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October 04, 1968 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-10-04

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Friday, October 4, 1968

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY

theatre

Ellis Rabb'S

Hamlet: Another view

By DANIEL OKRENT
Feature Editor
There is something indeed in
the complaint that the APA's
Hamlet is not a true Hamlet,
not a rendering in standard
terms of the life and times of
the tormented Dane; but actu-
ally, the complaint should only
be offered by those guilty of
pre-judgment. For Ellis Rabb,
in both his direction and his
acting, has transcended the
image of ;Hamlet that we all
dutifully adopted in high school.
Perhaps it is the very "stagey"
understatement of it all, from
the starkness of the set to the
even drone of Rabb's soliloquies,
that causes the disconcerting
production to strike an off-
chord for some viewers. Or per-,
haps it is the considerable dif-
ferences between the rarely-
used quarto edition that Rabb
employs and the more common-
ly seen First ,Folio. In, either
case--or in -both cases-it is easy
to see how the production can
be discomfiting.
But Rabb quite clearly knows
what he is doing, and as "to be
or not to be . ." becomes the
logical question of a young man
confronted with choices of life-
styles and not of life or no life,
we see an entirely new play.
The re-interpretation's chief vir-
tUe is not that it is merely radi-
cal and different; rather, it is

an exceedingly sensible re-inter-
pretation that Rabb develops
with sure-footed logic.
This new Hamlet that Rabb
has so superbly redrawn is
never the madman. He is an
individual who perceives his en-
vironment and comes readily to
grips with it. It is not a matter
of whether or not Hamrlet should
face the gruesome realities of
his particular situation; it only
becomes a matter of how. Once
his choice is made and his
course is determined, he stays
to it with an almost cocky as-
surance and conviction.
There are three scenes in par-
ticular in which. Rabb (one of
three members of the APA com-
pany who will be playing the
role during its two-week run)
exhibits the character's uncan-
ny contrpl over his person and
his life. 'The first consists of
his use of the travelling play-
ers' masks to confront Gertrude
and Claudius in a net pre-pro-
logue to the players' actual per-
formance. Here he first tips his
hand to his evil parents; here
he defines the battle he will en-r
ter into with them. The uneasy
reactions of king and queen are
matched only by the response
of the audience as it becomes
aware of'fa Hamlet that none of
us have met before.
Immediately after an inter-
mission that is shockingly
placed not only in mid-act but

in mid-sentence, and forces
continuity into the second half
of the play, comes Rabb's major
coup. It is the play-within-the-
play, the stage-managed con-
frontation with the evil Clau-
dius. As + the actors relate the
the crucial stanza inserted by
Hamlet. the prince displays ut-
ter superiority and control, l-
beit vengeful and perhaps sa-
distic. As Rabb slowly backs off
the stage as the playlet begins,
and carefully, proudly passes
up one aisle, out of the theater,
then down another, he has real-
ly delivered the important blow;
Claudius, played convincingly
by Peter Coffield, fidgets nerv-
ously, his ire grows. Hamlet,
standing in the audience with
chin high and eyes fiercely
proud, has successfully drawn
both the, on-stage audience and
the paid ticket-holders into his
prosecution.
The last of the "key" scenes
is upon Hamlet's return from
England. He appears easy, re-
laxed; his costume is precisely
casual. His interplay with
gravedigger Donald Moffat is
not in the least self-conscious,
Then, as Ophelia's funeral cor-
tege arrives at the cemetery, his
reaction becomes all the more
real by contrast.
It is not that' these scenes
alone define the tone of the
production; Rabb has carefully
sorted out disruptive external-
isms and focused the entire play
on his lead character, Horatio,
carefully underplayed by Drew
Snyder, is diminished to the
role of a hand-maiden; Laertes'
(rather falsely played by James
Tripp) problems pale before
Hamlet's, and Fortinbras is not
even in the script. I would have
preferred a more subtly insane
Ophelia, but even here Rabb's
direction profoundly re-draws a
character and channels her in-
sanity toward the queen by por-
traying Gertrude's Oedipal re-
lationship with her son in terms
of the response of a would-be
daughter-in-faw.

Before opening night, much
publicity was made of the fact
that the play would be done
"in modern dress," and would
reflect on the story's eternal re-
levance. But this, too, is under-
stated, and the costumes do not
represent just our generation
(Nehru jackets were plentiful)
but spanned all of them. The
contradiction of Polonius in a
celluloid-collar Babbitt suit cov-
ered by a monarchial robe re-
flected more on the timeless-
ness than could have any num-
ber of transistor radios and
other modern accountrements
that might have found their
way on stage.
Instead, Nancy Pott's ingen-
ious costumes (in the scene in
which Hamlet goes to his moth-
er's bedroom, the queen's robe
allows an occasional glimpse of
her nakedness beneath, and one
thinks that her son is aware of
it) and James Tilton's bold set
go just far enough to allow the
viewer to come to Rabb's con-
clusions on his own. Hamlet
first appears framed in the
black of the backdrop; the per-
spective of his far-back appear-
ance established his singular
loneliness and importance with-
out announcing it with trump-
ets.
When the APA first announc-
ed its schedule for this season,
the general reaction was nega-
tive. The three-play season
would consist of two standards
seen too often (The Misan-
thrope and Hamlet) and O'Cas-
ey's Cock-A-Doodle Dan d y,
which alone seemed to make it
worthwhile. But just as response
to a fine Misanthrope proved
the company's first choice cor-
rect, so has Ellis Rabb's su-
preme artistry salvaged the
second inning. I don't know
how well the two other Hamlets,
Richard Easton and Marco St.
John, will respond ;to the role,
but if Rabb theacto r has shown
them how well it can be played,
Rabb the director should be
able to show them how to play
it.

Administrative board, CINEMA II
avoids rigid stance
(Continued from.Page 1) "When I first joined the board I
students one of seven different couldn't figure out what their cri-
notices: teria were. It was a year before ANTON ION I'S
I felt I knew what the board
-An H-action (from "Home-I was looking for." He says now he FAMOUS NUDI E
action," the old name) the most can predict the board's action cor- DAVID HEMMINGS VANESSA REDGRAVE
serious, asks the student to with- rectly about one quarter of the
draw. It is sent to students who time.TH( ( A7....I
have had either prolonged aca- "The entire approach arises out T H R E E SH OWS-7-9-J1
demic difficulty or a sudden drop of a sense of educational philoso-
in honor points. phy," Robertson says, "and the OCT. 4-5 AUD. A ,D. req.
-An NTR ("not to register") worth and dignity of the individ- FRI-SAT. ANGELL HAL 75c
which differs from the H-action ual."
only in degree. The student must The problems the board faces are
receive the board's permission tot
register aga.difficult ones, for their decisions
reg rain. sawarnmay seriously affect the life of a
-Probation is a warning to the student who' comes before them.
;student that unless there is im- One possible factor for example,
provement more serious action is the draftr
will be taken.
-Probation continued is given "We try not to let the draft be
to students Who were on probation a factor," Shaw says. "If we admit 3RS
and who have improved, but not a student because of the draft,
enough to clear them. we are just committing someone
-Probation raised is sent to, else to be drafted."
students on probation who have ' Even without the draft as aB
satisfied the board in their aca- factor, the decisions are not easy.

*

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+

NOW

TODAY AT
1,3, 5, 7, 9 p.m.
"BRILLIANT! Luis Bunuel a
rmaster of cinematic erotica !"

demic record.
-AP (action pending) tells the
student final action is beng de-
ferred until all grades, such as in-
completes or late grades are in.
-Concern letters are sent to
students who drop below 2.0 for
one semester but who are still
above 2.0 over-all.
Regardless of what action is
taken, the student is welcome to
talk to someone on the board.
Thus begins the process aimed
at helping the student find the
problem that led to his poor aca-
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The great value the board has.
Robertson believes, is in forcing
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his problem. "The student is tak-
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experience."
He adds, "There is no way to
blueprint this arrangement and
individual cases may seem to be
contradictory on the surface."
This approach, on a personal
basis, this seeming capriciousness,
caused Shaw to comment once,

"The best comparison," Shaw
thinks, "is to an umpire. He has
rules to direct his decision, but
every rule is still based on judg-
ment.
"It's the same with us. We have
rules- and guidelines on who to
drop and who toekeep, but every
decision ultimately depends on
human judgment."
Phone 434-0130
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BORIS & BELA ARE ALWAYS
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