Arts theater review

Thuggery takes the stage and refuses to give it up

MIT Theater Arts and Dramashop presents Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Directed by Jay Scheib
Nov. 3 - 8, 8 - 10 p.m.
Kresge Little Theater

Two figures in a comforting embrace slowly spin together. They pat each other’s backs, going around in circles over and over again.

There’s a loud explosion. A flash of light, and then darkness ensues.

Suddenly, we are flies on the wall witnessing a boisterous group argue about something called the Cauliflower Trust. In between rushed yelling and a few violent eruptions, we pick up pieces of information about the loan issue that is troubling these exasperated individuals. They’re antsy and they’re angry, but they eventually decide they must head to Dogsborough (Alexa Garcia ’17), a virtual saint in the eyes of the city, and ask her to be a part of the scandalous dock subsidy. However, they don’t foresee the metamorphosis of the gang leader, Arturo Ui (Garrett Schulte ’17), who decides to get involved with brutality.

This sets off the chain of heart-wrenching and contentious events that eventually turns the city of Chicago over to the mobster Arturo Ui and his volatile gang. In this telling of political thuggery, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is injected with humor in a way that makes it easy to forget the seriousness and wrongness of what is unfolding in the play. However, the final, chilling moments are sobering, a scene of the dead and weak on the floor at Arturo’s feet.

Arturo Ui is saturated with historical importance. It is a satirical allegory of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany prior to World War II. Written by Bertolt Brecht, Arturo Ui first premiered in West Germany in 1958. Bertolt Brecht fled Germany to escape Hitler’s reign, moving to Scandinavia and eventually the U.S.

The parallels seem to be endless: Ui represents Hitler, his henchman Ernesto Roma (Riley Ledezma ’16) represents Ernst Röhm, Dogsborough represents General von Hindenburg, a hero of World War I and the President of the Weimar Republic, Givola (Ruth Tweedy ’20) represents the master propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and the Cauliflower Trust represents the Prussian Junkers. Chicago is the play’s version of Germany, Cicero is meant to be Austria, and the Warehouse represents the Reichstag.

In addition to the excellent acting in Arturo Ui, a lot of the non-acting elements, such as the interesting videography on the screens throughout the play, the set, the costumes, the lighting, and the sound effects all enhanced the production. The set team efforts, especially of those of the production manager (Kathryn Jiang ’20) and the video and lighting assistants (Rachel Yang ’18 and Hallie Voulgaris ’17) amplified the presence of the actors and the overall effect of the play.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui closes November 8, election night, in Kresge Auditorium, which is also a local polling station. This is no coincidence — Arturo Ui is a very political work, equally entertaining, impressive, and thought-provoking.