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June 11, 2009 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-06-11

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Arts & Entertainment

Art, Politics And Power

In World War II-era play, Picasso finds himself interrogated
about works confiscated from their Jewish owners.

Suzanne Chessler

Special to the Jewish News

Ann Arbor

effrey Hatcher often stretches small
segments of history to develop
scripts for stage and screen.
A Picasso, his two-person drama
being produced June 11-July 12 by the
Performance Network in Ann Arbor,
places the famous artist in a situation of
the playwright's invention.
The theater piece develops through a
dialogue of interrogation as Picasso faces
a fictitious Nazi agent in France in the
early 1940s. Three paintings, confiscated
from their Jewish owners, are about to be
burned but only if the artist first authenti-
cates that they are his originals.
The play, directed by Tony Caselli, stars
John Manfredi as Picasso and Emily Sutton-
Smith as the Nazi agent, Miss Fischer.
"Obviously, the play deals with issues
of art, politics, responsibility and history;
but, in the long run, I think audiences
respond to characters and how they inter-
act," says Hatcher, who worked with Mitch


Albom on the stage adaptation of Albom's
book Tuesdays With Morrie.
"These characters have certain things
about each other they frankly loathe and
other things to which they're attracted,
and there's a cat and mouse [feeling]
about their relationship.
"Contradictions appeal to me, and I think
it's always interesting when a character
who's ostensibly bad and unsympathetic
does some admirable things or a character
who's quite admirable suddenly shows a few
elements that are completely unpleasant"
The idea for the drama came through a
writing commission from producer Philip
Langner of Broadway's Theatre Guild; he'd
done one-person shows and wanted to
spotlight Picasso. Hatcher suggested the
interrogation approach.
The playwright knew that the artist had
been questioned in a bank vault where
he kept paintings, and that became the
setting for A Picasso. Although the people
who questioned Picasso were known to
be men, Hatcher was asked to develop a
woman character for the drama.
"My background isn't Jewish, but I've
done a couple of plays and some film

scripts that deal with the period;' says
Hatcher, 51, who started out as an actor
and switched to writing on the advice of
a friend. "Korczak's Children was about
a man who ran a Jewish orphanage in
Warsaw during World War IL"
Hatcher, whose visits to the Detroit area
have ranged from consulting with Albom to
participating in a staged reading project at
the University of Michigan, has a long list
of theater credits, including Scotland Road,
Mrs. Mannerly and Mercy of a Storm.
His films include The Duchess with Keira
Knightley and Ralph Fiennes; Casanova
with Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller and
Jeremy Irons; and Stage Beauty with Billy
Crudup, Claire Danes and Rupert Everett.
In A Picasso, anti-Semitism comes across
through the remarks of the German woman,
whose attitudes don't quite seem to register
with her even as she makes her comments.
"I've liked taking the footnotes of his-
tory, small parts of larger stories, and then
expanding on them:' explains Hatcher, cur-
rently working on a stage musical having to
do with Irving Berlin, an independent feature
about Bill Clinton and a screenplay based on
an elite club in 18th-century England.

John Manfredi as Pablo Picasso in

A Picasso

"I don't like to take the obvious route.
I like to take the long way around, the
underground route or a side route. With
real-life stories, if you can find the right
route, those long-way-around journeys
can bring in some wonderful territory" ❑

A Picasso will be presented June

11-July 12 at Performance Network
Theatre, 120 E. Huron, in Ann Arbor.
Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays-
Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays
and 2 p.m. Sundays. $22-$41; group
rates available. (734) 663-0681;
performancenetwork.org .


Nate Bloom

Special to the Jewish News

Film Notes

Away We Go, opening Friday, June 12,
and directed by Sam Mendes, 43, is

a lot lighter movie fare than his pre-
vious film, Revolutionary Road.
Former Saturday Night Live cast
member Maya Rudolph, 36, stars
as Verona, an introspective woman
who is married to
goofy guy Burt
(John Krasinski of
The Office). Burt
and Verona live
in Colorado to be
near Burt's parents
(Catherine O'Hara
Maya Rudolph
and Michigan's Jeff
Daniels). But Burt's
parents decide, practically on a whim,
to move to Europe. This prompts
Burt and Verona (six months preg-
nant) to travel around and look for a
new place to set down roots.
The excellent supporting cast
includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, 31.
Maya Rudolph is the daughter of


June 11 ' 2009

Jewish music producer Dick Rudolph
and the late African-American singer
Minnie Riperton ("Lovin` You"), who
died of cancer in 1979.
Now in theaters is Every Little
Step, a documentary about the
incredibly successful Broadway musi-
cal A Chorus Line. It includes old-
and new interviews with the creators
and cast members. A Chorus Line
was conceived by musical theater
legend Michael Bennett (1943-1987).
Bennett, whose mother was Jewish,
also choreographed the show.
The music was by Marvin
Hamlisch, 65. The lyricist
was Edward Kleban, who died
of cancer in 1987, age 48.

Ginsberg's famous 1956 poem
Rolling Stone magazine just
of the same name. In 1957,
named him their "hot nerd of
San Francisco bookstore
the year."
owner and poet Lawrence
Ferlinghetti was charged
TV Premiere
with obscenity for selling
Hawthorne is a new, original
"Howl." Major literary figures
TNT cable series that pre-
appeared as witnesses for
mieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, June
the defense, and the judge
Actress Jada Pickett
Eisenb erg
ruled that "Howl" wasn't
Smith (the wife of actor Will
obscene. The defense lawyer for the
Smith) plays Christina Hawthorne, a
trial was the legendary Jake Ehrlich,
compassionate but tough chief nurse
reputed to be the model for Perry
at a major hospital. She is close
Mason. James Franco, 31, is
friends — and maybe more — with Dr.
set to play Ginsberg and Jon
Tom Wakefield, an oncologist who
Hamm, the star of TV's Mad
treated her late husband.
Men, will play Ehrlich.
Playing Wakefield is hunky actor
Howl will be released
Michael Vartan, 40, who is best
in 2010, as will Kill Your
known for his co-starring role on TV's
Double Dose
Darlings. In 1944, Ginsberg
Alias. Vartan, who has referred to
A few years back, novel-
was a college student liv-
himself as Jewish, grew up in France
ist Truman Capote was the
ing in New York. His friends
James Franco
and America, the son of a French
subject of two major biopics
included then-unknown
Jewish mother of Polish Jewish back-
released almost back-to-back. Now,
writer Jack Kerouac. Ginsberg and
ground and a non-Jewish father who
famous poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-
Kerouac were caught up in a big
is part Armenian.
1997) will get the "Capote treat-
mess when their young friend, Lucien
Another cast member is Canadian
Jewish actor David Julian Hirsh, 36,
Carr, killed a much older man who
Gus Van Sant (Milk) is set to direct
had stalked Carr for years. Playing
who plays a nurse trying to fit in a
Howl, a film whose title is taken from
profession dominated by women. ❑
Ginsberg is Jesse Eisenberg, 25;

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