ICT Punches with Brecht-Weill “Threepenny Opera
Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill were writing before the first great Depression, circa 1929, but the message of their “Threepenny Opera,” that money solves all problems and that the poor are always the victims of the rich, still has legs, very shapely legs, 80 years later.
The new production at International City Theatre in Long Beach, directed with a punch-in-your-face directness by Jules Aaron, uses the sexy (an apparently more accurate) translation of Michael Feingold to tell the story of Mack the Knife, the two girls he marries, the others he loves and leaves, and everyone who is willing to see him hanged as long as the reward is big enough.
Jeff Griggs stars as Mack, and his slim and athletic good looks are intentionally marred by eyes that hide in make-up. This Mack only sleeps metaphorically. His wife Polly (Shannon Warne) is virginal but no virgin, and her father (Tom Shelton, in a deliciously prim performance) is determined to end the marriage. His wife (Eileen T’Kaye) agrees, and she is determined to make her daughter a widow, too.
The production has a bit of a comic-book look to it, but the characters are all too real, and Weill’s jazz-driven score, played by a behind-a scrim quarter including a banjo and a clarinet, is as thrilling and modern as it was in pre-Hitler Berlin. “Three-Penny Opera” is one of the great works of musical theater, and this ICT production shows why. ICT is located at the Center Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach. It runs Thursday-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 22. Tickets are $35-$45. Phone: (562) 436-4610
Laugh and Rock Out with the Prince Known as Hamlet
Max Bialystock in “The Producers” finds out the hard way, through a Broadway failure, that Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” turned into a musical called “Funny Boy,” wasn’t meant to be comic and tuneful.
“Hamlet, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark,” Cal Rep’ new production at the Armory in Long Beach, reiterates the point. The idea of taking the greatest play in English, cutting it down to a few murders, a ghost and a circus act and adding the music of Prince, sounds seductive, but turns out silly.
Kyle Hall makes a seductive, high-energy rock star out of Hamlet, and the supporting cast, and Gregory Joseph Allen, in three roles, knows how to chew the scenery. But when Ophelia, Jeremiah O’Brien, comes on, hairy-chested in a sleeveless ball gown that keeps falling off, you realize that this play emphasizes the silly over the tragic, and things just get sillier.
Directors Matt Walker and Mike Sulprizio from the Troubadour Theater Company have specialized in this kind of parody for more than a decade, but their claim that this will introduce audience to serious theater doesn’t make sense. You can only enjoy this “Hamlet” if you know the other well enough to fill in the blanks.
But there is plenty of energy here, with a large cast, a four-piece band playing loud and energetic rock from the Purple one’s repertory and some great dance numbers choreographed by Lysa Fox. You’ll enjoy this show, no doubt, but will come away hungry for just a few more lines from the bard. (Remember him?) “Hamlet” continues at the Armory, 854 7th st., Long Beach through March 14. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, March 14. No performances are scheduled for March 6 and 7. Tickets are $20. Phone: (562) 985-5526.
Little Fish Takes San Pedro Deer Hunting in Michigan
San Pedro’s Little Fish Theatre is moving to Michigan for the next month, to a town called Escanaba. But you can still head down to their home on Centre St. to see “Escanaba in the Moonlight,” a play by Jeff Daniels that explores the relationship between deer hunting and UFOs and answers the vital question: Will Reuben Soady finally bag a buck?
The comedy opened last week and continues at the Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, through April 4, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. with added performances on Sunday, March 29 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, April 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25, $22 for students and seniors. Phone: (310) 512-6030.