM for updates!

Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia

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