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Re: “ REVIEW ‌ Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

I find it strange that you should criticise Ms. Hensrud's performance as not fitting into "the core of Brecht and Weill's female roles." What would those core roles be? First of all, when we are looking at characterization in a Brecht/Weill peice, we are looking at Brecht, and certainly Brecht throughout his writing created so many female characters that it is impossible to lump them into a single archetype. Mutter Courage, Shen Te, Grusha, Jenny, Polly, Joan - what is the commonality here? And how does Lotte Lenya personify that - she played in three pieces: Three Penny, Mahagonny and The Seven Deadly Sins, and aside from playing a prosititute in two of them, there isn't much of a through line here. Moreover, how does Dietrich get into the picture? Via her performance in The Blue Angel? What has that got to do with Brecht and Weill Mahagonny or this particular production? What I am seeing in your review is an attempt to pigeon hole performances into cliched boxes that are formed by a populist notions. You yourself disemble the idea of a "perfect Brechtian Hero," and then proceed to judge Richard Bonner's performance again using an uninformed and one dimensional yardstick. In fact, if you want to start looking at Brechtian heros and developing some sort of standard for judgement, you'd better make the hero a woman, because most of Brecht's best known heros are female. And if you look at male Brecht characters, how is Jimmy Mahoney anything like Galy Gay, Peirpont Mauler, Macheath, Peachum, Puntilla, Adzak, Schweik or Galilleo? Of course it is laughable to say there is a "Brechtian Hero," and that is doubly true for female characters. Your review is based on a superficial knowledge of cultural artifacts from the time mixed with perhaps Fosse's "Cabaret" and a bit of theatre folklore. Brecht and Weill spent their careers, together and apart, fighting the idea of theatrical cliche. Indeed, Brecht's work was (and still is, it seems) antithetical to popular notions of theatre, just as Mahagonny was suppose to be (and still is) a slap in the face to the conventions and cliches of opera. Bravo to the directors for delivering something so true to the vision of Mahagonny's creators, including the development of characters that evidently exist outside of the boxes you'd like to put them in. And please bear in mind that I am dealing with your review via its content, rather than by comparing you to Ben Brantley, Frank Rich, John Simon or a host of other reviewers that I could mistakenly lump into some sort of Ur-Reviewer against which you would be found lacking.

Posted by LukeD on May 27, 2007 at 8:41 AM
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