Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Classic Stage Company
November 17, 2018

Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
This is an ideal time for a revisit of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, and the Classic Stage Company production hits every mark in this political parable.  The Brecht style and utilization of theatre as a vehicle for strong social commentary is heightened in this production by actors changing hats to portray numerous roles and side glances to the audience to acknowledge their presence.  Under the direction of John Doyle this amazing cast finds the poetic timing of Brecht’s writing to incite humor, identification, and outrage.  

Bertolt Brecht wrote The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui after escaping Germany in 1933.  The play parallels Hitler’s rise to power with that of Brooklyn-born Chicago gangster, Arturo Ui (played by Raul Esparza).  He offers protection to the grocery industry by inciting fear in an unknown enemy.  He them proves the presence of this fictional enemy by having his goons burn down a warehouse.  This action is a reference to the burning down of the Reichstag in 1933, which brought Hitler and the Nazi Party to a powerful public position.  Arturo Ui trains himself to have the public persona he knows he needs to gain power with the working class.  Once this is achieved, he is able to rise to greater self-serving heights.

Raul Esparza as Arturo Ui
Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
Raul Esparza displays an amazing range of skill in his portrayal of Arturo Ui.  His character yearns for power and transforms to achieve it.  His vocal characterization goes from nasal and comic to bold and powerful.  His physicalization changes from timid and flippant to magnetic and controlling.  He embodies the power as it shapes his identity.  He takes ownership it, and fully believes it is part of him.  His performance is riveting and inspiring.  You cannot take your eyes off him.  

From the Classic Stage Company electronic program notes: “The play is a parable in which Brecht demonstrates, through satire and high drama, how mundane irrationality can lead to an inhumane and barbaric government."  This is a powerful message for our time, and the cast works as a tight ensemble to deliver it with full impact.  Each actor (George Abud, Eddie Cooper, Elizabeth A. Davis, Christopher Gurr, Omoze Idehenre, Mahira Kakkar, and Thom Sesma) creates distinctive characters that are genuinely layered in truthful detail. 

Raul Esparza & Eddie Copper
Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
The purpose of a parable is to simplify a complex situation and offer perspective for deeper and clearer understanding.  The Classic Stage Company production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui does that to perfection.  Don’t miss this timely production.  It is running through December 22.

Domenick Danza

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