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November 18, 1978 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-11-18

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I

MUSIC SCHOOL 'S 'FIGARO':

The Michigan Daily-Saturday, November 18, 1978-Page 7

A

'Marriage' that stays together

By JOSHUA PECK
The nice thing about opera in Ann Ar-
bor is that there's so damned little of it.
That's not the derisive statement it
seems to be. It simply means that if a
gifted performer (e.g., Michael
Maguire in the current Marriage of
Figaro) develops the itch to perform,
he is unlikely to wait for long to
audition. If he misses a production, he
will probably have to wait at least four
months for his next chance. This prin-
ciple seems to hold through most facets
of production. Thus, the scarcity of the
art in the area brings high quality with
regard to performance, musicianship,
and sheer exuberance to each and
every production.
This is not to say that there are no
sore spots in Figaro. Even the deity of
American opera hoises, the
Metropolitan in New York, throws a
shrieker or whiner up on stage every
now and then, so our own School of
Music is certainly entitled to:But what
one carries away from this rendition of

Ralph Herbert, stage director for the Music School's current production of "The
Marriage of Figaro" at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater, is pictured above in
rehearsal offering some dramatic tips to Kathleen Segar, who plays Cherubino
in the production.

eople are living there, but
it 's still a very dull place.

The Marriage of Figaro
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
English translation by Ruth and
Thomas Martin
School of Music Opera Theatre
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Figaro..................Michael E. Doll
Susanna ..................... Julia A. Broxholm
Dr. Bartolo ......,............... John A. Dalke
Marcellina................Maureen Born
Cherubino................. Carol M. Madalin
Count Almaviva..........Michael L. Maguire
Basilio...............Lawrence P. Vincent
Countess Almaviva ........Jacqueline Green
Antonio ..............James A. Patterson
Don Curzio .. ............... Jeffrey F. Allyn
Barbarina..............Donna Grunewald
Gustav Meier, music director and conductor;
Ralph Herbert, stage director; Dick Block,
sets; Richmond C. Frielund, lighting;
Ann Correll, costumes;
Mark Lamadue,-choreographer
Mozart's comic opera overall is the joy
that somewhere on this campus, at
least, there is a mechanism with a
nearly constant eduction: excellence.
MICHAEL MAGUIRE as Count
Almaviva, a nobleman with the world's
farthest-wandering eye, is a marvel.
His voice is rich and seems to float out,
simply filling Mendelssohn. The part
calls for colors ranging from
boisterousness to delicacy. Maguire
handles both, and makes it look
(sound?) easy.
The lovely Julia Broxholm, too, is a
delight. As Susanna, Figaro's intended,
Broxholm captures the hearts of her
audience as well as those of several
male characters in the opera. She
delivers her arias lightly, even liltingly,
but never airily. The only problem with
Broxholm is not really her problem. It
is the mystery of why such a feminine
treasure would fall in love with a clod
like her leading man.
Michael (Figaro) Doll's voice is not
bad, but it has a curious something
missing that I think can be described as
"vocal overbite." His vocalization has
the structure, or frame, of a decent
operatic one, but its musicality is
inadequate to fill that frame. What we
are left with is a fair performance that
pales to poor in the company of
Broxholm and Maguire.
UNDER THE direction of Gustav
Meier, the orchestra does an admirable
job. In the overture, the violins sound a
bit sloppy on some of the faster runs,
and the brass suffered from a case of
scattered attacks in the introduction to
the second act; but that these were the

only conspicuous errors is to Meier and
company's credit. Figaro's score is
anything but easy.
Questions about acting in opera have.
always led buffs to a sort of quandary.
In a comic opera, should the actors take
themselves seriously, whatever sort of
preposterousness they find themselves
involved in? If the plot is looked at as
nothing more than a tool for putting the
misic before the public, then it scar-
cely even matters what the singers do as
actors. But the characters are an
element of the total aesthetic im-
pression of the opera. Ergo, they mat-
ter.
Two attitudes about dramatic per-
formance, different, perhaps, only in
degree, are executed in this Figaro.
Oddly, one works, and the other
doesn't.
Maguire wraps himself in his role for
the most part, and convincingly, but
occasionally departs from his,
count/self to share a joke with us, the
onlookers. It may be something as sim-
ple as wiggling his eyebrows at the
audience over his licentious intentions
(a gesture, incidentally, which reads
very well on Maguire), but we see at
these points that director Herbert, too,
recognizes the absurdity of all the
goings on.
JOHN DALKE and Lawrence Vin-
cent, though, take the notion a step or
two, or three, too far. They think the
libretto and their own characters so
terribly amusing that their genuine
humor is suffocated. The program
reads "comic opera," not "farcical."
The Contessa, Jacqueline Green, was
a great crowd pleaser, but had

problems with articulation. At times
she' seemed to be reverting to the
opera's original Italian. Still, Green
sang this difficult role with majesty,
and was impressive on her tricky trills
and grace notes.
Maureen Born and Carol Madalin, in.
the roles of Marcellina and Cherubino,
added charm and grace to the produc-
tion. Born comes across as devious in-
deed, while Madalin is all youthful zest
as the page boy.
MADALIN WAS an odd choice
physically for her role, and costumer
Ann Correll looks to have had a dif-
ficult time rendering Madalin's figure
boyish. Otherwise, the costumes are
splendid.
It is to the company's credit that the
worst thing about this production is the
putrid set. Different parts of it were
designed with different levels of reality
in mind, producing a vague mishmash.
There are also too few set pieces on
stage at all times to motivate
movement and, for that matter, the
audience's interest.
The Marriage of Figaro is to be direc-
tor Ralph Herbert's final effort- at
Michigan, and so the cast dedicated the
production to him as a farewell gift.
Herbert appeared before the overture
to thank his colleagues and students for
the honor. And I can understand why.
There could scarcely be a finer
devotion.
There are about 7,000 museums in the
United States, the American
Association of Museums in Washington,
D.C., estimates.

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
Like its four wayward characters,
eopie Are Living There wheezes,
hines, and blows fuses when it tries to
e11 us what it's about. Although the
lay ensues during a single day and
ever leaves the'confines of a shabby
living room, the limited setting is not
lone a disadvantage. Who's Afraid of
Virginia Woolf? which takes place in a
iimilar situation, is a dramatic tour de'
orce, a feverish descent into the depths
n hell-on-earth. The problem with
eople Are Living There is that it
People Are Living There
By Athol Fugard
University Showcase Productions
Trueblood Auditorium
Milly ...................Rebecca Stucki
Don ....................... Terry Caza
Shorty . ............F........... Pat Garner
Sissy ...................Ilene Moskowitz
Kathryn Long, director; Anne E.
Mueller, settings; Ruth A. Brown;
costumes; Anthony B. Eldis, lighting
rarely even scratches the surface of the
ayaged territory Albee's play explores,
o. exquisitely, let alone worksup one-
tenth the emotional power.
This is really quite a shame, because
he - current University Showcase
roduction is not without its merits: of
the four characters, two - Milly
(Rebecca Stucki), the irate, middle-
ged landlord of a grungy flat in Johan-
esburg, South Africa, and Don (Terry
paa, who, incidentally, really did
anage to break a leg), a cranky
okkeeper with a philosophical bent -
re ,ortrayed with great vitality and
reasonable subtlety; director Kathryn
ong, who staged Michigan Reper-
tory's marvelous production of
ravesties this summer, has done her
est to inject playwright Athol
ugard's flabby dialogue with some
cod-spirited comedy, and is wonder-
tlly adept at controlling the changing
rhythms of the dialogue.
THE PLAY takes place during a
eemingly hum-drum day in the lives of
our rather uninteresting characters,
aU low-income whites living in South
Arica. Unless the use of Coca-Cola in
he second act is some comment on the
Steve Biko affair that escaped my
iimited political grasp, the play has no
political subtext. The characters are all
caught in the same (and, when you
think about it, almost ridiculously
universal), bind: laboring under free-
floating anxiety and fear of(rejection,
they seek nothing more than a little love
nd comeraderie from their fellows,
Only to find that ours can be a cold,
cruel world, that life just ain't a bowl of
cherries.

L

Milly's husband, who we never see,
thinks she's "not a woman anymore"
nowthat she's reached menopause, and
Milly spends her days in a state of
chronic bitchiness, snapping at
everyone within earshot. The other
characters are all tenants in her house.
Shorty (Pat Garner), a sexually
passive young man married to an un-
sensitive woman (Ilene Moskowitz)
who not only won't sleep with him but
openly flaunts her promiscuity, is such
an inept person he even manages to flub
up his job as a postman. He figures into
the play's comic scheme as a
dumb'n'wacky Howard Borden-type
neighbor, forever spewing out inadver-
tently inane asides. Don is a morose but
,amiable individual with a quietly ob-
sessive fear of rejection. The role of
Shorty's wife is a small one, and the
play takes the form of a mammoth
group therapy session between the
other three.
UNFORTUNATELY, even the most
valiant efforts of the company rarely
spark this wretched play up to the level
of enjoyable situation comedy. The
work employs what is, I suppose, a
tragi-comic view of human experience,
without ever satisfyingly resolvingthis
duality. At moments it seems a paean
to human folly, while at others it
shamelessly wallows in cliches of third-
hand existentialism. An overblown
metaphor at the end about humans
aimlessly discarded by society like
moths after converting from silkwor-
ms, is like something out of a morality
play put on by a group of concerned
senior citizens.
The only moving moments in this
production are not these "heavy"
revelations (like Don admitting he can
feel next to nothing, and express none of
what he feels), but the quirkier nuan-
ces: Shorty stupidly buying a slab-cake
instead of a round one for Milly's birth-
day party; Milly speaking wistfully of
hundreds of cars all traveling to where
the fun is, and wondering why she can't
go there, too. Perhaps if this play had
shucked its armchair philosophizing far
the simplicity of Our Town, it might
have been an effective little drama.
AS IT STANDS, this is simply a very
dull show, especially in the first half, in
which the dialogue is not only gratingly
repetitive but focused in about eight dif-
ferent directions. The second half lends
some continuity and shape to the play's
theme, and there is, finally, some
reason to care about the characters.
The performances are adequate, but
not splendid enough to transcend the
material. The most convincing of the lot
is Terry Caza's Don, who appears
despairing without resorting to drippy
displays of miserable confession.
Rebecca Stucki puts tremendous

energy into the role of Milly, but she
overplays it, yelling three out of every
four lines, The few scenes in which she
utilizes a more understated delivery
are indicative of what this performance
could have been had her screeching
harshness been used a bit more
sparingly.
- AT GARNER, as Shorty, gives the
only poor performance. Garner does
not have the comic talents to do justice
to the character's yuk-yuk stupidity,
and he comes across as dull and super-
ficial. Such Aa characterization goes
against the grain of what the play
seems to pontificate.
Perhaps the single most impressive
feature of this production is the set, an
elaborately tacky room with chipped-
plaster walls and rows of bottles and
cans lining the grimy shelves. But as
People Are Living There rolls onward
such embellishments are forgotten and
one can feel director Long struggling
under the ponderous weight of her
material. Perhaps next time, this same
group should try Who's Afraid of
Virginia Woolf? Things generally go
better with the Real Thing.

POETRY CONTEST
$100, $50, $25, five $10 prizes
Submit any number of original unpublished poems. $2 entry
fee for each-under 26 lines-any style or subject-none
returned. Best used in Register-News and poetry book if
you sign permission.
Enclose self-addressed stamped envelope. Closes Dec. 31,
1978. Poetry Haven Contest, Box 57, Mt. Vernon, Illinois
62864. Dunham Growth Center sponsors.

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