SM PIER ‚Äî At first glance, “The Cuttlefish Hotel,” a dark, bloody cabaret opening on Friday, seems an odd fit for the sunny Santa Monica Pier, surrounded by happy tourists and multi-million dollar hotels.
But writer and director, Paul Sand, is connecting all the dots.
“Kurt Weill at The Cuttlefish Hotel,” based on the 1928 German musical “The Threepenny Opera” by Bertolt Brecht and Weill, is the first theater production to be held at the far western end of the pier. This event, with its seating of 70 to 150 people, is one of several mid-sized events that pier officials are encouraging, saying that they are easy to manage and popular with vendors.
“I thought of all of it as a daydream,” Sand said. “Daydreams are very important. They‚Äôre like blueprints. I thought of it right about here.”
He‚Äôs standing at the end of the pier; the ocean is a bright blue and the coastline is crisp in the distance.
“If this was a movie how much would this shot cost? $4 million?” he asks, gesturing west.
Sand isn‚Äôt paying a dime to the Santa Monica Pier Corporation.
“I see that venue at the west end of the pier as a special, tucked away space,” said Jim Harris, deputy director of the pier. “It‚Äôs kind of like you have hunt to find to it. One of the great things about that west end space is that everyone that‚Äôs coming has to walk by everything on the pier to get to it.”
Harris is hoping it spawns a series of productions performed in the area Sand is calling the West End Theatre.
Harris has received “very positive feedback” from vendors about events of this similar size, like Roga, a run plus yoga, or Wake Up With the Waves, a children‚Äôs concert series. Both draw about 100 to the pier during hours that are typically slow for business. On Dec. 14, a slightly smaller group will make their own butter while exercising at the Butter Aerobics Holiday Jam.
Some vendors have complained about some of the larger pier events, like last month‚Äôs comedy show, Festival Supreme, which brought a lot of bodies to the pier but not necessarily a lot of cash to businesses.
The smaller events, like “Cuttlefish Hotel,” are a no-brainer, Harris said, because they draw people without adding stress to the pier.
For Sand, who won a Tony for his acting in 1971, this is something of a homecoming: He used to live near the famous carousel. He‚Äôd wake up from a deep sleep to the grating of the gears and the slow, twisting music.
It‚Äôs also a homecoming for Brecht, the playwright who died in 1956. He moved to 26th Street, just off of Wilshire Boulevard in 1941 to escape the Nazis.
“We‚Äôre going to have a big cuttlefish there with the pink lights continued as the suckers,” Sand said, pointing to the not-yet-existent lights that will guide theater-goers up the stairs on the south side of the Mariasol restaurant. “We‚Äôre doing all the murals on canvas. So like a circus look, carnival look. That right there is going to be Mac the Knife cutting somebody‚Äôs throat. Here‚Äôs going to be three beautiful women‚Äôs legs underneath the curtain.”
He‚Äôs speeding up, daydreaming again but getting louder. He‚Äôs yelling over layers of sounds: a large machine pounds a piling down through the pier like a thumbtack into a bulletin board, seagulls wine, waves and wind fill the in the gaps of silence.
“That‚Äôs why I want it,” he says. “I want people to have to sing over the waves.”
“Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel” opens on Friday at 7:30 p.m. It will continue for the next several weekends. Tickets are $20.