RedLine Production’s presentation of THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS & MAHAGONNY SONGSPEIL is a surprising feat in a small space
Sunday April 3, 2022, 5 p.m., Old Fitz Theater
Director Constantine Costi manages the impossible to slip into a 17-piece orchestra, under the baton of Brian Castles-Onion, a dancer and 6 singers in the small space of the Old Fitz Theater to present a captivating interpretation of Kurt Well (Music) and Bertold Brechtof (text/lyrics) ballet THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS with songs and song cycle MAHAGONNY SONGSPEIL. It’s an incredible opportunity to experience high-level classical music combined with contemporary dance in a location far removed from the usual spaces where concerts would be performed.
Scenographer Charles Davis increases the space by going up and installing a mezzanine above the stage where more than half of the orchestra is perched, including the percussion. With THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS telling the story of two sisters traveling across America to earn money to send home, Davis added design elements to indicate the domestic setting, from a framed generic pastoral print and a cheap beaded curtain with an illuminated statue of the Virgin Mary on the wall. A series of signs are revealed for each of the cities they visit and the associated sin with which they are challenged. For the MAHAGONNY SONGSPEIL, the curtain is changed to metallic garlands and a background image of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is deployed below the balcony linking history to a place of opulence, excess and luxury that perhaps more myth than reality, much like the facade which the characters end up seeing through.
THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS ballet with songs is performed by Allie Graham as the dancing twin and Margaret Trubiano as the singing twin. Family at home in Louisiana is the Greek Chorus of Nicholas Jones, Benjamin Rasheed, Andy Moran and Anthony Mackey. This piece is presented beautifully as a combination of physicality and strong classical vocals presented unamplified but perfectly balanced with the live orchestra. With the use of signs and the clarity of Trubiano’s and ensemble’s voice, the plot is easy to follow and Graham’s rendition of Shannon Burns’ choreography is wonderfully evocative as it conveys the emotion that the almost completely silent sister experiences as her sister controls her life and removes her from the sins she sees around her.
The MAHAGONNY SONGSPEIL includes the addition of Roberta Diamond for the somewhat incomprehensible story of hedonism and its downfall as the glitzy facade gives way to a more realistic understanding of society’s vices. The use of a manually operated turntable adds a different element of motion as the “world” shifts to bare reality.
This double program of THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS and MAHAGONNY SONGSPEIL is a wonderful opportunity to discover exceptional performers in an unusual setting for a fraction of the price normally asked for opera productions.