The audience sits in a lounge area composed of an assortment of chairs, stools, and benches within view of the bar where much of the show is presented. Performers often roam through the audience occasionally engaging patrons and sometimes playfully mocking them as the evil rich and at one point passing out free whiskey shots and bread.
We’re supposed to be at the rural Alaskan bar The Wealthy Fucker where a gang of outlaws carouse and play out Brecht’s gleefully anti-capitalist satire.
Wearing cowboy hats, jeans, overalls, plaid shirts, in addition to some with fake mustaches, the dynamic cast portrays an assortment of tough mostly male characters, several of which are played by women. There’s also a Marylyn Monroe-type waitress darting through the action.
Playwright Ian Storey (with Bread) has cleverly and faithfully distilled the original three act opera into an engaging event that runs a fast-paced hour. Co-directors Eric Powell Holm and Katie Melby have vigorously staged it all with precision and flair. Highlights of their work include a bruising boxing match and a raunchy shadow sequence behind a sheet that hilariously and graphically depicts the activities of prostitutes and their clients. For the finale, the audience has to leave their seats and go upstairs to reseat themselves to witness a hyperbolic trial.
In addition to performing a leading role in a New Wave guise of a black jump suit, jet black hair, and wild makeup, the charismatic Andrew Lynch also composed the accomplished original music and for some portions of the show commandingly plays guitar and percussion. Wonderfully integrated into the score is the classic “Alabama Song.”
The superb cast also includes Katie Melby, Lyndsey Anderson, Toni Ann DeNoble, John Egan, Kate Gunther, Kelly Klein, and Benjamin Lewis.
Before its increasing gentrification, the Lower East Side was an outpost of creative expression. That the BREAD Arts Collective theater company presents this work in a space there adds an ironical dimension that perfectly suits the sensibility and concerns of Brecht.
For adventurous theatergoers, Rise and Fall will be a welcome environmental performance art spectacle that’s a very entertaining experience.
Rise and Fall (Sundays at 8:00 PM through November 22, 2015)
BREAD Arts Collective
People Lounge, 163 Allen Street, in Manhattan
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission