There's nothing like heading downtown for a little knife play, extortion and whoring. Throw in some music and you have the recent production of The Threepenny Opera, a lively and riveting three-hour crime spree at the AllWays Lounge.
Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's musical is a rich story of love, crime, exploitation and betrayal, but adventurous casting gave the production great contrast in all the right places and brought onstage some of the crazed energy of city streets and desperate straits.
The crowded front barroom of the AllWays became 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 so his operation runs 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 directed familiar faces Becky Allen (Mrs. Peachum), Wecklein and Harry Mayronne (musical director/piano); some relatively new performers in the local theater scene — Andrew Vaught (narrator/Rev. Kimball), Gastelum (the puppeteer behind the Mudlark Puppeteers), Emilie Whelan (Vixen); poet Raymond "Moose" Jackson (author of Loup Garou) as Matthew of the Mint; and some not so familiar stage presences — Kristian Rothaermel (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 had great moments; 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 seemed 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 rang true, however. The show's best known number, "Flick Knife Song" (aka "Mack the Knife"), was a misdemeanor offense. But even at three hours, the show flew by, and as all the miscreants in London would understand, it left you begging for more. — Will Coviello