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April 13, 1969 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1969-04-13

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Page' Two.



--- .- - 7 , I tll I I I -, i - ,

'Faustus': Taunting the eye, baiting the emotions


The Royal Sakespeare Com-
pany's production of The Tra-
gical History of Dr. Faustus,'
which has just left Detroit, was
a curious combination of melo-
drama and amiable comedy. It
had none of the horrors you
could well expect from such a
thing. The play, of course, is
about a man wio sells his im-
mortal/ soul to the devl in re-
turn for a chance to practice
necromancy for twenty-four
years on earth. For this he could
suffer mighty torments even be-
fore Hades. And though he does
go through some soul-searching
as he has second thoughts about
his bargain and tries to repent,
it is never very deep. We're al-
ways quite sure that villainy
will triumph in the end.
Despite its billing as a "Tra-
gical History" the play is a
morality play. Its object lesson
is something like, don't ever

sell your soul to the devil. Even
with the object lesson, however,
this production has the effect
of making the devil's legion
seem, if not attractive, at least
funny and interesting (Perhaps
this is the same kind of inad-
vertant turnabout that happens
in puritan Milton's Paradise
Lost, where Satan, who has guts
and energy, doesn't seem much
an altogether bad fellow.)
Half the cast consists of the
forces of evil-one that bad
angel (he is counteracted by
one good one, the two contend
in terrific bronze masks at stage
right and stage left for domain
in Faustus, stage center); three
devils; and all seven deadly sins.
Of the trinity of devils, Lucifer
and Beelzebub don't say much.
They only appear occasionally
for purposes that are mainly
decorative. Beelzebub is dis-
tinguished b'y wild hair and
great stereotypic rolls of fat.
Lucifer has horns, a pitchfork,

~~U~' Philamna
Best for last,
Last night's concert by the University Philharmonia was
important.. It was the result of a year's work, and the fruits of
two semesters labor by conductor Theo Alcantara were very im-
pressive. There was a tendency amongmany to make or break
the performance on the gargantuan final, piece. 'If that was the
test, both orchestra and audience won.
And, perhaps, the finale was the deciding factor, for the over-
all program at Hill Aud. was not balanced, neither in terms of
content nor quality.
Leonard Bernstein's Overture to Candide is invigorating with
its spotlights of brass and dazzle of percussion; but, although it
is a good concert 'opener and the Philharmonia's sound was bright
and sure, all the breakneck fireworks clothe little substance.
The four movem'ents of Tchaikovsky's Serenade caused trou-
ble., It was prettr obvious that Alcantara and his group had not
spent too much time rehearsing this friendly collection of schmaltz
and melody.
The massive chordal thrusts of the first movement turning
into a rich-bodied smiling allegro established a high standard which
was never met in the middle two sections. The second, marked
Walzer, and the third Elegie found the upper strings with intona-'
tion problems and dwindling ensemble'-until the fourth movement.
But it was the orchestra not Theo Alcantara who slipped. I
have rarely seen him so sure, so precise and expressive in his con-
ducting; he teased us beautifully with these trifles relaxing before
the strenuous effort of the finale.f
Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps holds awesome dif-
ficulties. Not only does it demand incredible skill and technique
from the members of the -orchestra, but also it summons up all
the resources of a conductor to control the ever-changing time
signatures, the irrepressable rhythms.
The opening solo was disappointing, .but the winds' subtle
murmurings of spring in the first section were sustained and precise
with all the necessary expression. The build-ups to the crashes
were steady, as Alcantara's hand had firm control.
There were problems; this performance of Le Sacre proved to
me finally that the \violins are and have been the weakest section
of the Philharmonia. Also the wails and blasts of the brass were
too loud, no doubt masking any string inadequacies, but nonetheless
destroying orchestral sound balance.
But Stravinsky's ritualized orgy was successful. The Phil-
harmonia attempted a score which even some major orchestras
avoid, and they surely worked hard to maintain their ensemble.
Last night was their final concert this year, and the orchestra
will start over again in the fall which new members. It is indicative
of their steady progress that Alcantara ever -thought of doing
the Stravinsky, and holds the same promise for next year.

and an aggressive and extreme-
ly obscene fig leaf. Their cos-
tuming is scanty, their sin is
grayed, and they are spotlighted
with a red light so the effect
is nicely hellish. Mephlstophe-
less (Terrence Hardiman, the
same who played so well the
pasty-faced villain Don John
in Much Ado) is, in the scheme
of things, the hero of the piece.
He is also the star of this pro-
A "human" kind of devil, he
is subtle, calm, and unctious.
He is costumed to look like a
friar in brown burlap cowl with
a friar's finged hair'cut. He folds
his draped sleeves one over the
other most piously. At home in
evil and bored with it ("Where
we are is hell/And where hell is
there shall we ever be"), he
watches superciliously as initiate
Faustus cavorts all over the
place. He lounges at the sides
of the stage while Faustus prac-
tices the devils' tricks. From
time to time he bares his teeth
and grimaces-this is instead
of winking at the audience, just
so we know who is master and
who slave in the "conspiracy."
Beside the devil, Faustus is
humanly innocuous. The best he
can do is vascillate between good
and evil, "high" and "low." A
wordly wise and learned man,
he wants to know more and so
chooses evil. But the evil he
chooses is not really interior or
psychological. It is more a cari-
cature, and is objectified rather
unidimensionally. All he does is
bewitch Holy gardinals, cast
thrall on royalty (Charles V of
Germany, Alexander the Great,
A Knight, Duke, and Duchess),
and woo Helen of Troy.
These wild scenes where
Mephistopheless teaches him to
perform black magic are very
good. The principle is that bothi
of them are invisible and can,
haunt holy places. Charles V's
court with a royal drop and
Spanish chairs, looks more like
hell than you could think possi-

ble. Mephistopheless-Faustus
make smoke come out of A
Knight's helmet, and give him
some huge more horns for being
discourteous. Turning up at the
Vatican, they spill the wine out
of a papal font, make the holy
men twitch wickedly, get them
to slap each other inadvertent-
ly, and to stutter over the mass.
The priests then chant a litany
of curses from "him that took
away his Holiness' wine, struck
his Holiness a blow on the
,cheek," etc. "Maledicat Domi-
But these sins seems like good
sound mischief, in the worthy
tradition of Robin Hood. And
when at the end, Faustus re-
pents' piteously, the audience is
left out of sympathy with him.
Eric Porter plays this scene very
well, sobbing magnificently, but
there has been no real prepa-
ration for such real agony. It
comes from nowhere, and is at
the most poignant (poor Faus-
tus, too bad).
The best scene in the play be-
longs to the seven deadly sins.
At the beginning, instead of a
maroon curtain, there is a screen
at stagefront on which is repro-
duced a part of Bosch's Garden
of Earthly Delights (the screen
is lowered at the end of the
play and is a kind of motif for
the whole). The Sins have been
designed after it (by Abd'elka-
der Farrah). They also look like
they could have come o u t of
Bedlam, or Tod Browning's
Freaks. They represent as a
mass, man's spiritual deform-
ities made concrete and physi-
Singly, each looks like -what
he is. Of all, Envy is the most

appealing, it has huge elongated
bony arms that reach out men-
acingly after everything and al-
most 'mash Dr. Faustus. Pride
is coquettish and speaks with a
falsetto. Wrath turns up in ar-
mor pierced through with sev-
eral of its own swords. Gluttony
lurches forth on crutches, a cor-
nucopia f u 11 of human heads
strapped to its back, and so on.
Each frets for a minute while
the others shriek in the back-
ground, and then yields to the
The worst scene in the play
is the one where Faust conjures
up Helen of Troy, A Spirit out
of the past. Not to be upstaged
by the avant garde, the Royal
Shakespeare Company presents
her in the n u d e. The spirit
(Maggie Wright) has a v e r y
beautiful bod, and thus Dr. F's
famous question, "Is this t h e
face that launched a thousand
ships?" seems odd in the con-
Helen's nudity, however, is
well-safeguarded by a dusky
stage and body paint, so that
everything is in supremely good
taste. Nevertheless, as shestands
there poised to the very finger-
tips while Faustus kisses t h e
Face that' launched, we get a
good drama of non-sex. The au-
dience, which has been working

up to this all evening is in a
deadly hush, symptomatic of the
play having reached a gratuti-
tous moment of dramatic ten-
sion. In the midst of all those
obscene creatures out of hell,
this is the production's one vul-
Costumes are mostly in red,
white, and black. There are nice
ironies to this symbolism, since
those that are royal and holy
wear red and white, while black
is the only "honest" hue (Faust
wears it, and so do Lucifer and
Beelzebub). The sets are light
and suggestive - a scholar's ta-
ble and a few oversized books
for Faustus' study and all his
learning. The last set especially
is good: as -Faust dies in tor-
ment, some wall panels at stage
rear are let down like ship
planks. These are the gates of
hell, on which are writhing and
screeching all the odious beings
we have seen throughout t h e
play, and now we know, in case
we were ever in doubt, that
Faust has definitely had it.
The stage is, rightly, kept
murky, except for a red spot-
light and a very lurid yellow one.
Clifford Williams is to be cred-
ited with the directing. I won-
dered what would come of Hel-
en's curtain call, but she appear-
ed for it in .clothes.

- w


1: Wow! What is it?


2. What happened to your Viper
Mark IV?
I just couldn't identify
with that car.
4. Don't you think you ought to
hold onto a car more than a
month, Chet?
When you see a great
buy coming your way,
you have to grab it,


The Michigan Daily, edited and man-
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Class postage paid at Ann Arbor, Mithi-
gin. 420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48104. Published daily Tues-
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carrier, $10 by mail.

-Holis ,Alpert
and Arthur Knight, MOVIE."
Saturday Review Glamour
r 1 Magazine
20th Ce'tu y~a
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*VAItAELf O~N C~,C NIUO' tO, *(COR#(




APRIL 11-12-13
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An Equal Opportunity Employer, M/F 0 Equitable 1968

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It's more than their way of talking and walking and working that makes Mount Sinai

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