THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Wednesday, March 26, 1969
THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, March 26, 1969
at Madison Ave.
By MICHAEL ALLEN
The Stratford production of Ben
Jonson's The Alchemist is both excellent
and amazingly depraved. Not only is
every bit of verbal lead turned into
sensual gold but even the crotches of
female statues are cozened into obscei-
ity. Indeed the courting of Doll by
Mammon, interlarded as it is by drib-
bling references to 'lobsters and pea-
cocks' tails, is so overplayed that the
lewdness is transmuted into a kind of
violence. It is a violence that uhder-
scores the play at every turn-in the
overflowing riot of the language; in the
quick alternation of scenes; in the en-
ergy of invention shown by Sutble and
Indeed, this play is directed by Jean
Gascon in such a way that it is hardly
a comedy at all; though we were all con-
stantly guffawing. Under the humour
is a savagery, both cruel and frightening
and from which nobody is spared. All
our life energies are shown to be corrupt
and self-destructive, and what is left in
our imaginations are menstruous rags
and clap and ochreous colors and smoke
The plot is simple and consists of
scenes with the sundry gulls coming and
going and being gulled each time. The
producer brought off each one of these
episodes by sheer wealth of invention.
There's the puffing dragon-machine;
the spinning wheel gadget; the huge
skull that oozed out wiffs of incense
through its eye sockets; and that
baroque organ peeling out every now,
and again. And of course there's the
whole set with its fiery, seedy, smoky
coloring and its two, stairways coming
down like Subtle's arms. Indeed the
impression of this whole production
consists of a host of vividly remembered
details--details that attest to the vital-
ity and fertility of Jonson's rage.
In addition this production has pace;
nothing is allowed to lag, nobody is
allowed to leave without some gesture
or movement which catapults us into
the next sequence. Each scene follows.
hard on the other. The result is exciting
but also irritating. Sometimes one was
blunted a little by a sense of over-
excitement and overstressing. Nothing
wasdlettalone to work by itself, and to-
wards the end this constant heighten-
ing became even a bit tiring. Perhaps
Jonson intended this however. Having
enchanted us by a display of roguery's
energy, he presses on to deliberately
make us tire of it. We are made aware
of the deep down pointlessness of the
vitality of evil.
What are Jonson's targets? They are
advertising and all its gimmicks (Drug-
ger's shop-sign); the hosts of jargon
users who pretend to meaningfulness
behind the polysyllabics; the who1e
world- of high pressure salesmanship;
bigots; rat-racers; voluptuaries; fools;
the dollar; sex.
The two arch rogues Face (Bernard
Behrens) and Subtle (Powys Thomas)
were neatly paired and underwent their
transformations into magician, holy
father, and "Lungs" with wonderful
speed and composure. Doll (Jane Cas-
son) with her full bosom and her red
shoes and her flaming hair was also ef-
fective, oscillating as she did from nun
to whore to fairy to thief with expert
timing. Against these three are measur-
ed the tribe of gulls led by Sir Epicure
Mammon (William Hutt). Mammon has
some of the greatest lines in the lang-
uage - "walking naked between my
succubi"; "oh my voluptouous mind" -
and no competent actor can fail to bring
the house down in the great speech in
which words become the vehicle for a
megalomanic vision that is both won-
derful and absurd and utterly depraved.
William Hutt indeed had his applause
but the speech was woefully mishandled.
Superb lines were thrown away and
that great fabric of sensuality was
pointlessly dissolved into breathless-
ness. The poor sow and her paps could
hardly be disentangled from the mess.
Perhaps the only time in the evening.,
this happened was due to a pace that
was too forced. Mammor needs all the
time in the world for this speech. Each
phrase is a gem and the whole builds
to a controlled if fantastic climax. You
cannot afford to get the laughs too early
by going into top gear from the start.
But it would be grossly unfair to leave
it at this. For most of the time Mammon
is good and so are the puritans and
Kastril with his Scots whine and poor
dreamy Dapper and flustered Drugger
andiDamne Pliant and the rest.
The Stratford company is to be con.
gratulated for an 'evening that has an
abundance of verbal and visual energy
both cruel and obscene and
poetry and prose
SRandall: A publisher
By LARRY RUSS
Dudley Randall, publisher ,anthologist, and poet, gave a reading
yesterday at the UGLL His books from Broadside Press are Poem
Counterpoem ,(with Margaret Dann6), Cities Burning, and an
anthology he co-edited, For Malcolm. As a publisher he has been.
very important in printing young black poets but, I am sorry to say,
is not a very good poet himself.
Some of his poems are satiric, clever. But some of these are
terribly facile and/or simplistically condemnatory: "Analysands" -
jerks with heavy-handed violence, without understanding or com-
passion; the poems on "Intellectuals" are immature and wrong-
headed-e.g., he tells us that resolutions are not the affairs of
intellectuals, ignoring Lenin, Voltaire and so on. We miss the real
bite, the anger in, say Leroi Jones' best work.
Other poems of his are awfully melodramatic, like "Ballad of
Birmingham" and "Dressed All in Pink." In these and others the
poet is content with the cliches like "rose petal sweet" and "delicate
as roses," and with archaic syntax such as "spirits gay" and "a
deep, deep red is dyed." In both the mertrical and free verse the
rhythm is flat; there is no forceful matching of sound and sense.
There are some good poems ("Old Witherington," "George,"
"Legacy: My South") but they need revising: "Legacy" is stilted,
with lines like "To tread again where buried feet have trod"; "Old
Witherington" should be cut in half. Most of Randall's poems die
into clicheisch abstractions, failing to find the evocative image, the
concrete world. On occasions he makes it, but they are rare:
"A naked plowman falls
Famished upon the plow, and overhead
A lean bird circles."
4harsh/syllables/drag like/dogs with/crushed/backs."
As a publisher, though, Randall is very important. The Broad-
side Press, which he founded in 1965, has brought out the poetry
of young black poets, such as Etheridge Knight, whose work might
not otheriwse have made print. He has also been energetic and,
successful in, seeing that blacks get to read their poets' work; selling
inexpensive books in black book stores. For these things Dudley
Randall should be thanked.
By JOE PEHRSON
Last night's concert Variations
on a Theme, presented by The
International Center as a bene-
fit, was less than spectacular.
In fact, from a purely musical
standpoint, it was unbelievably
poor. A part of the talent-show
gendre,,it consisted of E d g a r
Taylor, a part-time night man-
ager at the Center, attempting a
vocal rendition of works rang-;
ing from Verdi and Schubert to
The Doors. At least Mr. Taylor
was consistent - all was equally
This is not to say he has no
potential as a singer. The weak,
powerless upper range could be
strengthened; so could his prob-
lems with intonation and pitch.
Still, considering his present
ability, the International Center
had considerable nerve to open
this concert to the entire com-
The lack of professionality of
this presentation could best be
gave the International Center
seen at those times when M r.
Taylor forgot what he was going
to sing, or made arbitrary
changes in the program. He
omitted the scheduled Befreit by
Strauss simply because, in h i s
words, "The composer and I
don't see eye to eye". One won-.
ders why it was put on the
program in the first place. The
contemporary part of the pro-
gram consisted of a weakly tied
piano, guitar, drums, bass combo
that couldn't possibly have play-
ed through the material more
than twice before performance.
The bass player was superbly
poor - I seriously doubt he hit
one right note during the con-
cert. And yet, he was given solos!
That was the final insult added
to the original injury - the fact
that the audience felt obliged
to applaud and sit quietly sim-
ply because they approved of the
As a person, Edgar Taylor
evokes both praise and admira-
tion. As night manager of the
Center, he goes out of his way
to give help and information to
people who could feel quite lost
at the University, simply be-
cause they are from another
country. He is currently a stu-
dent of anthropology here, and
from comments made by foreign
students at the concert, one of
the nicest people you're likely to
How can anyone write any-
thing bad about a guy like that?
The original intentions of the
concert were unusual. The con-
temporary pieces were compar-
ed to the classical works ac-
cording to message, or theme,
hence Variations on a Theme.
Mr. Taylor was clear in his ex-
planation of music as means for
expression which varies f r o m
culture to culture and age to
age. The idea, the message, is
the same, and no one has the
right to judge someone else's
music by his own standards. Un-
fortunately, the parallels were
not as clear as might be ex-
pected by the title. For exam-
ple, Die Post by Schiubert w a s
compared to "Come Rain or
Come Shine because the idea of
mail delivery had connotations
of pony-express-type c o n -
stant service which indeed
would come rain or shine. Sure-
ly this is stretching it a bit.
Even if the ideas are similar,
the topic is trivial enough to
have virtually no meaning.
Perhaps the most amusing in-
stance off the evneing was when
Mr.. Taylor compared "Sunny"
by Bobby Hebb to the intermis-
sion simply because there was
no suitable classical selection.
No doubt every person in the
audience would' be glad to con-
tribute to an excellent Inter-
national Center. There is no
reason, though, for dressing a
contribution in the form of a
distastefully amateur produc-
WED., MARCH 26
Dir. ROGER CORMAN
Jason Robards Jr.
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