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Directors have two jobs: to help the audience understand what the play is about and to stage it so the audience can see it. Director Fred Anzevino has failed at both here. The Threepenny Opera is, like most Bertolt Brecht works, a critique of respectability: its antihero Macheath is a charming criminal, while its villains are the police and people who claim to be charitable. (Brecht underscores this by having the crook ask, “What is the crime of robbing a bank compared to the crime of owning a bank?”) Without that essential organizing principle, the show is just a series of not-very-interesting episodes as Macheath romps from bed to crime to bed.

The Threepenny Opera
Through 4/30: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 6 PM, Howard Street Theatre, 721 Howard, 773-939-4101, theo-u.com, $45-$55

Kurt Weill’s score, which includes pieces relevant to the theme but completely ancillary to the plot (such as “Pirate Jenny,” a hotel maid’s fantasy of killing the guests) magnifies the problem of getting to and staying on point. Staging the show in every corner of the space while a number of audience members sit in the middle of the action exacerbates the problem of focus: wherever you’re facing is the wrong way. Under the music direction of Ryan Brewster (who also supplies the solo piano accompaniment), the show includes the fine voices we’ve come to expect of this company. Carl Herzog as Macheath and Liz Bollar as antiheroine Jenny have both the vocal and acting chops to put their songs across, but the piece as a whole never gels.

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