Fascinating and energetic

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Venue: Jericho Arts Centre, Vancouver

Date(s): March 7-17, 2002

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a fascinating combination of Al Capone's Chicago underworld and the emergent Nazi totalitarianism of Hitler's Germany in the early 30's. This fast-paced production, full of energetic dancing, patter, songs and humourous dialogue is nevertheless blood chilling in its implications.

Directed by Tom Kerr, performed by both experienced and less well-known actors, this show is full of excellent performances by a multi-talented cast. The original music composed by Rick Fox is redolent of the era, and played with taste. To keep the audience aware of the passage of time and of the historical events occurring during the presentation, information is projected onto a backdrop screen. Short scenes follow each other at lightning speed, while the masked actors change character with equal celerity.

Tom Kerr has elected to paint the faces of the actors with masks, rather than using the stiffer and less expressive actualities. The clothes worn by the cast are American 1930's. As he gains in power and wealth, Arturo Ui's wardrobe becomes more opulent and degenerative, while those of whom he has ruined are reduced to shirtsleeves. In the same way, as Ui becomes more authoritative, violence and evil grows, and the characters of integrity are destroyed.

Foremost of the actors, Adam Henderson as Arturo Ui sinuously evolves from the scheming gangster into the terrifying big boss with the power of life and death over all within his long reach. This transformation involves several scenes, the most memorable is that of his being coached in deportment by an actor (Bert Steinmanis). This is a scene of light relief in an increasingly frightening environment. Anna Cummer plays four very dissimilar roles with equal talent and aplomb, perhaps her best being the adolescent Young Dogsborough.

The Mentor Co-op does an excellent job of giving less well-known and less experienced actors the opportunity to work in such a distinguished company. The talent of these actors is apparent but they are gaining experience, instruction by example and a chance to be seen in this outstanding production of an outstanding play.

2002, Jane Penistan


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