Monday, October 10, 2011
My whole life I've wanted to see the Berliner Ensemble. I have been in the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (big statue of Brecht in the park in front of it- you can't miss it), but they were on vacation for the summer. I had waited many years to see the Moscow Art Theatre as well, and when I saw their Three Sisters at BAM ten year ago I was bitterly disappointed. It was so bad, if it hadn't been the Moscow Art Theatre, I would've left at intermission.
But Friday night I was not disappointed in the Berliner Ensemble's Threepenny Opera directed by Robert Wilson. I wish I'd known when I bought the tickets online that the translation of "partial view" was "you are sitting so far house left, you and your boyfriend will be able to seen none of the three supertitle screens." It wasn't such a big deal for me, but it was for Tom, at over 3 hours. He bore it very graciously.
Other than a weird costume choice for MacHeath (a 70s-like black lounge suit that sparkled) and a poor directorial choice in Act 3 (the scene in the whorehouse was truly endless and nothing happened), it was wonderful. Unlike the last Wilson-directed play I saw (Woyzeck), the design elements a music fed the action, they didn't stop it dead. It was not quickly paced- the first two acts were three hours, but it held together as a whole.
The actors were extraordinary- completely committed in every way. And it was so refreshing to see actors in a musical who looked like people, not models. Particularly good were Stefan Kurt as Macheath, Juergen Holtz and Traute Hoess as the Peachums, Stefanie Stappenback as Polly and Angela Winkler as Jenny (she played Oskar's mother in The Tin Drum).
The other astonishing thing about this production was the music. I know the score very well- I can sing Blitzstein's or Mannheim's translations (or both) of every single song. But somehow with these voices and the musical director of Hans-Joern Brandenburg and Stefan Rager, every song was like you'd never heard it before. Charles Isherwood's review didn't exaggerate at all.
The photos are by Sarah Krulwich for the New York Times. Link to Charles Isherwood's review above.