“Nobody cares who you are”
“There is a price to pay for maturity, it is the law of life and that will never change.”
The show opens with a central Ghost Light stage. As do most shows with a Brechtian character, indefinable fashionable characters set the stage for the evenings in the manner of Prologue. The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, or as it’s captioned “The Parable Play,” tells the story of the rise of Arturo Ui, a fictional Chicago mobster as he ruthlessly attempts to control the Chicago vegetable market despite opposition. A political satire based on Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany before the events of World War II.
The characters are presented with fictional names to represent real people and events from the 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), Greengrocers (Petty Bourgeoisie), Gangsters (Fascists), Fish (Marinus van der Lubbe). The locations in which the parable takes place were fictitious for history and representation of geographical locations, Chicago (Germany), Cicero (Austria), Dock aid Scandal (Eastern aid Scandal), The Warehouse (the Reichstag).
In his story, Resistant climb remained on the shelves until 1953 when Brecht founded the Berliner Ensemble, where he had produced his major works. It only performed twice on Broadway, the first in 1963 with Christopher Plummer in the title role, and the second in 1968-69 at the Guthrie with Robin Gammell in the title role.
In its satirical binding, Resistant rise of Arturo Ui, Arturo bears a strong resemblance to Charlie Chaplin and pays homage to Hitler’s parody of Chaplin in The Great Dictator. Donning many different hats and jackets at a breakneck pace, Jobsite’s ensemble of 8 incredible performers take on multiple roles and do so with grappling enthusiasm. This set lives and breathes every moment the others make. Rather than 8 individual performers gracing the stage, we get a cohesive unit moving as one and becoming one body to tell this hilarious nature farce. The use of projection screens describes where and when events unfold as we move through the plot. A total of 15 scenes, plus a prologue and an epilogue make up the fate of the evening.
This cast is arguably the strongest ensemble to grace a local scene in recent months. What makes it a real tour de force, you have to see it to believe it!
Derrick Phillips himself leads the cast of misfits in the lead role. Derrick completely embodies the role, almost to the point of getting lost in it. He’s so precise every moment, it’s almost as terrifying as it is fun to watch. A true force of nature and a moving turn from Mr. Phillips.
As Sheet/O’Casey/Fish/Gangster/Betty Dullfoot, Colleen Cherry is fascinating. Every time Colleen takes the stage she pushes the boundaries even further and it is truly a heartbreaking performance. You must see his rendition of Mark Antony’s famous monologue from Julius Caesarand a moment towards 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 around the stage is a pure work of genius. He’s exceptional here and every time you see Giles on stage, it’s a real master class in acting. His movements and dialogue delivery are so studied and raw, but you feel every moment of every delivery.
Spencer Meyers is terribly good as Roma/Defense. As Roma, he’s wickedly evil and you can see it in his eyes. There is another nature of the world delivered in her performance, reminiscent of her mermaid ride in Peter shocked. He is magnetic, and there is a moment when he visits Arturo like a ghost that is very reminiscent of the events of macbeth it is absolutely stunning.
“Don’t rejoice at his defeat, you men. For though the world has risen and stopped the bastard, the female dog who carried him is in heat again.”
“The world has almost been conquered by such an ape! Nations have placed him where his kind belongs. But do not rejoice too soon at your escape – The belly from which he crawled is still going strong.”
Clark/Dockdaisy/Woman at the hands of Andresia Moseley is captivating. You feel his moments of grief and you cling to every word. Every time I’ve had the chance to see Andresia on stage, it’s a moment I’ll always remember, because she’s damn perfect at her craft. In Doubt, her short stint on stage was a memorable moment of scene stealing, and to that effect, she embodies every character here with the utmost precision.
As Young Dogsborough/Ragg/Crocket/Prosecutor/Inna, Blake Smallen stands out. They captivate the audience as soon as they enter the stage. I have yet to witness the power of this young performer, but in their hands they are at home, even among the most seasoned performers, and after this emotional turn, they will be on my radar for future projects.
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 numerous performances with Jobsite and Stageworks, in addition to her role as Puck in Dream of a summer night, his butcher is my favorite role to date. While I mention his exceptional work, we have to talk about how the costume work is incredibly exquisite. Down to the finest detail in everyone’s skin, it puts you in a 30s gangster vibe, and suddenly I get film/noir vibes. Outstanding work both on stage and behind the scenes, and she should be commended as such.
As Dogsborough/Greenwool/Ignatius Dullfoot, Hugh Timoney is exceptional and a great addition to the company. His Ignatius is stoic and captivating, but hurt at the same time. I really enjoyed his work here.
The whole company swings towards the fences and knocks it completely out of the park!
Although the play itself is set in the 1930s, its storyline is more relevant today than ever. 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 grows in power, he wants his image to reflect what the ‘hicks’ think a powerful man looks and looks like. It seems realistic, with the powerful leader trying to connect with the masses for which he has no respect.”
Technically stunning, the folks at Jobsite and under the exceptional leadership of David Jenkins make Resistant rise of Arturo Ui, a thunderbolt. Jeremy Douglass’ jarring and almost haunting subtitles masterfully blend the show’s world with our own reality. Katrina Stevenson’s costumes, as mentioned above, are exquisite in every stitch. I have to mention a late moment in the series where characters come out wearing red armbands with a U interspersed with an I, to show that Ui has taken over. Brian Smallheer’s set is functional and works well for when these characters share. It’s almost industrial in nature and really adds a gritty element to the story. Jo Averill-Snell’s stunning lighting design makes this strange world seem all too real, even in the midst of our current reality. Always captivating in its design, the lighting and scenography blend seamlessly and complement not only the world of spectacle, but also the designer’s amazing eye for detail on both fronts.
In the hands of David Jenkins, Resistant climb is a fast and limitless tour de force that must be seen. He was not left without a cross in his vision, and as always, that is true here. Jenkins and company have an expertly paced and honed amoeba-like temper in the world of this show that it seems like everyone lives and breathes the same body. As you enter the space, ushers insist you sit in the front rows of the audience, as performers interact and break the fourth wall for a captivating night of theatre. Sitting so close to the action, you can actually see the true power of each of the performer’s works. The intimate setting of the Shimberg Playhouse is well suited to the entertainment world. David Jenkins says it best in his Director’s Notes,
“You can’t say exactly that Brecht’s script was prescient, because he was writing about something that was happening at that time, and things that had happened before that, but that those words keep coming out if often from the mouths of our “leaders” to this day. should confuse us all because we know very well where they lead. They never fail to do so. This piece is also about choice. We do a lot in this countries about our individual liberties, liberties, and choices, but we tend to do so while ignoring the other sides of those coins — our collective responsibilities, our dependence on each other, and the consequences. come to power not in a vacuum, but through people allowing let them get there.”
… “Democracy is complicated, ugly and difficult. It is also precious and incredibly fragile. Yes, please, let’s all laugh tonight, but let’s never lose sight of that.”
Resistant rise of Arturo Ui is on stage at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts’ Shimberg Playhouse through June 4. Do yourself a favor, stop whatever you’re doing and RUN to see this show! This outstanding cast and company deserve to have you laughing with them. Hell, you deserve it for yourself! In a world where rising gas prices, cost of living, general groceries, etc. is at an all time high, we need to take the time to reflect on the things we have. As a collective population, we have the ability to seek out moments of laughter in an otherwise terrible situation. We have artists and companies like Jobsite creating works like this not just to entertain, but to ask a question, and Anton Chekov says it best: “The role of the artist is to ask questions, not to answer them.”
Tickets for Resistant rise of Arturo Ui can be purchased by visiting strazcenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ned Averill-Snell