The cast of “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” engaged the audience in an environmental performance at the University Center for the Arts Friday evening.
The satirical plot depicts the story of Adolf Hitler, depicted as ringleader Arturo Ui, set in the “mobster” time period of Chicago. It parallels Hitler’s rise before World War II in an unexpected twist, but its powerful message rang through nonetheless.
“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” was performed in the Studio Theatre and involved the audience in a unique environmental style.
Characters stole pretzels from audience members’ tables and gunshot sound effects created a more realistic tension in the plot, which took place primarily on the floor around tables.
Characters frantically ran, drunkenly staggered and coolly strolled mere inches away from audience members. Actors sat at one of the tables in the middle of the theatre to discuss Arturo Ui’s treachery and gang violence erupting across Chicago.
The parallels, though subtle and almost undetectable at first, began to resonate by the end of the first act, finally leading up to a haunting and important ending. The lighting created moods, accurately depicting the inside of a warehouse during a thunderstorm and an ominous red glow during the final scene. Projections on the upper levels of the set also created otherwise impossible effects, adding to the realism of the play.
Director Walt Jones said the play was unlike anything he had ever directed in his time at Colorado State University, especially regarding the growth of the students in the cast as they prepared for the show.
“You wouldn’t recognize the cast sitting around the table and reading through the script for the first time,” Jones said. “They’ve truly bloomed in a unique way. They’ve developed in layers rather than a linear, gradual way. It’s the director’s dream when you start to see cast members finding their characters, getting ideas for how to portray them and then fighting for focus.”
Zack Rickert, who plays the lead role of Arturo Ui, said he spent a lot of individual time preparing for the performance.
“Learning to actively portray your character is definitely a process,” Rickert said. “I spent a lot of time watching myself in the mirror, probably more than most sane people.”
Rickert said one of the most difficult parts of depicting Arturo Ui was remaining true to the actual person who inspired the character while adding his own element and making the character his own.
Bruce Gammonley, who portrayed Givola, agrees that learning the different mannerisms for a certain character dynamic posed a challenge for him as an actor.
“In order to learn how to act like a slippery creep, I actually watched videos of politicians, which included Emperor Palpatine,” Gammonley said.
Katie Shriver, a female actor who plays a male character, said she spent a lot of time watching how men move and walk.
“I even watched drag videos in order to get a feel for how to embody a male character, both physically and emotionally,” Shriver said.
Rickert said that getting the costumes for their respective characters helped immensely in developing their characters.
Bradley Calahan, who plays three different roles, said that performing in costume for the first time brought it all together.
“I would keep asking Adam, the stage manager, if they had my hat yet,” Calahan said. “Your costume holds a lot of elements for your character and it completely changes everything.”
Jones said that, from a director’s standpoint, he saw a definite change in the cast members when they performed in costume for the first time.
Many actors in the performance also helped in the technical aspect of the show, particularly in set design, lighting and projections.
Daniel Zumwalt, who depicts Dogsborugh and works backstage, said the double-dynamic of working on and off the stage helped him grow as an actor.
“When you work in both worlds, it really puts you on a whole new level of acting,” Zumwalt said. “You start to understand all the details that make it come together.”
Jake Cuddemi, who plays six different roles, said the show has helped him develop both as an actor and as a person.
“It’s taught me to let go of things that I can’t control and just focus on doing the best that I can,” Cuddemi said.
Projections, lighting and a simple yet complex set allowed the plot to develop around the audience rather than in front of them, creating a unique experience for everyone. The play ultimately left the audience with a very powerful message.
“This show is special because even since we started working on it, it’s become increasingly relevant,” Rickert said. “It’s a bit of a warning.”
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” runs through March 11 at the Studio Theatre in the UCA. Remaining performances will take place March 9 at 7:30 p.m., March 10 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $18 for the general public and admission is free for CSU students.