BWW Review: THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI at Westmont Theatre Department

BWW Review: THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI at Westmont Theatre Department
Photo: Brad Elliot

Director Mitchell Thomas and the students of the Westmont Theatre Department send a message about the dangers of complacency with their stunning production of Bertold Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. A political parable, Resistible Rise shows the relationship between wealth and power, and gleefully dances to the tune of pervasive corruption. In depression-ravaged Chicago of the 1930s, small-potatoes gangster Arturo Ui (Elena White) goes from zero to terrifying anti-hero after manipulating himself into position of dominance in the city's vegetable racket. Ui rules his criminal empire through intimidation and exploitation; but ultimately, Brecht's scorching allegory shows that while Ui may be a bloodstained kingpin, the responsibility for his deeds also lies with the shadowy corporate interests that pave the way for his destructive power grab--and with the common people who watch passively as the gangsters climb the corporate ladder. Written in response to Hitler's rise to power, Resistible Rise paints a forcefully relevant picture about social dynamics and the potential for abuse of power within an unbalanced economic hierarchy.

BWW Review: THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI at Westmont Theatre Department
Photo: Brad Elliot

Westmont's production is meticulously stylized with elements of macabre farce, with characters sporting disturbing harlequin makeup and a clownish physicality that reads, first, as outlandish and absurd; however, the senseless turns sinister as the dark intentions of the characters become clear. Archetypal characters--the gangster; the capitalist; the Moll--are played with gusto as they make a mockery of the justice system, accompanied by a barrage of sound effects (including the slide whistle, a cartoon-gag necessity). But as the realities of Arturo's brutal reign become increasingly difficult for the citizen grocers to ignore, these farcical elements become twisted, and the rot of fraud and abuse becomes alarming rather than amusing--even as Arturo rolls around on the stage taking glamour shots.

BWW Review: THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI at Westmont Theatre Department
Photo: Brad Elliot

Resistible Rise features a cast of student performers who nimbly walk the line between ludicrous and chilling. Elena White, as Arturo Ui, makes a spectacular transformation from dopey stooge to ruthless criminal boss. Arturo's inner-circle of gangsters, including Sean McElrath as Ui's sidekick, Roma; Josh Martinez Davis as the malevolent Giri; and an unrecognizably menacing Anna Telfer as the murderous florist, Givola; are portrayed with inhibition, sly comic timing, and a sense of joyful intensity. The production also uses live video feed, taken by a member of Arturo's entourage, to show how easy (and effective) it is, especially in modern culture, to use photographic and video media to create propagandistic material that manipulates a population to aid a rise to prominence. Sophisticated and engrossing, Resistible Rise is about more than a glory-hungry henchman--it's about the price tag of power (in this case: justice) and how quickly a desperate population will turn a blind eye to corruption and put their faith in a charismatic terrorist.


Westmont Theater Presents

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

By Bertold Brecht
Directed by Mitchell Thomas

October 27: 9 PM
October 28: 7:30 PM
At The Porter Theater


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From This Author Maggie Yates