To close out its 20th season of community theater, the Prince George's Little Theater has taken on the Brecht-Weill-Blitzstein production of "the Threepenny Opera." The production also marks the end of the company's third season in the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly.
Few local troupes have produced "The Threepenny Opera" because it is a 1928 musical, a pseudo-opera, loaded with Berthold Brecht's disturbing sentiments about political reform, Kurt Weill's often abrasive, jazz-like score and composer Marc Blitzstein's sexual and scatalogical lyrics.
The Little Theater group staged the Blitzstein adaptation of the opera, which enjoyed a strong, six-year run after opening in New York in 1954 with Lotte Lenya, Weill's wife. All movement occurs on a six-level, stage-wide set that spills out beyond the stage and boasts nearly every imaginable prop from a blue neon hangman's noose to a clothesline littered with lingerie. Brecht set his version of the opera, which he borrowed from John Gay's original "The Beggar's Opera," set in London in 1728, to Berlin of the 1920s.
Ann Bacon's elaborate costumes depicting a human tapestry of that period guaranteed visual success for the production. Where Wanda Hurley's production finds itself in less effective straits is in the area of musical and dramatic impact. There is little of either. The sum of the 24 scenes is a slow-motion, sluggish vaudeville routine with choppiness unaided by any musical imperatives.
A note in the program explains that Brecht was emphatic about placing singers out of context for each song, but not one of the cast of 30 achieves a real song. Mary Ellen Hoffman as Polly comes the closest with "Pirate Jenny."
Despite its on-stage lethargy due to the difficult of the work or director Duane Rumberg's lack of pacing sense, the assortment of beggers, gangsters, cops and demoiselles of the night made the most of greeting newcomers in front of the Playhouse with lame British accents and escorted them down the aisles until Stewart J. Seal's well-conceived, burlapped set was ably lit.
Because they are located so deep stage right, Patricia Wisniewski's piano and harpischord and Robby Taines' drums are lacking in real fire and swing in a production in need of strong music.
A community theater group is faced with the business of selecting the best vehicle ofr displaying its talents while not exposing its weak spots. But while the Little Theater company should be praised for undertaking such an ambitious production, the production is not totally successful.
For the curious, the last two performances of "The Threepenny Opera" will be tomorrow and Saturday. For ticket information call 277-1710. o