What Have We Learned?

arturoui_7190-reader-proof

Nils Haaland stars as Arturo Ui in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” at the Blue Barn Theatre

A lowly gangster rises to power in Chicago with the conquering of the greengrocery trade.  This is the story of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht and is currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Yes, I realize the plot sounds like a comedy, but it’s not.  This play is a satire on the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and is actually one of the gutsiest pieces of literature ever written as Brecht wrote it in 1941, shortly after Hitler gained ascendancy in Europe.

This play is vintage Blue Barn as it is challenging, make you think theatre with an experimental flavor.  Brecht has a very real/unreal style to his writing and you may find the story a bit confusing.  However, there is a detailed explanation on what to expect from the production in the program and moments from Hitler’s rise to power are projected onto a screen after every major scene to demonstrate the parallels between the play and reality.

I don’t think Susan Clement-Toberer could give flawed direction even if she tried.  Once more, her gift for nuance and character shows itself in a tour de force effort.  The staging is quite clever as she manages to fit her rather large cast onto the narrow dock that is Martin Scott Marchitto’s set.  I found the use of video footage to parallel Ui and Hitler to be quite beneficial and she once again leads a powerhouse cast to a series of strong performances.

While largely an ensemble piece, this show rests on the shoulders of the actor playing Arturo Ui and one could not find a better choice for the role than Nils Haaland.  Haaland once again throws himself into a role as he utterly transforms himself into Ui.  He nimbly handles the long and difficult wordplay of Ui with astonishing ease and displays new facets of the character almost every time you blink.

Haaland is just a sad piece of work at the play’s start as he laments being a common criminal out of the public eye.  Once he finds an in to the greengrocery trade, Haaland evolves (perhaps devolves?) Ui from a two bit hood to an inhuman monster as his power base grows.  The fleeting signs of humanity Haaland shows at the beginning of the show rapidly vanish as he is willing to betray and kill allies and friends to achieve his dream of conquering the nation.

Mike Markey does a superior piece of character acting as Old Dogsborough.  Markey hides his fitness well as the elderly, infirm Dogsborough who unintentionally provides Ui the means to start taking over the greengrocery trade.  Markey does an excellent job showing an extremely honest man buckle under the temptation of material gain.  From there, Markey’s body language shows a man slowly dying a living death as his body sags and collapses with each future appearance due to his guilt of letting Ui get his hooks into him due to one greedy choice.

Daena Schweiger’s performance as Emanuelle Giri is not to be missed.  Ms Schweiger is chilling as the psychopathic Giri who’s notable for a fetish for hats and a piercing, knifelike laugh.  Her Giri has no redeeming qualities and possesses a lust for power not unlike Ui’s own as she plots the death of a rival in Ui’s camp.

Jens Rasmussen makes his mark with his Blue Barn debut as Givola, another crony of Ui.  Rasmussen’s sense of movement is second to none as he has grace and fluidity which is all the more impressive given the beautiful limp he gives his character.  Rasmussen’s performance is quite memorable as he makes his Givola a potent blend of oily suck-up and Machiavelli.

Other strong ensemble performances come from Brennan Thomas who plays Ui’s right hand man, Ernesto Roma.  Roma’s penchant for danger and violence is matched only by his extreme loyalty to Ui.  One could argue that he is Ui’s one true friend which means absolutely nothing to that animal in human clothing.  Jennifer Gilg also shines in several character roles, but is particularly good as Betty Dullfleet, a criminal from another city who tries to stop Ui’s rise, but ultimately succumbs to his will.  J.J. Davis provides a bit of welcome levity as Ted Ragg, a reporter who bravely needles Ui.  Paul Boesing’s rich voice is suited to his roles as the show’s narrator and a classical actor who teaches poise and presence to Ui.

The Blue Barn clearly felt that the circumstances that led to Hitler’s rise are present in today’s political atmosphere with some subtle references in the actor’s costumes and a rather charged and colorful closing speech from Haaland.  It’s truly spooky to think that an evil like Hitler was able to rise to power and nearly won.  It’s even spookier to think that the present world climate could give rise to another like him.  As the play’s title suggests, Hitler could have been resisted.  As you watch this play and see what it tries to teach, ask yourself, “What have we learned?”

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui plays at the Blue Barn through October 16.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm.  There is no show on Sept 25.  Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), T.A.G. members, and groups of ten or more.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 from 10am-4pm Mon-Fri or visit www.bluebarn.org.  Due to strong language and adult situations, this show is not recommended for children.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th Street in Omaha, NE.

A Dictator Rises at the Blue Barn

arturoui_7190-reader-proof

Nils Haaland stars as Arturo Ui in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” at the Blue Barn Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to open Season 28 with Bertolt Brecht’s compelling and timely drama, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
BLUEBARN Producing Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer directs with Barry Carman serving as Assistant Director with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Ernie Gubbels, costume design by Lindsay Pape, sound design by Molly Welsh, and properties design by Amy Reiner.
Shows run September 22 – October 16, 2016; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday October 2nd, 9th, and 16th at 6 p.m. Single tickets for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui are $30 for adults; and $25 for students, seniors 65+, TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.  For tickets, please visit www.bluebarn.org or call at 402-345-1576 during the hours of 9:30am to 4:30pm (M-F).   The BLUEBARN Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is generously sponsored by Kate and Roger Weitz, Carter and Vernie Jones with additional support from Rich and Fran Juro.

About The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
A Slapstick Tragedy…
Described by Brecht as ‘a gangster play that would recall certain events familiar to us all’, Arturo Ui is a witty and savage satire of the rise of Hitler – recast by Brecht into a fictional, small-time Chicago gangster’s takeover of the city’s greengrocery trade in the 1930s. The satirical allegory combines Brecht’s Epic style of theatre with black comedy and overt moralism. Using a wide range of parody and spoof – from Al Capone to Shakespeare’s Richard III and Goethe’s Faust – Brecht’s compelling parable continues to have relevance wherever totalitarianism appears today.

About the Stars of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
BLUEBARN founding company member Nils Haaland brings Brecht’s title character to comic and menacing life. The acting company consists of many BLUEBARN Theatre veterans including: Paul Boesing (Frost/Nixon), J.J. Davis, Jennifer Gilg, Mary Kelly (33 Variations), Mark Kocsis, Daniel Luethke, Mike Markey (Our Town), Sydney Readman (Bad Jews), John Ryan, Paul Schneider, and Erika Sieff (Bug). Actors making their BLUEBARN debut include Steve Denenberg, Noah Diaz, Jens Rasmussen, Daena Schweiger, and Brennan Thomas.

About the Playwright: Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht was one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century. His works include The Threepenny Opera (1928) with composer Kurt Weill, Mother Courage and Her Children (1938), The Good Person of Szechwan (1942), and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941). Brecht began writing plays while working at an Army hospital. Brecht’s work fit nicely with the Dadaist and Marxist movement of the time. The increased dissatisfaction with society after World War I fit Brecht’s anti-bourgeois writing. He fled Nazi Germany and settled in the US, until setting in Berlin following World War II.

About the BLUEBARN Theatre
The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

 

Blue Barn Announces Auditions for Season Opener

BLUEBARN Theatre Announces Auditions for Season 28 Opener:  The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

The BLUEBARN Theatre is pleased to announce open auditions for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht. Auditions will be held on Saturday, July 2nd from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturday, July 9th from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Auditions will be held at the BLUEBARN located at 1106 S. 10th St. (10th & Pacific Streets.)

Performances for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui run September 22 – October 16, 2016 with rehearsals scheduled to begin August 2016.

Company members needed: 12 male, age 17 to 70; 3 female, age 25 to 45. Please wear appropriate attire for movement. The role of Aurturo Ui has been cast.

About The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Described by Brecht as ‘a gangster play that would recall certain events familiar to us all, Arturo Ui is a witty and savage satire of the rise of Hitler – recast by Brecht into a fictional, small-time Chicago gangster’s takeover of the city’s green grocery trade in the 1930s. The satirical allegory combines Brecht’s Epic style of theatre with black comedy and overt moralism. Using a wide range of parody and spoof – from Al Capone to Shakespeare’s

Richard III and Goethe’s Faust- Brecht’s compelling parable continues to have relevance wherever totalitarianism appears today.

About the Blue Barn Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

‘The Feast’ Opening at Shelterbelt on April 15

The Shelterbelt Theatre presents…

The Feast by Celine Song
directed by Noah Diaz

April 15 – May 8, 2016

When all meat mysteriously turns to rot, ours becomes a world populated with reluctant vegetarians. Four hungry dinner guests impatiently await a latecomer to the table. As the hour grows late and stomachs begin to howl, the traces of civilization turn to decay. Sensual as it is grotesque, foul as it is funny, The Feast is a biting satire that serves up a heady repast straight from the kitchens of our darkest desires.

Featuring performances by award-winning actors Leanne Hill Carlson, Noah Diaz, Beau Fisher, and Mary Kelly, as well as live music from cellist Hannah Mayer

Thursday/Friday/Saturday performances: 8pm
Sunday performances: 6pm
Final Sunday, May 8th performance: 2pm

SPECIAL EVENTS
• Thursday, April 14 – Theatre Arts Guild “TAG” Night Out
• Sunday, April 17, 5pm – “Page to Stage” pre-show discussion with director Noah Diaz and Great Plains Theatre Conference associate artistic director Scott Working
• Thursday, April 21 – American Sign Language-interpreted performance

Tickets are $15 for general public and $12 for students/seniors/TAG.
Lobby opens 1 hour before show. House opens 30 minutes before show.

Hal Holbrook Brings Mark Twain to Holland Center

AWARD-WINNING ACTOR HAL HOLBROOK BRINGS MARK TWAIN TONIGHT! TO HOLLAND CENTER

Timeless Laugh-Out-Loud Humor Makes This One-Man Show a Treasure of the American Theatre

Omaha, Neb., March 3, 2016 – Emmy®- and Tony®- award winning actor Hal Holbrook brings the longest running show in American Theatre history, Mark Twain Tonight!, to the Kiewit Hall at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas Street, Friday, April 8, 2016, at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30 through Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606, TicketOmaha.com, or the Ticket Omaha Box Office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center. Special thanks to hospitality sponsor Hotel Deco.

Once called “America’s Voltaire,” Samuel Clemens, known by the pen name Mark Twain, preceded today’s social critics with scathing but humorous satires focusing on the corruption and lies of 19th Century politicians and journalists. Twain’s novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer top the lists of American classics and have weathered the tests of time and include subjects that still seem significantly relevant today.

Holbrook portrays Twain as the aging character that we recognize – the white hair, brows and mustache; white suit; and the illusion that Twain is speaking in his time. “Let the audience update him,” Holbrook said. “That has made the show more powerful because human behavior doesn’t change. Neither does its foolishness. That’s the joke.”

The Washington Post said, “Holbrook’s characterization of the great novelist and raconteur is, to this day, a work in progress. The transformation is so complete as to be unsettling at times. The combination of Holbrook’s physical and vocal talents and the potency of Twain’s words is a mesmerizing thing to behold.”

A legendary star of television, movies and the stage, Holbrook has built his career on a variety of roles with no connection to Mark Twain, including Don Quixote, King Lear, Shylock, Abe Lincoln, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and more than 50 feature films.

He won the Tony Award for Mark Twain Tonight! in 1966 and was nominated for an Emmy Award for the show in 1967. Since then, he has received five Emmy Awards between 1971 and 1989. Holbrook was presented the National Medal of the Humanities in 2003 by President George Bush. In 2008, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Into the Wild.

Be Part of “The Feast”

The Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to announce auditions for THE FEAST by Celine Song, directed by Noah Diaz

Production Dates: April 15–May 8, 2016
Performances Thursday–Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm

Auditions: February 9 and February 10 at 6:30pm
Location: Shelterbelt Theatre (3225 California Street)
Be prepared take part in cold readings from the script.

Rehearsals will begin early March.

CHARACTERS
WENDY – Female. 30s–40s. Married to Francis. The perfect host and perfect wife. A beautiful smile, but maybe she shows too much teeth. She’s unraveling.

SAM – Female. 20s–30s. Married to Rhett. Maybe a little vain, maybe a little selfish, but charming enough for it not to be a problem. Her marriage to Rhett is a mess. She’s not afraid to tell the truth.

RHETT – Male. 30s–40s. Married to Sam. A bit uncouth and gruff. Rhett is always a few drinks ahead of everyone else. He may have been good-looking in his youth, but something went awry since then. He’s probably very, very sad.

XANDER – Male. Late teens–mid 20s. A scientist. Looks like he’s too young to be a scientist. Unnervingly aware of everything around him. Maybe he’s too skinny or too tall for someone his age.

FRANCIS – Male. 30s–40s. Married to Wendy. A surgeon. Selfless. Handsome and in great shape.

SYNOPSIS
When all meat mysteriously turns to rot, ours becomes a world populated with reluctant vegetarians. Four hungry dinner guests impatiently await a latecomer to the table. As the hour grows late and stomachs begin to howl, the traces of civilization turn to decay. Sensual as it is grotesque, foul as it is funny, THE FEAST is a biting satire that serves up a heady repast straight from the kitchens of our darkest desires.

For questions or a copy of the script, please contact Noah Diaz at ndiaz@shelterbelt.org.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Celine Song is a playwright living in Brooklyn, NY. She is a member of Ars Nova’s 2014 Play Group, a 2012 Edward F. Albee Foundation Writing Fellow, a 2014 resident at Yaddo, a 2014 Great Plains Theatre Conference Playlab Playwright, a 2013 Sponsored Artist of Theatre That Transcends, and an IATI Theater’s 2015 Cimientos Playwright. Her plays include THE FEAST, FAMILY, and TOM & ELIZA. MFA: Columbia.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Noah Diaz is an Omaha-based director and actor. Past directing credits include WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT A PRESENTATION… (Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award) with SNAP! Productions, SLABS at the Shelterbelt Theatre and TAKE ME OUT at the Omaha Community Playhouse. He has also assistant-directed PRINCE MAX’S TREWLY AWFUL TRIP TO THE DESOLAT INTERIOR for the Great Plains Theatre Conference, I HATE HAMLET at the Omaha Community Playhouse and the world premiere of PETE THE CAT: THE MUSICAL at the Rose Theater. As an actor, Noah has worked with the Shelterbelt Theatre, SNAP! Productions, Omaha Community Playhouse, Rose Theater, and Brigit Saint Brigit, amongst others. He is the recipient of five Theatre Arts Guild Awards, three Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, the Elaine Jabenis Award, and the Barbara Ford Award. Noah is a Shelterbelt Theatre board member.

Charming and Challenging Sabrina Fair Amuses and Educates

Sabrina Fairchild, daughter of the chauffeur of the powerful Larrabee family, has returned home (a beautiful courtyard designed by Joey Lorincz) after a 5 year stint in Europe.  Her purpose in coming home is to find out if she is in love with David, the younger son of the Larrabees, but meets her intellectual equal in the Larrabees’ older son, Linus.  The journey to find which son will win her heart is the central plot of Sabrina Fair opening tomorrow at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

On the face of it, it seems a rather simple story, but Samuel Taylor’s script is actually a complex, sophisticated piece of work for the early 1950s.  Taylor bravely challenges the social strata of his day with his writing.  He lived in a time where the rich had their domain, the common people had theirs, and never the twain would meet.  Women were relegated to a secondary status, expected to marry and kow tow to their husbands.  That Taylor would take on this class system and that he would do it through the voice of a strong woman was certainly a bold and daring move.

Taking this message and communicating it in a non-preachy, entertaining way is a difficult task, but director Sonia Keffer does an admirable job doing just that with her well balanced cast.  Ms Keffer’s direction paints a vividly multi-layered picture that is charming, sweet, thought provoking, even a little melancholy.

Mary Trecek is splendid in the title role of Sabrina Fairchild.  Described as shy and mousey before she appears on stage, Ms Trecek’s Sabrina is anything but as she roars onto the stage with a lovely energy and confidence, showing how much the character has been transformed by her 5 years away.

Ms Trecek has created one of the most well rounded characters I have seen on stage in quite a spell.  Her Sabrina is caring, thoughtful, a romantic.  In short, she has the best qualities of the ideal woman of that era.  But she is also intelligent, strong, confident, and determined.  Sabrina wants to live life on her own terms and infect people with the same zest as she possesses.  Yet, in a profound moment, she realizes, “I’ve changed over the past 5 years, but the world hasn’t”.  It doesn’t dampen her faith, but she realizes that she cannot force the world to go on this journey with her.  All she can do is leave the door open and hope the world will follow.

I can’t remember the last time I was so completely blown away by a performance as I was with Will Muller’s interpretation of Linus Larrabee, Jr.  The trick with Linus is that he is a bit of a prick, but has a heart of gold.  As the force behind the successful Larrabee empire, Linus is a guy who does what he pleases and does not care what the world thinks of him.  But he is also fiercely loyal to his family, will do what he believes to be right, and actually is looking for love.  He’s just so used to having to be strong that he doesn’t know how to be vulnerable.  Muller brilliantly walks that tightrope of Linus’ character and expertly peels off Linus’ layers until we see the real man underneath and he does it all with a sardonic half-smile that says more about Linus’ views on life than the dialogue.

Phyllis Bonds is given a remarkable opportunity with the role of Julia Ward McClintock.  I suspect “Aunt” Julia serves as the voice of Taylor himself.  Having been reared in the world of the wealthy, Ms Bonds’ Julia is the character who notices that the times are definitely changing and that the world should not adhere to the class system that it embraced at the time.

Tonight’s performance showed that Ms Bonds has certainly laid the groundwork for a masterful bit of acting.  Julia has some of the best dialogue in the play with her witty zingers and observations and Ms Bonds certainly had a grasp on that wordplay, but she needed a bit more zip to her verbal pitches.  Once she cranks it up a few notches, this is going to be one gutbusting performance.

Janet Macklin and Paul Schneider play the heads of the Larrabee family, Maude and Linus Larrabee, Sr.  I believe these characters are meant to represent society’s thinking at the time as Ms Macklin’s Maude, while likable, is most definitely a snob.  Maude definitely believes that the rich and common folk should remain separate and thinks Sabrina has entrapped her dear little David into marrying her after “having a taste of the high life” in Europe.  But, perhaps echoing Taylor’s own hope that society could change its thinking, Ms Macklin also gives Maude an open-mindedness as she is willing to admit that maybe her thinking is wrong and accepts Sabrina once she has decided between her two boys.

Schneider’s Linus, Sr. also demonstrates this belief in the class system as he is vehemently opposed to the idea of his son marrying the chauffeur’s daughter, but is at least willing to let his son choose his own course.  Schneider also does a fine job serving as the play’s comedy relief as Linus, Sr. is quite a bit of a doddering, old man who forgets names, people, and events (even if they occurred only a few seconds ago).  He even has a most macabre hobby in that he enjoys attending funerals.

Larry Wroten’s Fairchild (Sabrina’s father) serves as an amusing mirror image to Schneider’s Linus, Sr.  Through Fairchild, Taylor takes a beautifully satirical shot at society’s mindset because Fairchild also thinks the rich and the common should not mingle because it would be an insult to the commoners.  I thought Wroten’s performance was a bit wobbly, probably due to opening night jitters.  At points he was laugh out loud funny and, at others, he seemed to lose confidence and sureness of his interpretation.  Another night or two and I think the kinks can, and will, be worked out.

Dan Whitehouse brings a boyish innocence to David Larrabee.  Whitehouse’s David is an incurable romantic.  He falls in love at the drop of a hat and has been divorced, at least once.  But he is also indicative of a changing societal mindset as he doesn’t care about finding someone wealthy.  He wants to marry for love, whether that person is an heiress or a humble daughter of a chauffeur.

The night’s performance did have a few flaws.  The pace was sluggish, especially in the first act.  Cues needed to be tighter.  Volume needed increasing and there was some uneven acting in the supporting cast.  With that being said, I have every confidence that these flaws will shortly disappear and this lighthearted, but deep, comedy will fulfill the great potential it presented tonight.

Sabrina Fair plays at the Bellevue Little Theatre from May 1-17.  Showtimes are Friday & Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  The Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission in Bellevue, NE.  Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and TAG members, and $9 for students with a valid student ID.  Reservations can be made at 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10am-4:30pm Monday-Saturday.