As the driving force behind Frank Theatre, Wendy Knox is the ideal mix of pragmatist and dreamer: She is as artistically adventurous as any director in town, but also sensible enough never to let her ambition overleap her company's resources. Last year's Frank production of Brecht/Weill's The Threepenny Opera was proof positive of Knox's talent. Set in the gloomy warren of the Southern Theater and suffused with hellish red light, Frank's Threepenny created an atmosphere of amplified gloom. From the very first scene, in which the cast posed in lurid tableaux of sexual congress and violence, it was clear that Knox knew exactly how to play this tricky script: Here was an indignant condemnation of avarice lurking just below the veneer of black comedy. As this "beggar's opera" took shape, however, it was her cast who took over. Steve Hendrickson, as the misanthropic artful dodger Macheath, managed to sneer and prance at the same time, while Heidi Fellner, Molly Sue McDonald, and Ruth McKenzie as a trio of soiled doves fluttered and shrieked in the foreground. This was Brecht as Brecht would have had it: a throng of thoroughly despicable characters floundering in an industrial morass. Dark stuff, to be sure, but illuminating as well. Though Brecht's play is famous for alienating its audience with uncomfortable truths, Frank's Threepenny had us bewitched from the very start.


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