Belle Linda Halpern is one of Boston's foremost cabaret artists, and Kermit Dunkelberg one of Boston's most intense actor/writer/directors; so their Bertolt Brecht cabaret "Moon Over Dark Street" was eagerly awaited by this Brecht/Weill fan.
What the Pilgrim Theatre Collaborative has come up with is a conglomeration of scenes from Brecht plays, songs written with Weill and Hanns Eisler, and historical remembrances and re-creations such as Hollywood and HUAC. The songs are sensational. The rest of the material, alas, just gets in the way. Snippets of plays fall flat out of context; but because Brecht's lyrics are so powerful, they don't need explanation.
Except for some mangled German from Halpern ( a green "mouth" instead of "moon" and "snew" instead of "snow" ...You get the idea), the strictly cabaret performance is the highlight. Director Kim Mancuso knows that less is more where the music is concerned. She lets the songs speak for themselves, unencumbered by fancy footwork or elaborate staging.
If ever there were the perfect part for Dunkelberg, this is it. He spits out Brecht's disdain, enunciating the German as if it were poison on his lips. These are not pretty songs, they're about loneliness and death, and Dunkelberg knows how to deliver that chillingly flat sound that Weill loved to write for. You won't get a better take on a song like "Mack The knife" (and everyone has sung it!), or the sardonic ditty abut children as "cannon fodder" --- Dunkelberg and Halpern's stark version of "Abortion Is Illegal."
Halpern too can handle that cold, hard sound, which becomes all the more thrilling when her voice soars to those full, round high notes in "Pirate Jenny" or the exquisite "Surabaya Johnny." (Those colored lights have got to go, though; nothing should distract the audience from those heavenly songs.)
When Dunkelberg sings auf deutsch and Halpern auf English --- in duet --- with the incomparable Ron Roy at the piano, their performance soars to the stratosphere. As they say in the "Song of Mandalay": It was fantastic. And the evening does indeed have a HAPPY END.