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Sometimes you get so alone it just feels like German cabaret
German performance artist Ute Lember’s “Bukowski Project,” a staged a performance of Charles Bukowski poems interspersed with music, opened last week at Joe’s Pub in New York, and the New York Times approves:
Everything flows together into what might be described as a plotless one-act pop-jazz opera whose nightmarish tone evokes Brecht and Weill’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” but is darker and laced with obscene humor. The show steadily widens its view from the intimate (descriptions of Bukowski’s slovenly person and way of life) to the chaotic world at large. Partly because it was created by a woman, Bukowski’s notorious misogyny is not so glaring.
Because Ms. Lemper, who was born in Germany, is a foremost interpreter of Brecht and Weill, the attitude of her performance is acutely Germanic, at once stern and theatrically extravagant. Bukowski was also born in Germany but emigrated with his family to Los Angeles when he was a boy. His poetry is steeped in stark descriptions of the city’s seedier side. As the show’s Germanic satirical and American quasi-Beat strains collide and pull at one another, you are given a dual trans-Atlantic perspective of the poet.
Here’s Ms. Lemper talking about the performance with PBS: