Theater & Performing Arts

The Threepenny Opera

When: Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Jan. 17 2010

Lest you doubt the viability of Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, look no further than its signature tune, "Mack the Knife." Supposedly composed as an afterthought, it's been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Pearl Bailey to Jimmy Buffet, deployed in ad campaigns, and featured on American Idol. Likewise, Brecht's 75-year-old script still has resonance today. He debuted it in 1928 around the time of a worldwide economic meltdown that eerily foreshadowed our current banking crisis. Moreover, his mix of jaunty musical numbers, Marxist messages, and irreverent satire was, in its own way, prototypically punk rock. Local director Susannah Martin took note and went all the way punk with her current Shotgun Players production of Threepenny, which includes a seven-piece band, industrial set pieces by Nina Ball, and choreography by Erika Chong Schuch. But for a few contemporary references, the play is faithful to Brecht's original structure and stage directions. Yet the sheer infectiousness of actors Jeff Wood and Kelsey Venter (as lead characters MacHeath and his chick Polly) makes it worthwhile. Not to mention the concept befits the source material. Through January 17 at Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley).

Rachel Swan

Price: $18-$30

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