Photo by Kelsie Margolin
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Unionville High School in Kennett Square, PA
November 12, 2019
Review submitted by Oliver Blinman of Harriton High School
A show full of murder, crime, dirty dealings, and cauliflower? Unionville High School’s The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui was a bold new take on Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 allegory.
The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui reveals the vegetable market’s underground dealings with the mobsters who swear to offer strong protection. Arturo Ui, inspired by Adolf Hitler, is a rough mob leader who does not shy away from the use of brute force in the elimination of her enemies and her friends in her rise to power as the sole protector of vegetable vendors.
This production was a challenging endeavor that Unionville took in stride. The layers of satire and allegorical ideas, coupled with the complicated language, created a truly difficult piece of theatre, which was well handled by the small cast and crew. Though there were some stumbles, the message of the show pulled through, and with it came some truly outstanding performances and riveting artistic risks.
While most of the actors played many roles, only one remained the same throughout the entire show. Rachel Tierney was absolutely striking as Arturo Ui. Mysterious, terrifying, charismatic, and eerily likable, she delivered a fantastic and powerful performance. Her command of the space made her a convincing dictator. Tierney’s role was a challenge, funny and tragic, and while she often leaned further into the dramatic side than the comedic, she offered a strong and memorable show.
Soren Sheckells was another dynamic player. He is a very talented actor with a wide range: from the delusional and hilarious witness, Fish, to the intimidating and passionate mobster, Roma, Sheckells had to do it all, and do it all he did. One particular highlight was Arturo Ui’s dream, in which Roma returns from the dead to threaten Ui. The emotion and tension emanating from Sheckells was breathtaking and overwhelmingly compelling. He was just one of many talented actors who handled their various roles incredibly well, including Jaden Wrabley, who seamlessly transitioned from aristocratic vegetable dealer to snobby Shakespearean actor.
The set was designed well for the space and reflected the mixture of 20’s and 90’s cultural styles well. The lighting was practical and well done, if sometimes underused. A great addition to the show was a projection of quotes that appeared after every scene at the front of the stage, adding clarity and thought to what had just played out. The costumes added to the timeless aura that engulfed the production. There were some sound mishaps and an echo to all of the mics, but the sound quality was otherwise good.
Unionville High School’s The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui was a thought-provoking, introspective, and courageous production.
Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School
In the past decade, the world has experienced a surge in populist rhetoric that has upended the global political landscape. The Unionville High School Players’ production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui spoke to this as it reminded that audience that “power isn’t a means, it’s an end.”
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a heavily satirical allegory of the emergence of Hitler and the Nazi party. Written in 1941 by Bertolt Brecht, it tells the story of the washed-up but ambitious gangster Arturo Ui, who ruthlessly attempts to dominate the Chicago cauliflower racket. The play contains references to many famously corrupt leaders, everything from Nixon’s Watergate Scandal to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Unionville’s production was incredibly ambitious, with striking costumes and a set that fused the Roaring 20s with 1970s punk rock. The cast also did a great job of straddling the difficult fine line between comedy and drama that a satire about Fascism requires.
Rachel Tierney commanded the stage as the magnetic Arturo Ui. Maintaining a thick Chicago accent and a characteristic mobster saunter throughout a whole show is no easy feat, but Tierney made it seem effortless. She skillfully captured Ui’s unhinged mental state without losing his captivating amount of charisma.
Meghan McClosky was a standout among the supporting cast with her portrayal of the straight-shooting Dogsborough. Her growing guilt throughout the show was palpable, and her descent into despair at the hands of Ui was heart-wrenchingly believable. Comedic highlights of the show included Soren Sheckells as the hysterically incoherent Fish and Jaden Wrabley as the flamboyant Actor. Although several clear jokes fell flat, the cast always managed to convey the play’s more important dramatic undertones.
The technical star of the show was the incredible stage management team of Haley Crawford and Lauren Landolt. They created deeply comprehensive guides of the play’s light and sound cues while also ensuring an impressive amount of coordination between the set, costumes, and props that gave the whole production a cohesive look. Another technical highlight was the set, which fused Art Deco with graffiti to create a unique and unforgettable sight.
With its bold technical choices and performances raw with emotion, Unionville’s production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui created a timeless portrayal of the dangers of a totalitarian government reminding the audience that even though Hitler is gone, “the ooze that spawned him is as rich as ever.”