THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Thursday, October 3, 1968
Pa e w7T E IC I A N D A L
APA attempts sophisticated 'Hamlet'...
U' Philharnioiiia: surprise!
By DEBORAH LINDERMAN
In what might be an effort to
transcend the danger of producing a
play like Hamlet-the danger being that
so many people already know so many
lines, how then do you make it fresh-
the APA apparently decided that the
best way was to get it over with as
quickly as possible,.
By this I mean that, possibly to avoid
being stale, the current production aims
instead for spoken understatement
compensated by new dramatic effect.
The result is a highly stagey, mannered;
and withal dull Hamlet,- which, in an
effort not to make a bad choice, chooses'
nothing. You thus get the feeling that
you are in Alice-in-Wonderland, and
wish to say, oh that I had eyes that I
could see such nothing.
Probably with a determination not to
"punch" the soliloquies, Ellis Rabb plays
Hamlet with what first seems like a
curious hypnotic blandness, which you
gauge as a suppressed hysteria above
to -burst. forth, but which in fact con-
tinues at the same pitch throughout the
play. There is very little modulation of
effect, notably nothing which suggests
any change in Hamlet's self-awareness,
and after a tithe you feel you have been
through all this before, as has Hamlet.;
Rabb looks tormented, but the look
and the pitch never change; there is
no unleashing of Hamlet's angers, no
rage beneath his ironies, no unruliness;,
in his dissen'iblances.
Perhaps this is meant to be an inter-
pretation of a Hamlet,'very wordly, con-
strained, civilized, in what is after all a
high-toned court of such people; yet
such controls would be bound to break
at some point, and dissolve into rawer,
discords. If this is sophisticated under-
statement it is curious indeed when ap-
. plied to such critical and melancholy,
albeit "tried," lines as "From this time
forth my thoughts be bloody or be noth-
ing worth," or, "Thou wouldst not think
how ill's all here about my heart,"
Indeed, for the production as a whole,
the native hue of resolution is a bit
sicklied oe'r, for it never achieves a
style that makes clear the dramatist's
intent for the play. Some rather firm
conception of what it's all about and
where it's going ought to be applied to
a world of such confusions, both social
and personal. The production conveys
little sense of decay, of the quality of
madness, of misplaced deaths and rt-
uals, of any of the mixing of the modes
of life on which the energy, vitality, and
"nervousness" of Hamlet depend..
There are, however, two fine but fleet
scenes which make dramatically clear
the furius ironies on which Hamlet is.
built: one shows the sense of jest-in-
death where, in an excellent move, the
grave-digger simply tosses Hamlet
Yorick's skull. Another shows a most
trenchant sense of antic-in-deadly-
earnest as Hamlet deliberately dons one
of the player's masks and stands taunt-
ingly pefore his "parents." But mostly,
because of the constrained and muted
nature of the production, antic is only
breezy and ironic brutality only morbid.
Along these lines, Gertrude is fairly
innocuous; at this stage in Shakespeare
productions, there is no doubt about
what's going on between Hamlet and
his mother. But one of the snags of. the
Oedipal interpretation of Hamlet has
been that Gertrude is too shallow a
figure for Hamlet's swollen emotions.
Instead of the repeated body contact
that we get here between them, a psy-
chologically forceful Gertrude might,
by mere felt presence, give dramatic
credibility to the gap between Hamlet's
turbulent and incapacitating fantasies
and her part in stirring them.
Another mannered quirk of this pro-
duction is that Freud has been grafted
onto Ophelia. She is played, not as a,
delicate and fragile thing, but as one
who has good motive for her madness.
She spits at Gertrude the last of here
"goodnight sweet ladies," and then,
strangely, nurses a rag doll . at. her
breast. The implication seems to be that
this is the effigy- child she will never
have by Hamlet now, things being what
they are between him and his mother.
This may be not implausible, but it
shows up as a quirk in the production,
perhaps because it is not dramatically
prepared for by any good grounding
with the "oedipal material."
Cla udius achieves just the right tone,
by siTply looking so much the "smiling,
smiling, damned villain." Likewise,,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, perhaps
because recent literature has elevated
their status, deserve to be mentioned as
alive simply in the way that they do so
unctuously "smile and smile." Polonius
has some lines that are so good that
they have to be laughed at, but again
delivers them only smoothly.
The manner itself has some niceties
and some falsities. The niceties are that
the modern dress costuming turns out
to be current bohemian equivalents of
Elizabethan styles, so that although
there are -no ruffs, we do not get a
"daring" gray-flannel suit equation. And,
the sets are happily without turrets
and battlements, consisting of a "stone"
wall backdrop, sometimes blacked out
starkly in shadow,) and sometimes re-
vealed floor to ceiling.
The falsities, are that- there is an
insistence on black as a prevailing
motif, which is overstated, and seems to
achieve only a requisite spooky atmos-
phere without doing anything for any
of the subtler opacities of the play.
Worse, the ghost's appearance is accom-
panied by amplified off-stage breathing.
and the ghost himself looks like some
tortured baroque narble statue trying
to achieve the ethereal: its face is grey-
ed and voice again dislocated offstage.
People walk down the aisles to enter,
for reasons which are dramatically in-
tegral, as if they simply had no better
place to come from.. And too many
speeches are delivered in the most off-
hand way: Hamlet, for exmple, speaks
"what a piece of work is man" lying on
his back, one booted foot crossing his
knee. We thus get brief effect, artifically
induced, and the violent ironies blunted'
by a staginess too pretentious and culty.
All in all, the monster has been decapi-
tated before it would begin to bother
By JIM PETERS
I'd been told to be prepared,
watch out, and not expect too
much from the University Phil-
harmonia. And so I was ready,
sneer in hand, all set to cata-
logue faults and shortcom-
ings. But their concert last night
at Hill Aud. under conductor
Theo Alcantara turned out a
big surprise, much to my pleas-
I was suspicious as soon as I
saw the program; so much talk
about the orchestra didn't seem
quite believable with a wild bal-
let score by Bartok scheduled
to conclude the performance.
There were, to be sure, prob-
lems. Schumann's "Symphony;
No. 4 in D Minor," which was the
opener, ;gleamed with all the
lustre and shine of a good per-
formance, but under the bright
surface lurked the common
troubles of ensemble and in-
The "langsam" 'introduction
to the first movement blends
very carefully into the fast sec-
tion through a steady accelera-
tion of tempo. The orchestra's
too thin sound at the very be-
ginning almost ruined Schu-
mann's careful plan, but all of
a sudden the power was there,
and the movement finally got
off the ground.
I kept repeating to myself
thoughts of ''wait and see,''
and the second movement seem-
ed better. The pretty violin solo
came off a little flat, however.
The two final movements are
linked by another complex
bridge as in the beginning, and
I felt that only the strict hand
of the conductor kept things
from, falling apart.
But things weren't that bad.
The sound was good; the fu-
getto in the last movement, fol-
lowed by a good strong finish,
kept up the veneer. Maybe I'm
just too swayed by overall sound
and surface appearance, but'
somehow I enjoyed it.
Less could and shouldbe said
about the second offering, San-
uel Barber's . "Adagio for
Strings." I found I took no
notes on the performance, had
no comments jotted down as I
usually do there was a certain
empty amorphous quality to
their rendition which covered
up the delicate intensity of the
Now I felt that maybe the
opinions I had heard were true,
but the final piece instantly re-
versed my impressions. The dis-
cordant, unrestrained "Miracul-
ous Mandarin Suite" of Bela
Bartok began, and all, at once
things clicked into place.
Bartok's music races then
stops, grinds and stutters, blar-
ing, shuddering discords and
More of the orchestra is re-
quired here from the point of
view of discipline and ensemble
than in the other two pieces.
And I didn't think the Phil-
harmonia had it.
But they certainly did. In the
coup of the evening maestro
Alcantara succeeded where I
thought he never would, The
music is heavily dominated by
brass, and the players were ex-
cellent. I want to mention par-
ticularly the trombonists.
The wild, urban setting seems
to depend on the constant in-
terplay between brass a n d
strings, on the constant repeti-
tion of sombre and ominous
trumpet and trombone blasts.
The work required of the trom-
bone section in slides and runs
and fast intricate playing
makes many demands.
Throughout the disjoined sec-
tions, the orchestra wavered little
in their intensity and control.
There were some problems of
coherence in the massed-forces
portions, but the conductor kept
most everything under control.
At the beginning I wished the
tempo had been somewhat fast-
er, but even' this picked up soon
The Philharmonia is a young
orchestra; most of the faces this
year are new. They seemed to
find the inspiration in the Bar-
tok which was lacking in the
Schumann and Barber pieces.
But they've showed that they
can be brilliant; and with a
sure hand like Alcantara's to
guide them, I'm confident their
troubles will soon disappear.
UILD HOUSE-802 Monroe
Friday, Oct. 4
NOON LUNCHEON 25c
JAMES R. ROBERTSON
Director of Residential College
"Issues of Higher Education
and the Campous"
... as Players wrestle with 'Jaccae '68'
By MICHAEL ALLEN
In some ways the University
Players production of The
Bacchae is exciting: there is
a magnificent golden Dionysus,
a bloody headless corpse and
several fine frenzies reached by
the Chorus. What's more there
is some attempt to interpret the
play in a modern idiom: there
is a walky-talky, a flick knife,
Teiresias wear§ dark glasses, :the;
young Dionysus is disguised as.
a mod and there,, is an effective
mixture of hippie-pop, 'Ravi
Shankar anl plain song.
The Bacchae (directed by
Richard Burgwin and Claribel
Baird) is a difficult play. Did
Euripides intend Pentheus to
be a martyr for law and order,
torn to pieces by the forces of
anarchy? Or is Dionysus the
good guy and Pentheus justly.
punished for his 'impiety?
Obviously neither of these ex-
tremes is tenable, because b o t h_
Pentheus and DiQnysus are
wrong; wrong, in the way they
think and in the way they act.
The first is stupidly arrogant
and blasphemously rejects the
divine (and Euripides makes
very clear that Dionysus is truly
divine however cruel or amoral
he might be) and then follows'
this up by readily agreeing to
become a peeping Tom even if
it means becoming a transvest-
ite to do it (and there are, as
critics have rushed to point out,
pathological elements -in The'
But the god too is wrong: .he
is motivated by rev nge. He knows
it so that not only is Pentheus
"justly' killed, but it is Agave
and her sisters who kill him. It
is the god's revenge for their
The history department's Ne-
gro history series opens today
with a lecture by Hollis Lynch
of the University of Buffalo on
"Some Aspects of Negro Ameri-
can History." The lecture- will
begin at 4:15 p.m. in Aud. A.
having long ago slandered Sem-
ele,'but, as Cadmus says, "Gods
should be exempt from human
passion's" -- like the lust for
revenge. Dionysus' "justice" is
seen at the end to be too dispro-
portionate, too arbitrary, too
cruel for us to accept it without
Is this then a play built up
on some straightforward dialec-
tic between reason and emotion,
or aristocratic scepticism and
popular credulity, or order and
those eruptive forces in us which
surge up 'and destroy order? If
so what sort of reconciliation or
resolution does Euripides offer
us? Obviously not an easy one.
There is a dialectic, but it can-
I not, be reduced to some one pair
of abstract concepts, mainly be-
cause of the mystery surround-'
n g Dionysusand all he is and
stands ,for. In some senses god
and victim are alike: they de-
fine each other, offset each
other's limitations. Both are in-
human; both are extremes. The
one is too rational, the other too
irrational (though this wasn't
underlined at all in this produc-
tion): both are contrasted to
the Chorus which voices t h e
tra'ditional norms, the norms
which define, what is truly hu-
man. Though the Chorus wor-
ships Dionysus, at the end it
is appalled by his ferocity.
It is the mouthpieces of that
group wisdom which Pentheus
refuses, to listen to and which
Dionysus is above: it is the con-
scious which has come to terms
with the subconscious forces of
life, not allowing itself to be-
come possessed by them l1i k e
Agave, but not rejecting them
utterly like her son. It knows
how to be awed but not aband-
And this production had a
good Chorus which did convey
these things; one which also
successfully coped with the limit-
ations imposed by the stage and
which broke up the group ode
into' excited fragments, using
song, dance,, chant and the rhy-
thmic beating of feet and hands.
It managed to break down the
familiarity of the Greek con-
vention and to convey a sense of
group wisdom and group in-
volvement, but it was not part
of the mod element in the in-
terpretation: in fact, the Chorus
wasn't mod at all but neutral in
its costuming, which was defin-
itely not sexy or orgiastic, and
ritualised in its gestures.
Similarly with Agave (Clari-
bel Baird), which was one of the
last evening: she too seemed
apart from any specifically mo-
dern setting and her range and
timing were exceptional.
But the interpretation of
Pentheus (William Hunt) and
Dionysus (Michael Firestone)
was not consistent with this.
Their modishness failed to con-
vince. Pentheusrwasa young
right-wing bureaucrat a n d-
Dionysus was a dissenting mod.
But, it is these identifications,
forced on us initially by the
producer, which break the play
The result is that Pentheus
and Dionysus were never satis-
factorily related to the Chorus
or Agave; they introduced an
alien time scheme and a set of
associations into the play which
jarred with the rest of the pro-
In addition both actors,
though effective at times, lack-
ed sufficient variety: they both
shouted too much and one got
little sense of that great per-
sonal animus which must exist
between the two'!protagonists.
Several of the minor parts
were rendered well given the in-
terpretational incongruity. Pen-
theus' henchmen and the two
messengers were fine and Teire-
sias (James Hosbein) and Cad-
mus (Robert McGill) were the
two segile nincompoops they
ought to be.
This is an interesting per-
formance: it is well worth see-
ing. But its treatment of Euri-
pides' central conflicts is not
clear enough or consistent
For Reservations, Call
Wednesday thru Saturday
with David Hemmings
THREE SHOWS 7-9-11
Aud. A 75c ID req.
Iand the 4M
Appearing at the
314 South 4th Avenue 761-3548
Se:'Li-ng Dinner 3 P.M. until 1 A.M.
OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK from 3 P.M. to 2 A-M.
ENTERTAINMENT plus FINE FOOD
Pa s m m a S&ZA a 1ba -ba ait- a
with Clarihel B. Baird
DIAL 5-6290 i the PAULNEMAN MAjtim of
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.__ ______ _ _...,, a_ v__ .__y ___ _. _t_ _r.._.. ..___.._._.:._.
7, 9 P.M.
Thursday and Friday
LA TERRA TREMA
(THE EARTH TREMBLES)
Sicilian fishermen struggle against the oppressive
forces of nature and society.
Winner-Venice Film Festival (1948)
Voted one of the 10 best films of all time
by Sight and Sound (1962)
7:00 & 9:45 P.M. Architecture
662-8871 75c Auditorium
Remember the guy with the funny
things in his neck and the big
feet? And remember the guy,
with the long teeth, who was always
thirsty for the red stuff and
afraid of the daylight? Well, they're
both back. Boris Karloff and Bela
Lugosi. "FRANKENSTEIN" and
"DRACULA," in the two original
1930's versions. SO DROP IN,
U-. r c cUr.. nn c I E .b3 ' I