“The Threepenny Opera” produced by Seattle Shakespeare Company

Seattle Shakespeare Company has taken a bold step (and a brave one considering current economic realities) with its production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s classic theatre piece. It’s their first musical, and they’ve staged it in what is for them an enormous space—Intiman Theatre. Well, cheers! It’s a terrific mounting of this classic, and if you haven’t already got tickets, go for it.

First seen in Germany in 1928, “Threepenny…” was a revolutionary change from the saccharine operettas of the time, both in production values and subject. The raw intensity of the music was shocking as was the theme that revealed Brecht’s growing interest in Marxism. By 1933 the Nazi’s had banned all works by the duo and both men had to flee.

But “Threepenny…” couldn’t be stopped. It has been consistently produced for the past 60 years. Why? Man’s cupidity and dishonesty seem ever present, and this play that looks at corruption from the highest levels to the lowest seems always pertinent.

This Seattle Shakespeare production boasts a superb cast, all local talent, and forceful staging. The set is minimal; there’s much foreboding darkness. The lighting by Andrew D. Smith is wondrous. His use of red reinforces mood. The shadows are more powerful than sets. Thrown against the concrete back wall of the theatre, they hover like spectres over the action.

But don’t think it’s all dreary politicizing. There’s more than enough humor in the characterizations and the droll depictions of the human foibles of high officials and low prostitutes. There’s love and longing. There are celebrations and silliness.

The music would have benefited from a combo rather than just a piano with a bit of occasional percussion played by various cast members, but aside from that it’s thrilling theatre.

Director Stephanie Shine does it again!

Get there a bit early, settle in your seats and enjoy the pre-play cabaret action. Actors wander about, chatting with one another, joining the lone piano player for a song or two, setting the mood of another time, another place. You’re primed when the curtain does rise, and I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed.

Through March 6 at Intiman Theatre in Seattle Center. (206 733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).

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