Event Reviews
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

By Bertolt Brecht • Translated by Jennifer Wise

Directed by Christopher Niess

Starring Forrest Stringfellow

Theater UCF • Orlando, Florida

As I was preparing for tonight’s show, I overheard a comment in another stall to the effect of “all democracies ultimately result in dictatorships.” It was a scary, powerful undercurrent to the minimalist and rather brutal show I was about to witness.

The real show within The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui begins on a soundstage, presumably filming this drama for a Hollywood gangster flick. The set is gray and oddly lit, the cast remains in constant motion, moving flats and props between takes marked by various gongs and flashing lights. Arturo (Forrest Stringfellow) leads the drama dressed as the slicked-back gangster you imagine Don Corleone was in his heyday. Dashing, debonair, a ladies man and a psychopathic killer and bound for greatness. His supporting cast tends to the comic, but that’s merely a veneer over the low esteem the mob holds for the lives of those in their way.

Ui’s goal is to combine the Chicago action with that of Cicero, a small town up the road a bit in the general direction of modern day Kenosha. Their business is the “cauliflower” trade, a pseudonym for booze and other fun drugs. Ui’s co-opted the good graces of a principled preacher, and when the Cicero Cauliflower Cartel punches back, Ui murders some moralist competition and seduces his victim’s wife. In other words, it’s a jaunty romantic comedy where everyone dies abruptly and for no good reason other than they are actually honest. You just might see a subversive whiff of modern politics.

The staging here is as jarring a the plot. When not advancing the story, the cast adjusts the furniture and cameras to make the movie aspect of this production seem reasonable. Actors stand around running lines, grating bells announce camera rolling, and lights are low. When a director announces “cut,” the crew immediately resets the stage, and the principals look bored as cell phones lay decades in the future. The final victim on stage is Ui himself, fulfilling that old acorn of “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” And dead cast members are a-plenty, allowing for easy multiple casting.

This show takes a bold stand against the backdrop of modern American politics, where opposing parties are not likely to ever admit defeat in the smallest iota of policy. This is a provocative show that flips off a certain political faction active in America tonight, but it’s not that they would bother to see this show or any other theater, never mind plumb its depths. That makes the ride out to the parking lot safer, but once you are back in the Metro traffic flow, all bets are off.

Theatre UCF

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