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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

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Written in 1941 and only produced after its playwright's death in 1956, Bertolt Brecht's broad satire of Adolf Hitler and his cronies seems an unlikely hit in post-Cold War America. Yet this comic allegory, which makes the obvious comparison of the Nazis to Prohibition-era gangsters, works surprisingly well. In part this is because Brecht is quite clever at finding gangland analogues to people and events in Germany in the 30s: Weimar president Hindenburg appears as a softhearted but easily corrupted saloon keeper named Dogsborough; Germany's absorption of Austria becomes Chicago's annexation of Cicero; and Hitler himself appears as Arturo Ui, a bullying, uncouth Al Capone wannabe. However, most opf the credit for the success of this show should go to codirectors Richard Cotovsky and Jef Bek, and their huge comically adept cast. Performing in a broad, cartoonish style reminiscent of New Crime Productions' trademark commedia dell'arte style, Cotovsky and Bek's cast manages to reveal much of the comedy in Brecht's original story even as they communicate the horror that lies just beneath Brecht's humor. Mark Vallarta's take on the unsavory Arturo Ui, for example, is both very funny and very threatening. The recent concomitant resurgence of gang activity in the U.S. and neo-Nazi activity and "ethnic cleansing" in Europe only gives Brecht's bitter allegory a frightening new relevance. Fittingly, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui has been extended through Saint Valentine's Day. Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Angel Island, 731 W. Sheridan, 871-0442. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $10; $14 per couple at show on Sunday, February 14, to commemorate the Saint Valentine's Day massacre.

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