Wednesday, October 25, 2017
At Westmont’s Porter Theater, Sat., Oct. 21. Shows through Sat., Oct. 28.
This startling, profound production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui patiently reveals every layer of the playwright’s complex and turbulent vision. Get to the theater 15 minutes early for a giddy pre-show sing-along with the cast and music director John Douglas’s excellent jazz combo, but be prepared for a long night’s journey into Brecht’s full range of registers, which go well beyond cabaret-style satire to embrace Shakespearean tragedy and Blakean prophesy.
While the setup may seem simple — a gangster on the rise in Prohibition-era Chicago — the execution is anything but. Elena White is terrific as Arturo Ui, squeezing every last note of humor, pathos, and menace out of the Hitler surrogate’s awful march to power. Troy Chimuma turns in a revelatory performance as Old Dogsborough, the political hack who bears the brunt of Ui’s machinations, and then comes back not once but twice to make equally smart choices as The Actor and The Judge.
What really makes this production special is the depth of the cast — Anna Telfer, Sean McElrath, Josh Martinez-Davis, Karly Kuntz, Nina Fox, Hunter Stilwell, Sam Stroming, and more all offer convincing portrayals in difficult roles that require deep understanding and considerable technique. The ending features a shocking juxtaposition of music and matter that I will not divulge here, but that I can say was wrenchingly effective.