Mad Jenny, dressed in the iconic coat tails and top hat, slinked onto the stage reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich. She playfully stroked a bald head in the audience and bestowed kisses on a lucky few while someone whistled. That set the tone for the show.
Love und Greed held true to the spirit of cabaret by offering a delightful escape laced with political and social commentary. Jenny Lee Mitchel, the star and creator, immediately immersed us in lively and satirical songs of 1930s Germany, then made us all laugh when she called out “Oh, none of you speak German, do you?” and deftly proceeded to translate the classic gems she had just presented. Each German song had a remixed contemporary partner, often with charming and hilarious results that any fan of PostModern Jukebox would appreciate.
Maria Dessena, who played the accordion and the piano and joined in vocally on several songs, also masterfully arranged the music. Together with Marry Isenberg on Bass and Ric Becker on trombone, they made up The Society Band. Jenny’s voice was beautifully clear and the music alone was worth the evening out. However, what really fascinated was her expert use of her stunning costumes, clowning and physical theatre as she guided us through the show. Her stories held us in suspense, and at times were even borderline uncomfortable. But she expertly broke any tension with uproarious laughter caused by a cleverly placed joke.
This show truly embraced dichotomy in many ways: bridging together past and contemporary music, German and American culture, as well as current topical issues with clever frivolity. Love und Greed is a feast of sensual acts and plenty of laughs while reminiscing about deeply disturbing historical moments. Mad Jenny revived songs about money in politics, queer rights, abortion, feminism and more, all topics still being discussed today, making it abundantly clear where we have grown as a society and where we are still lacking.
The audience enjoyed themselves immensely, and you could feel when they were hit by the historical value of the show. They easily followed the significance of what they were watching while still relishing the sight of a pearl covered nipple. There were also quite a few featured guests each of whom caused quite a sensation! Andrianna Smela added to the repertoire of classical songs and was quite the comedic play partner for Jenny. Pandora performed a burlesque number. And my personal favorite: theatrical dance company Desert Sin, who stunned with their original concept, costuming and choreography. They had everyone in stitches.
My only wish was that all involved had the same level of art direction. Not everyone had the precisely crafted costuming and commitment as the lead. There was an odd sparseness about the set that narrowly missed the full feeling of underground Berlin. These seemingly minor details, if addressed, would’ve lifted the production to extraordinary status.
Love und Greed is a great night out. Go with friends or make new ones while you linger at the bar upstairs. Dixon Place, now in its 30th anniversary year, is a wonderful establishment that hosts new work in development. Any purchase made at the bar goes back to supporting the artists. That’s a business plan one happily supports. You will definitely be back if there are more shows like these!