There’s nothing like heading downtown for a little knife play, extortion and whoring. Throw in some music and you have The Threepenny Opera, a lively and riveting three-hour crime spree in the front barroom space of the AllWays Lounge, playing at 8 p.m. tonight through Sunday (Dec. 10-12).
Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s musical is a rich story of love, crime, exploitation and betrayal, and it ultimately asks who is the bigger scourge on society: the thief or the banker. Adventurous casting gives the production great contrast in all the right places and brings onstage some of the crazed energy of city streets and desperate straits.
The crowded front barroom of the AllWays becomes the bustling underbelly of Victorian London, a demimonde of beggars and thieves swirling about from the small stage down a runway extending to the bar, with some performance spaces set among the audience. Macheath (Ratty Scurvics) is a menacing and savvy figure, a former pimp and thief who will lie to, steal from and betray anyone. He is interested in Polly (Pandora Gastelum), the daughter of Mr. Peachum (Chris Wecklein), kingpin of an extortion racket that requires beggars to pay him protection money. It’s all dirty business, and each man tries to keep the police in his back pocket to keep his operation running smoothly. But what sets the notorious Macheath (aka Mack the Knife) and Peachum at odds is the prospect of marriage between the rogue and Polly.
Dennis Monn directs familiar faces Becky Allen (Mrs. Peachum), Wecklein and Harry Mayronne (musical director/piano); some relatively new performers in the local theater scene — Gastelum (the puppeteer behind the Mudlark Puppeteers) and Cripple Creek players Andrew Vaught (narrator/Rev. Kimball) and Emilie Whelan (Vixen); poet Raymond “Moose” Jackson (author of Loup Garou) as Matthew of the Mint; and some not so familiar stage presences — Kristian Rotharemel (Crooked Finger Jake) and Ooops the Clown (Dolly). The jazz band on stage featured standouts Aurora Nealand (Panorama Jazz Band) and Walter McClements (Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?).
Just about everyone on stage has great moments, but particular highlights included Gastelum’s singing, the updated, street vernacular of the heavily tattooed thugs, Scurvic’s cocky angling as Macheath, and Monica R. Harris as the comically desperate and spurned other wife of Macheath. Allen seems born to play Mrs. Peachum, who is not about to hand her daughter over to Macheath or yield to a gaggle of whores. Not every note rings true, however. The show’s best known song, “Flick Knife Song” (aka “Mack the Knife”), is a misdemeanor offense. But even at three hours, the show flies by, and as all the miscreants in London would understand, it leaves you begging for more.