‘The Threepenny Opera’ serves as a social commentary

Anthony Crosby stars as Mack the Knife in Bertolt Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera." -Staff photo/Louis Gormley

Anthony Crosby stars as Mack the Knife in Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera.” -Photo courtesy of Joseph Napolitano

Theater audiences will not have the average experience when “The Threepenny Opera” opens in Tohill Theater this weekend.

Challenging the traditional notion of theater, the show, sponsored by the College of Performing Arts and the Department of Theatre and Dance, tries to maintain self-awareness throughout the production as opposed to providing a form of escapism.

The play, written by Bertolt Brecht with music composed by Kurt Weill, follows Mack the Knife as he marries a girl named Polly Peachum to the dismay of Polly’s father.

“We’re not pretending that we’re not doing theater,” said Anthony Crosby, a junior theatre arts major who plays the lead role of Mack the Knife. “You’re watching a production and we know it and you know it.”

To achieve this idea, the show’s setting of the Victorian era does not have Victorian set pieces and the actors do not wear Victorian costumes.

As for the music, the show’s band performs on stage with the actors as opposed to in a pit. In addition, the music is used quite differently from the average opera.

“I dont see this play as a musical,” Crosby said. “It’s a straight play with music. The name [of the show] is very misleading but I think that kind of goes with the tongue-in-cheek nature of the show. We’re telling you it’s an opera but it’s not quite what you’re going to get.”

The show’s characters also go against the traditional roles of opera. Brenna Geffers, the show’s director, says the show goes against character archetypes.

“It’s sort of sending up sort of the romantic hero and heroine and ingenue,” Geffers said. “You don’t see the classic stereotypes that you think of in stories. There’s no hero. There’s no blushing ingenue. There’s not a single villain. So, it takes those stereotypes that we think of as being part of opera and really eschews them.”

Freshman theatre arts major Zulfiya Asquino, who plays Jenny Driver, a prostitute who used to be romantically involved with Mack the Knife, says audiences will easily be able to relate to the characters in the show.

“There’s something that everybody in the audience can connect to,” Asquino said. “There’s going to be somebody they’re going to find and say, ‘I see a lot of myself in [him or her]’ and I think that’s what people will get out of that.”

The characters in the show also serve as a critique of society’s individual natures, saying that humans cannot live without being rotten at the show’s start. Crosby said the show will make audiences think about who they are.

“We’re going to be critiquing a lot of people — a lot of college students actually,” Crosby said. “It might hurt some feelings. It might get people thinking about who they are and what they’re doing to the world and maybe it can change them for the better.”

“The Threepenny Opera” will be performed at Tohill Theatre April 10-12 at 8 p.m. with shows on April 12-13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors, non-Rowan students, alumni and staff. Rowan students are admitted for free with a valid ID.

For comments/questions about this story, email arts@thewhitonline.com or tweet @thewhitae.

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