November 5, 2004

"The Threepenny Opera" plays in Madison.

I love the music of "The Threepenny Opera" and wore out my vinyl LP of the Shakespeare Festival Production's cast recording (the one with the brilliant Raul Julia). I have never seen a live production of the play though, and I was going to go to the version playing now in Madison, but then I saw this in the the Capital Times:
The decadence of the Weimar Republic led to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Imagine someone turning that chilling historical scenario into a musical.

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill did in their portentous 1928 classic "The Threepenny Opera." ... In this show Germany's future resembles America's present, the director says. ... The show's director, Patricia Boyette, a UW-Madison professor of theater and drama, talked about the production in a recent phone interview:

What are the basic connections you will make between the two political eras?

Well, we're not making it time- and place-specific. So the play really has the flavor of 1928, the year it was originally set in. It's like the Weimar Republic or Chicago in terms of th corruption and the excessive qualities of those times.

Whether it's Al Capone or pre-Nazi Germany, there's a real similarity to our times. And I think people were not paying attention to what was happening. There was a very self-indulgent behavior and incredible corruption which was accepted.

That's part of the parallel to our times and that's really frightening. So I think it laid the groundwork for Hitler and Nazi Germany to move in. People were more focused on their own pleasures.

Are there parallels in Brecht's play to how the Patriot Act has imposed social restrictions in the guise of personal freedom and protection?

I think so, in the crimes that come up in the play. And the army song glorifies war and it's just devastating, and it's this little new musical number that's very upbeat and great fun. It's chilling. And the government's attitude toward crime is, whatever is good for the individual. If they profit from a murder, then that's great. If not, they get very moralistic. It's all money. Like it's all oil today.

UPDATE: I see this post is drawing a lot of people from here, where a blogger says that I go to the theater except when I "don't like the director's politics." Now, how does that make any sense? I've said I'm very interested in the play itself, and obviously I don't agree at all with the playwright's politics! It's not the director's politics per se that keep me away from this production; it is that the way those politics are expressed that makes me infer that the production will be inferior. I'm not opposed to things that challenge me, but I'm severely opposed to wasting my time on bad or boring things, and I make harsh decisions about what to avoid wasting my time and money on. Most play productions (and most movies) are BAD, and I have many other things I like to do with the time I have left on this earth.

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