The Threepenny Opera

Thank goodness Seattle Shakespeare Company artistic director Stephanie Shine took takes a straightforward and non-overthought approach to this Russian nesting doll of a musical (from John Gay to Brecht and Weill to Marc Blitzstein). Except for a brief and highly effective framing device, a prologue and epilogue set in a sort of a Weimar-ish cabaret club, the rest of the piece is strictly in period. And she doesn't push the satiric subtext to the surface, trusting the audience to figure out how Brecht/Blitzstein's wisecracks about banks and the Bible still apply today. Also gratifyingly underplaying is John Bogar as chief thief Macheath, who with his swept-back hair and eyebrow-pencil mustache looks a lot like Christopher Walken as The Continental. Full of verve and richly theatrical, this production is, as it happens, the first musical Seattle Shakes has attempted in its 20 seasons. From the very opening, when Weill's vinegary overture, with all its faux-Handelian counterpoint, is sung by the ensemble, it's clear Shine and her company have a real imaginative flair for them. As this staging demonstrates, so much good stuff can also be done with just a black-box space, a piano, and a fresh eye. GAVIN BORCHERT [See Gavin's full review.]

Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 17. Continues through March 6, 2011

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