NO BUGS IN SIN CITY OPERA AT COCKROACH THEATRE
By: Hal de Becker
Sin City Opera in collaboration with Cockroach Theatre Company performed works by two early 20th century composers, Kurt Weill and Arnold Schoenberg: Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins and Schoenberg’s Erwartung.
Both composers were revolutionaries, Schoenberg for his championing of atonalism and the twelve tone musical system, and Weill who, with playwright/poet Bertolt Brecht, bravely created works based on controversial social and political themes.
Schoenberg was Austrian, Weill and Brecht German. They all left Europe in the early 1930’s in opposition to the rise of Hitler’s Nazi party and its oppression of a racial minority.
Weill and Brecht were highly critical of what they considered any established order’s moral corruption and exploitation of ordinary citizens. In The Seven Deadly Sins America was one of their targets.
The two sides of one character, Anna, are depicted through two sisters: The stronger, opportunistic Anna I sings the role, and submissive Anna II dances it.
The Anna’s travel to seven American cities hoping to earn enough money to build a house for their parents and brothers. Their experiences in each city reflect the sins of Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Avarice and Envy.
Often under pressure from Anna I, Anna II succumbs to the temptations of some of the sins. Eventually she realizes she must change, and at the end the family house is built.
Particularly notable were Anastasia Weiss whose mime and extensive dance background served her well as Anna II, and Dina Emerson whose convincing acting as Anna I was as persuasive as her singing. Casey Dukas’s solo atop a movable platform was a standout.
Rabuel Aviles, Kim Glover and Nicole Harris also delivered strong performances.
Although the piece was originally scored for full orchestra, accompaniment by just three SCO players was surprisingly satisfying. The company’s music director, Dean Balan, played keyboard and was joined by flautist Christin Nance and percussionist Manny Gamazo. The latter also partnered Anna II in a dance sequence.
Director Darrin Weller seemed to know what he wanted and how to get it. His control was apparent in the security of the players’ performances. Without that discipline the multi-layered production might easily have unraveled. The production’s success owes much to his skill and, perhaps, inspiration.
A tender kiss in silhouette behind an open parasol; a choreographed sequence with a free-standing door; and Anna II’s on-stage assemblage of a house were just a few of the production’s impressive effects.
Erwartung is a Freudian-nuanced solo for soprano in which a woman’s emotions are exposed like an open wound as she struggles through a dense forest searching for her unfaithful lover. The arduous search symbolizes her inner struggle and pain.
Roberta Morris’s performance as The Woman was spellbinding. The power and passion of her singing rose to and beyond the music’s often Wagnerian level challenges.
Kate St. Pierre’s direction was over-staged and had Ms. Morris on the floor too much of the time groveling and dragging herself up the steps of the seating tiers. Ms. Morris’s consummate artistry had no need for such blatant angst-conveying devices.
Ellen Bone’s lighting and Rakitha Perera’s eerie projections of life sized figures on hanging chiffon panels contributed significantly to the monodrama’s dark mood.
In both productions Alexia Chen’s set designs and Ginger Land-vanBuren‘s costumes were effective. CTC’s efficient tech crew, directed by Stage Manager Marni Lewis, deserves much of the credit for the program’s smooth progression.
The performance was in English with the translated dialogue presented on a surtitle screen. Unfortunately, the screen was situated in a viewer-unfriendly position. This a prickly problem for many venues and one that SCO and CTC may eventually resolve.
SCO and CTC have many exciting productions scheduled details of which are available at sincityopera.com and cockroachtheatre.com.