BWW Review: LENYA STORY at Renaissance Theater - A bloodless, passionless exercise in tedium.

BWW Review: LENYA STORY at Renaissance Theater - A bloodless, passionless exercise in tedium.LENYA STORY at Berlin's Renaissance Theater is a savagely misguided, heavy-handed slog through a poorly-written Wikipedia entry. Neither a play, a musical (jukebox or otherwise), a concert, a musical revue or any other kind of theatrical entertainment, LENYA STORY takes two of the most fascinating exports from the Weimar Republic, Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya and makes a bloodless, passionless exercise in tedium out of their lives and careers.

Lenya was Weill's on-again, off-again wife, his muse and the embodiment of his music. On stage and on record, Lenya's performances of Weill's music are legendary on both sides of the Atlantic. Weill, a very-successful Jewish, left-wing intellectual, was the go-to theatrical composer in pre-World War II Berlin. His collaborations with Bertolt Brecht resulted in THE THREE-PENNY OPERA, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY, THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS and many more. Weill fled Nazi Germany and became a fixture of the American theatre with more than a dozen Broadway productions of his works.

Sona MacDonald is a very fine actress, a beauty and is blessed with a pristine soprano that has served her very well throughout her long career. She is absolutely NOT a Lotte Lenya, in any way. Lenya was a fierce personality, a handsome woman whose earthy, guttural alto reflected her wild, untamed personality andBWW Review: LENYA STORY at Renaissance Theater - A bloodless, passionless exercise in tedium. passions. Ms. MacDonald does not command the stage in this role. Her attempt to become a character that she is very ill-suited to permeates her performance and one is constantly aware of her effort. Even while writhing on the floor, she remains unconvincing both in the book and musical scenes. Nothing about her Lotte Lenya feels organic. Her singing voice is simply too high, too well-produced and too beautiful. Missing is the sex, dirt, struggle, and the whiskey and cigarettes in the voice that made Lotte Lenya a star. The scenes with Kurt Weill, played by Tonio Arango, feel forced and unnatural. Mr. Arango's attempts at fetish play and depravity are cringe-inducing and end up looking like a high-school production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.

Authors Herbert Schäfer and Torsten Fischer (who is also responsible for the direction) have reduced the "Liz and Dick" of the Berlin theatrical scene to a series of uninteresting, undramatized factoids, read and checked off like a shopping list at the grocery store. Even Mr. Weill's compositions get the short-shrift. Ably accompanied by a 4-piece, onstage band, Ms. MacDonald tries to imbue some life into the proceedings during her songs, but the Authors sabotage her again and again, reducing her singing to "background music" in nearly every song, by blabbering inane, bland dialogue over the melodies. The set and costumes by Mr. Schäfer and Vasilis Triantafillopoulos are at least serviceable if unimaginative.

LENYA STORY should have been a triumph for the Renaissance Theater, which generally produces excellent work. Instead, this World Premiere Production is an albatross with a broken wing. Go back to the drawing board, and start again. Lenya and Weill deserve much better than this.

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From This Author Mark Janicello