The Threepenny Opera | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Threepenny Opera

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A few minutes of this clumsy, emotionally threadbare production may convince you Madison's Nonsense Company (formerly based in San Diego) shouldn't make theater. For three and a half hours, ten nonactors stumble through Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's 1928 classic, showing little regard for aesthetic unity or psychological credibility. But as the nonsingers in Cook County Theatre Department's Tosca showed in 1996, engaged incompetence can crack open a chestnut. This troupe is an offshoot of the clever lefty folk duo the Prince Myshkins--Rick Burkhardt and Andy Gricevich, here directing Burkhardt's new translation. They set the story in an occupied Middle Eastern nation and turn suave thug Mack the Knife into an amalgam of international financier, terrorist, and corporate CEO, aptly embodying Brecht's dictum that crime and business are pretty much interchangeable. Though the group pushes the limits of theatrical presentability, its political smarts give a harrowing urgency to the play's ferocious cynicism. Through 4/23: Thu-Sat 7 PM, Sun 3 PM, National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, 773-327-7077, $25, students two for one.

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