Who Can Resist?

I’ve never understood the fascination with mobsters, even more so in the age of the U.S. scamster-in-chief, but Bertholt Brecht’s allegorical “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” is a disturbing and fun way to skewer the whole genre of gangsters as entertainment. Westmont College Theater Arts Department’s excellent production directed by Mitchell Thomas was suitably trenchant and offbeat. It’s a wild ride, with Arturo Ui, his henchmen, a Cauliflower Trust and 1930s Chicago standing in for Hitler, Nazi brownshirts, Prussian landed aristocracy and some of the events that occurred in Germany during the Third Reich’s rise to power. Written in 1941 and intended for the American stage, it didn’t have its world premiere until 1958 in Germany, and didn’t make it to Broadway until 1963. As Brecht himself put it in response to a critic who read the manuscript, he wrote the play “…with the aim of destroying the dangerous respect felt for great killers.” Watching Westmont’s production gave this viewer the uncomfortable feeling that we still have a long way to go before achieving that noble goal, and that we need more of this kind of commentary.