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Review: “THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI” Stakes Claim to His Name at Jobsite Theater

TACKLING BRECHT IS NO SMALL FEAT BUT THE FOLKS AT JOBSITE PRESENT EXCEPTIONAL WORK HERE.

Review: “THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI” Stakes Claim to His Name at Jobsite Theater

"Nobody cares who the **** you are"

"There is a price tag on Maturity, that is the law of life and it will never change."

The show opens with a Ghost Light center stage. As most shows of a Brechtian nature go, characters of nondescript fashion layout the evening events in the manner of Prologue. The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, or as it is subtitled "The Parable Play," tells the story of the rise of Arturo Ui a fictional Chicago Mobster as he ruthlessly tries to control the Chicago vegetable market despite opposition. A political satire based on Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Nazi Germany prior to the events of World War II.

Characters are presented with fictional names to represent real-life people and events of the time period in which they reside. Dogsborough (Paul von Hindenburg), Arturo Ui (Adolf Hitler), Giri (Hermann Wilhelm Göring), Roma (Ernst Rohm), Givola (Joseph Goebbels), Dullfeet (Engelbert Dollfuß), Cauliflower Trust (Prussian Junkers), Clark of the Trust (Franz von Papen), Vegetable Dealers (Petty Bourgeoisie), Gangsters (Fascists), Fish (Marinus van der Lubbe). The places in which the parable is set were fictional to the story and representational of geographical locales, Chicago (Germany), Cicero (Austria), Dock aid Scandal (Eastern aid Scandal), The Warehouse (the Reichstag).

In its history, Resistible Rise remained shelved until 1953 once Brecht founded the Berliner Ensemble, where he had produced his major works. It was only presented twice on Broadway, first in 1963 with Christopher Plummer in the title role, and second in 1968-69 at the Guthrie with Robin Gammell in the titular role.

In its satirical binding, Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Arturo is much like that of Charlie Chaplin and pays homage to Chaplin's parody of Hitler in The Great Dictator. Donning many different hats and jackets at a rapid-fire pace, Jobsite's ensemble of 8 incredible performers play multiple roles and do so with a grappling gusto. This ensemble lives and breathes each and every moment the others make. Rather than 8 individual performers gracing the stage, we get one cohesive unit moving as one and becoming one body to tell this hilarious farce of nature. The use of projection screens outlines the place and time in which the events take place as we move through the plot. A total of 15 scenes, plus a prologue and epilogue make up the evening's plight.

This cast hands down is the strongest ensemble to grace an area stage in recent months. Making this a true tour-de-force, you must see to believe!

Leading the cast of misfits in the titular role himself is Derrick Phillips. Derrick completely embodies the role, almost to the point of losing himself in it. He is so precise in every moment to moment, it's almost as terrifying as it is funny to watch. A true force of nature and stirring turn from Mr. Phillips.

As Sheet/O'Casey/Fish/Gangster/Betty Dullfoot, Colleen Cherry is mesmerizing. Any time Colleen takes the stage she pushes the envelope that much further and it's truly a harrowing performance. You must see her rendition of Mark Antony's famous monologue from Julius Caesar, and a moment near the end where she sings that is truly breathtaking.

Giles Davies is magnanimous as Bowl/Givola/Smith/Servant. The way Mr. Davies contorts and moves about the stage is a pure work of genius. He is exceptional here and any time you get to see Giles onstage is a true masterclass in acting. His movements and delivery of dialogue are so studied and raw, but you feel each moment to moment from each delivery.

Spencer Meyers is frighteningly good as Roma/Defense. As Roma, he is wickedly evil and you can see it in his eyes. There is another world nature delivered in his performance, that is reminiscent of his turn as the Siren in Shockheaded Peter. He is magnetic, and there is a moment in which he visits Arturo as a Ghost much reminiscent of the events in Macbeth that is absolutely stunning.

"Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."

"The world was almost won by such an ape! The nations put him where his kind belong. But don't rejoice too soon at your escape - The womb he crawled from is still going strong."

Clark/Dockdaisy/Woman at the hands of Andresia Moseley is captivating. You feel her moments of grief and hang on to every word. Each time I have had the chance to see Andresia onstage is a moment that I will always remember, as she is that damn perfect at her craft. In Doubt, her short time on stage was a memorable scene-stealing moment, and much to that effect she embodies each persona here with the utmost precision.

As Young Dogsborough/Ragg/Crocket/Prosecutor/Inna, Blake Smallen is a standout. They captivate the audience from the moment they step onto the stage. I have yet to bear witness to the power of this young performer, but in their hands, they are right at home amongst even the most seasoned of performers, and after this stirring turn they will be on my radar for future endeavors.

Katrina Stevenson as Butcher/Girl is a great addition to the company. Katrina commands the stage at every turn and is wickedly good here. You can feel how bad she is and you just want to bask in the glory. Having seen Katrina in many performances with Jobsite and Stageworks, in addition to her turn as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, her Butcher is my favorite role of hers to date. While I'm mentioning her exceptional work, we must talk about how insanely exquisite the costuming work is. Right down to the detail in everyone's shoes, it plunges you in a 1930's gangster vibe, and suddenly I'm getting film/noir vibes. Outstanding work both onstage and behind the scenes, and she should be commended as such.

As Dogsborough/Greenwool/Ignatius Dullfoot Hugh Timoney is outstanding, and a great addition to the company. His Ignatius is stoic, and captivating, but wounded at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed his work here.

The company as whole swings for the fences, and knocks it completely out of the park!

Though the play itself is set in the 1930s its storyline is more relevant than ever today. As quoted in the Tampa Bay Times by Maggie Duffy, where she explains it best,

"An interesting part of Ui's rise is that as he gains more power, he wants his image to mirror what the "hicks," think a powerful man looks and sounds like. It feels realistic, the powerful ruler trying to connect to the masses for whom he has no respect."

Technically stunning the folks at Jobsite and under the exceptional direction of David Jenkins make Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, a smash hit. Jeremy Douglass' jarring and almost haunting underscores masterfully blend the world of the show with our own reality. Katrina Stevenson's costumes as mentioned above are exquisite in every stitch. I must make mention of a moment late in the show in which characters come out donning red armbands emblazoned with a U intersected with an I, to show that Ui has risen to power. Brian Smallheer's set is functional and works well for the moment to moment in which these characters share. It's almost industrial in nature and really adds a raw element to the story. Stunning lighting design by Jo Averill-Snell makes this eerie world seem all too real even amidst our current reality. Always captivating in design the lighting and set design blend seamlessly and complement not only the world of the show but the designer's stunning eye for detail on both fronts.

At the hand of David Jenkins, Resistible Rise is a rapid-fire, no holds barred tour de force that needs to be seen. He left not a t uncrossed in his vision, and as always this holds true here. Jenkins' and company have an expertly paced, fine-tuned amoeba-like temperment to the world of this show that it seems as if everyone is living and breathing from the same body. As you enter the space the ushers insist you sit in the first rows of the audience, as the performers interact and break the fourth wall making for a captivating night of theatre. Sitting that close to the action you actually get to see the true power in each of the performer's work. The intimate setting of the Shimberg Playhouse works well for the world of the show. David Jenkins says it best in his Director's Notes,

"You can't exactly say Brecht's script was prescient, because he was writing about something happening right then, and about things that had happened before that, but that these words continue to come out of our "leaders" mouths so often to this day should trouble us all since we know full-well where they lead. They never fail not to. This play is also about choices. We make a lot in this country about our individual freedoms, liberties, and our choices but we tend to do so while ignoring the other sides of those coins- our collective responsibilities, dependence on one another, and consequences. People like Ui get into power not in a vacuum, but by people allowing them to get there."

... "Democracy is complicated, ugly, and difficult. It's also precious and incredibly fragile. Yes, let's please all have a good laugh tonight, but let's never lose sight of that."

Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is onstage in the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts through June 4th. Do yourself a favor, stop everything you're doing and RUN to see this show! This exceptional cast and company deserve to have you laugh with them. Hell, you deserve it for yourself! In a world where rising gas prices, cost of living, general grocery shopping, etc.. is at an all-time high, we need to take time to reflect on the things we do have. We have the ability as a collective population to seek out moments of laughter in an otherwise terrible situation. We have Artists and Companies such as Jobsite creating such works as this to not only entertain, but pose a question, and Anton Chekov says it best, "The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them."

Tickets to Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui can be purchased by visiting strazcenter.org.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ned Averill-Snell



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