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September 15, 1978 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-09-15

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The Michigan Daily--Friday, September 15, 1978-Page)

Sterling acting highlights Ladies'

Fred Zlnneman' s



Given a prison setting and a
reasonably odd mix of characters - an
i;ealistic college student, a gruff but
compassionate lesbian, a vulnerable
hooker, and an insane religious fanatic
--guarded in the same cell by a sadistic
Ladies In Waiting
By Peter De Anda}
Back Alley Players
Arena Theater
Agrippa............. .......Billie Scott
Carmen ................... Barbette Wilson
Lolly ...................Frances L. Washington
Lana................... Ellen Sandweiss
Matron ......... .................Suan Keller
Maxie....... ............ Valeria Sims
Other Matrons ...........Melissa Hepburn
Marietta Bpylis
Kayjona Jackson, director; Marty Weichner and
David Park, Lighting; Phillip L. Williams, and
Kayjona Jackson, sets; Kayjona Jackson,

Waiting, the right hands include the
playwright, Peter De Anda, the Back
Alley Players, who are presenting it,
and even the theater itself, the Arena
Theater in the Frieze Building.
THE STAGE AREA in the Arena is
small, and faces rows of seats on three
sides. The audience has no choice but to
become involved with the action and
emotion on stage. The set for Ladies is
simple: four cots, mesh walls
represented by cut-away portions of
chicken wire which hang suspended
from the ceiling, and the matron's desk,
located outside the mesh. The door
between the desk and the cell interior is
left to the audience's imagination.
Although this set is by itself too meager
to convey the choking confines of a
prison, the theater itself helps to
"entrap" the audience, making them
feel the prison walls.
Ladies In Waiting was written in 1965
and is in a way a period piece, relying,
on sixties sentiment for its impact. At
the opening of the play, we witness the
way the three black women in the cell
have organized their routines and
relationships. Agrippa (Billie Scott)
and Carmen (Babbette Wilson) bicker,
and Lolly (Frances L. Washington)
sings gospel and strokes a stuffed toy.
THEN A NEW woman is put in their
cell. Lana (Ellen Sandweiss), a white
middle-class student who was arrested
for protesting against poor conditions in

the prison, wants to fight'injustice; she
believes everyone deserves to be
treated with dignity, and her
compassion extends to lesbians,
prostitutes, even to crazy Lolly. But
Lana has never had to look brutality
right in the eye - until the matron
brutalizes her.
The surface cliches of the first half -
the obligatory conflicts between the
idealistic, naive do-gooder and the
"victims" who know that a protest sign
isn't a magic wand of change -- are
redeemed by the excellence of the
dialogue. When Lana speaks of her
father, an activist from the previous
generation, it is clear that at least some
of her beliefs stem from hero worship
and a desire to live up to tier father's
expectations. The natural style and
rhythm of Carmen and Agrippa's
speech lends the play an effective aura
of realism, although this lets down a bit
in the second half because of several
unnecessary and over-dramatic
OVERALL, however, the success of
this play must be attributed to the
actresses, who provide the energy to
make the characters live, and, as a
group, help to smooth over the
material's rough spots.
Billie Scott as Agrippa never seems
to act. She is dynamically real, whether
laughing, growling an insult, or striding
through the cell door like she wants to
tear down the invisible ;'walls

surrounding her. Along with Babbette
Wilson, Scott moves with natural grace
in her graceless surroundings, like a
caged big cat.
Ellen Sandweiss has a difficult job in
animating Lana, but is convincingly
naive in the face of the others' resigned
ease and worldliness. Francis
Washington, who plays Lolly, must
convince us that she once poured
gasoline over her husband and set him
on fire, and remain a sympathetic
character. In one scene she has a
grippingly realistic fit of religious
ecstasy, that is wholly credible without
overpowering the other characters.
THE ONLY disappointment is the
matron (Susan Keller). Although she is
a leering, spitting maniac, the
character is not nearly as terrifying as
she should be. It would have been more
effective had she been played as cold
and brutal, betraying only a hint of her
inner hysteria.

JANE FONDA and VANESSA REDGRAVE together offer superb Academy
Award winning performances. Based on Lillian Hellman's tribute to her remark-
able friend and childhood idol, this film examines the nature of friendship, inde-
pendent but enduring relationships, the personal agony of creativity, political
and personal commitments and the precariousness of survival in times of war.
"Julia is a most superior film." Variety. Also stars JASON ROBARDS.
SUN-Richardson's SANCTUARY
C INEUVA II 7:O&a:.. $1.50

matron, what do you get? In the wrong
hands you could get just about
anything, including - a successful
situation comedy. In the right hands,
you might be treated to an evening of
uncontrived power and insight.
In the case of the play Ladies in

_ . ~qq


Belt Midrash
HEBREW FOR BEGINNERS.. ... .. . Mon. & Thurs.
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INTERMEDIATE HEBREW. Thursdays 7:00-8:30 p.m.
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YIDDISH FOR BEGINNERS. ..... ... . Tues. & Thurs.
7:00-8:00 p.m.
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2:00-5:00 p.m.
TORAH & HAFTARAH CHANT.. Time To Be Arranged
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BOOK OF KOHELET. .. Wednesdays 8:30-10:00 p.m.
TALMUD MEGILLAH. .. .Mondays 8:30-10:00 p.m.
WEDDINGS & MARRIAGE. Tuesdays 7:00-8:30 p.m.
JEWISH VALUES..... . Wednesdays 7:00-8:30 p.m.
PROBLEMS... .... Thursdays 7:00-8:30 p.m.
6:30-8:00 p.m.
(A Pilot Program course. . . . . . . . . . . at Alice Lloyd
Priority enrollment to Pilot Program students, space



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