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Wednesday, Nov 27 1996
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September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill
With its charismatic angst and sprightly melancholia, the music Kurt Weill wrote in prewar Germany and '40s New York continues to be up-to-date. Everything about this celebration of it gives off a sardonic sizzle, including director Larry Weinstein's inventive use of an industrial warehouse setting. Fifteen Weill songs, rendered by an idiosyncratic cast that features Teresa Stratas and Elvis Costello (both great), form a constellation that boasts the same multifaceted suggestiveness as the 1985 tribute CD, Lost in the Stars. Indeed, Hal Willner, who co-produced that album, is the movie's music director; the selections and arrangements derive largely from that landmark recording. But a new set of performers (only Lou Reed and bass player Charlie Haden repeat) and the variety and acumen of Weinstein's staging transform the songs once again. At his best, Weinstein works in the spirit of the composer and of his most famous collaborator, Bertolt Brecht. In "The Ballad of the Soldier's Wife" (sung by PJ Harvey), Weinstein employs an "alienation" technique straight out of Galileo: He signals the character's change of identities with changes of clothing, conveying the overall impact of the song more vividly than direct appeals to the emotions. (Matt Smith)

September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill screens Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 27 and 28, at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 p.m. at the Roxie, 3117 16th St., S.F. Tickets are $3-6; call 863-1087.

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Michael Sragow

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