by Paulanne Simmons
During the 1920s and up until Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Berlin was the center of German culture. This was the era of the Weimar Republic, when intellectuals, artists and nonconformists of all stripes flourished. And in Berlin, many of these people congregated in the cafes where they could hear songs dominated by sex and politics, and watch nude females sway and gyrate across the stage..
Mad Jenny (a.k.a. Jenny Lee Mitchell) is bringing all this naughty satire to New York City in a four-month residency at Pangea, the East Village supper club, with her spicy cabaret show, Love and Greed. Backed by Maria Dessena on accordion, Ric Becker on trombone and Jerr DeVore on bass, Mitchell sings a repertoire of songs that have a strangely modern ring, almost a century later.
Mitchell’s selections includes songs in their original German but also in translation. Many take a jaundiced view of society. “Life’s a Swindle” tells us “after kissing, check your purse to see what’s missing.” “There’s Nothing Quite Like Money” explains that you can’t make love on an empty stomach. “Abortion Is Illegal” encourages loveless mothers to make little solders for the state.
Of course, there are also more serious moments. In 2016, it’s interesting to note that “Lavender Song,” the first homosexual anthem was written back in 1921. “Und der Regen Rinnt” (“And the Rain Falls”), which Ilsa Weber wrote for the children interned in Terezin before she was sent to Auschwitz, is heartbreaking.
Mitchell first appears in a black suit à la Marlene Dietrich. She later changes into a fur- trimmed coat, a slinky sequined dress and other sexy outfits. At one point, she plays both a man and a woman caressing each other. Her light, often high-pitched voice is the perfect tease.
Several times in the evening, Mitchell takes a jab at some of our more controversial or ridiculous public figures, dead and alive: Donald Trump, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas. But wherever she aims, she always hits her mark.
Love and Greed plays the first Monday of the month from March through June at Pangea, 178 Second Ave.NYC www.PangeaNYC.com