By Seth Gross
The Yeshiva College Dramatics Society’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ at the Schottenstein Theater was a bold and thought-provoking exploration of one of the most important plays of the 20th century. Directed by Reuven Russel, the production presented the play in a stripped-down, minimalist style that emphasized the raw power of Brecht’s language and the timeless relevance of the play’s themes. The set, designed by Betzalel Cohen, consisted of little more than a few chairs and a backdrop of newspaper headlines, which effectively conveyed the atmosphere of political turmoil and corruption that permeates the play.
The production was anchored by a standout performance from Gabriel Gross, who played the title role with a compelling mix of menace and vulnerability. When reflecting on the play, Gabriel had the following to say in regard to the goal set out by the cast. “Brechtian style is really difficult to capture and throughout the performance we spoke about how ambitious it was. I hope that we were able to portray a sliver of what Brecht wanted to portray with the rise of Hitler and Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil.” Gabriel fully inhabited Ui’s character, capturing both his ruthless ambition and his deep-seated insecurities. The supporting cast was also strong, with Elijah Greenberg and Ytzy Warren standing out in particular for their nuanced and affecting portrayals of their characters.
The play’s themes of political corruption, propaganda, and the dangers of authoritarianism were brought vividly to life by the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society’s production. The parallels between Ui’s rise to power and the rise of real-world despots were clear and powerful, and the play’s message about the importance of resisting tyranny was as urgent and relevant as ever.
One of the most impressive aspects of the production was the way it managed to balance Brecht’s political themes with his unique style of theater. The use of rhymes in powerful dialogue and direct address to the audience, two hallmark techniques of Brechtian theater, were seamlessly integrated into the production. These techniques added an additional layer of meaning and complexity to the play.
While the production was not without its flaws, particularly in some uneven pacing and occasional stilted dialogue, overall it was an impressive achievement for the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society. By tackling such a challenging and important play, they have demonstrated their commitment to producing thought-provoking theater that engages with the most pressing issues of our time.
In a world where the threat of authoritarianism and political corruption looms larger than ever, ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ remains a vital and urgent work of theater. The Yeshiva College Dramatics Society’s production of the play was a worthy and powerful contribution to its legacy.