Friday, August 31, 2012

Cabaret by Kander & Ebb, City Theatre, August 16 - September 9

Cabaret City Theatre (image: Andy Berkovsky)

ALT review

by Michael Meigs

It's enticingly easy to imagine yourself away to 1930's Berlin in this staging of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, for the City Theatre's space creates exactly the right dynamic. There are rules-of-thumb for successful parties. The first involves adequate supplies of liquor, but the second one, in fact the more important, requires fitting the numbers of guests to the space. The City's 85-seat intimate space is exactly right, both as a cabaret world where performers will joke, wink and jiggle just for you and as a combustible concentration of expectations.

Why Cabaret? It's a warhorse of the American stage, of course, packed with thrills, pleasures and very familiar music. In part it's a coming-of-age story, both for our naïve protagonist Cliff the aspiring novelist and for the naïve United States that he represents. There's a Freudian sting to it as well, for Cabaret balances the pleasure principle and coyly concealed visions of violence and death -- and incarnates them in the character of the EmCee. In that role, relative newcomer to Austin Johann Robert Wood is absolutely terrific -- an enticing guide to the hells of temptation. Charismatic, muscular, graceful and mocking, he dominates that stage even when it's filled up with quivering pink pulchritude.

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