“The Resistible Rise of Arturo UI,” which will take the stage this Friday at the University Center for the Arts Studio Theater, takes a satirical perspective on the reign of Adolf Hitler and sets the story in Chicago during the gangster era of Al Capone.
The play was written in 1941 by Bertolt Brecht, a German poet and playwright, while he was in exile from Germany and awaiting an American visa. Brecht wrote the play in response to the rise of Hitler.
Despite being written about 75 years ago, it still has relevance today, said Director Walt Jones.
“The [U.S.] presidential administration is a lot like the one that is talked about in the play,” Jones said. “In fact, there are lines in the play that are right out of the newspapers today.”
The play, as it was written in 1941, discusses immigration, fake news and failing newspapers. It combines slapstick comedy with crime and a fight for power. It utilizes performance qualities as introduced by the works of the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin.
“It is a mash up of all of those things, pop culture from the 30s and 40s in the U.S.,” Jones said.
What sets this part from other productions is the dynamic relationship between the actors and the audience. The production is presented in a style inspired by the German Cabaret. The audience is seated at tables with actors sitting behind them, performing in front of them and moving past them.
The play demands a presentational quality and is an in-your-face type of show, Jones said.
The audience does not sit behind an invisible wall in this play, but instead is interacted with.
“The audience is definitely a character in the play,” Jones said.
There are 12 cast members who play 40 roles. The role of Arturo Ui is played by junior theater performance major Zach Rickert.
This is Rickert’s sixth CSU production, with previous performances including “Noises off” and “Boy”.
Taking on the role of Arturo Ui, who is essentially Hitler, has been challenging and required a lot of time invested both inside and outside of rehearsals, Rickert said.
“The [character] is an ego manic for sure,” Rickert said. “He really wants to be in control. He wants to be in charge. He wants to make things better for himself… he doesn’t really care who he has to throw by the wayside to do that.”
Creating the show has been a collaboration among the director and cast, Rickert said.
It has given the cast the opportunity to use creative experimentation instead of step-by-step instructions.
“We have a lot of really talented cast members creating this show,” Rickert said. “I’ve been really lucky with that. Walt is a brilliant director and he’s always great to work with because he knows what he wants, but he lets us have the freedom to experiment.”
“The Resistible Rise of Arturo UI” premieres Friday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. There will be evening shows on March 4, 9, 10 and 11. There are afternoon performances March 5 and 11. Tickets are free for students and it is recommended to purchase tickets in advance as seats are limited.