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November 13, 1979 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-13

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I

The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, November 13, 1979-Page 5

ANA CHRONISM DEPT.

PRIVATE

CONFIDENTIAL

By R. J. SMITH
Question: What does Jerry Garcia
most resemble? A) A praying mantis
painted by Max Ernst; B) some
wheezed-out ex-hodad/evangelist like
Ginsburg or Dylan (or maybe
Kissinger), too tired to even have it
together enough to get into some heavy
self-parody; or C) this guy I know who~
worked at McDonalds, who had a
special knack for spanking the grease
out of the burgers with his spatula (ex-
cept Garcia had better get that hair cut
if he wants to work at McDonalds)?
What he does not resemble is a
cherished icon, a vessel of special inner
knowledge, or a person especially
cognizant of what's going on around
him.
I should probably get something
straight right now. I am not one of those
people who say "Oh yeah, the Dead and
me go back a long way. I remember
when I was living just east of the
Haight-I was a biker then-and we
would hold rallies in El Molino and dan-
ce under the sun to Jerry and Bob's
guitars intertwining, making
wraparound love sculptures that, um-
mm, like always blew our minds. Oh
yeah, but now the Dead, they've sold
out..."
x AS FAR AS I'm concerned the
Grateful Dead is an idea whose time
never came-they were (and still are), a
concept more or less aberrant from
conception. And the dead aren't
something cutely anachronistic we can
look at and laugh at, or find something
worthwhile in, like The Flintstones,
Tony Bennett or the buccos on the
poxes of Captain Crunch; it's not like
they once served a purpose they fail to
serve nowadays, or are worth keeping
amound for nostalgia's sake.
The 'De
By ANNE SHARP
"The production pulsates with the
blare of rock music," pants the playbill
for PTP's The White Devil. "The look of
bizzare fashion and design, the forbid-
ding erotic appeal of the pornographic
minagination.. It freely uses the
images of 'Punk Rock' and the Manson
murders as vehicles for Webster's test.
'Nudity and violence are confronted
directly rather than implied ...'
And yet, for all the fanfare, the touted
The White Devil
John Webster
Power Center
Duke of Brachiano ...... Charles Shaw-Robinson
Vittoria Corombona.............. Harriet Harrisp
'lamingo . .....................Randle Mell
Zanche ..........................Suzanne Costallos
Francisco de Medici..................Tom Robbins
Presented by the Acting Company;
producing artistic director, John Hoseman; Direcor
Michael Kahn; set design. Andrew Jackness;
costumes. Jane Greenwood; lighting, Dennis Parichy
,use of kinky erotica and violence is as
tame and playful as an evening at The
Rocky Horror Picture Show.
"It was Webster's intention," con-
tinues the playbill, self-consciously ad-
justing its bow tie after the digression
into titillation, "to involve our senses
fully in the naked sight of cunning,
Violence, and lust. The Acting Company
has taken its cue from Webster.
EASY FOR THEM to say, since the
author-dead for almost four cen-
turies-is hardly in a position to set the
record straight. It is doubtful, though,
that Webster would have been too
thrilled with Kahn's interpretation of
the play: In his day, playwrites were
showmen and not coddled prima don-

nas, and he might have presented Devil
in a format less consciously arty and
more appealing to the lowest common
-denominator.
Nonetheless, director Kahn actually
has the temerity to trot out, by way of
an introduction, an actor in a black
doublet posing as Webster himself. The
aictor proceeds to disclaim the
author's actual written introduction to
the play-a snotty diatribe against
stupid audiences who clap at the wrong
time and against lousy outdoor theater
cofrditions-a stalks off smirking while,
over the loudspeakers, Devo winds into
its own spooky, mechanical version of
'"Satisfaction"
A brown, plastic curtain is pulled
back to reveal a young man in a leather
jockstrap amorously grinding his body
to the music. He dances over to a bed
where another half-naked young oman
lies asleep, gives him a rather
theatrical dry-humping, and awakens

th:e, p~e4
spell: There were these dorks
everywhere who had their faces pain-
ted and were waving their arms up to
the sky. And onstage those guys drib-
bled on and on and on, making the most

dribbly-drippy noises imaginable.
I HAVE THIS scenario of how the
Grateful Dead decide what they want to
play. In-between songs, with the lights
- blacked out, they all sort of walk
around and ask each other "what do
you feel like playing? Some watered-
down blues?" "Nah," says somebody
else, "I couldn't get into that. How
about some watered-down western
swing. No, wait a minnit. . . I've got it!
Let's do some watered-down
bluegrass! !"
The Dead can do it all (and how!):
They can rap out every form of folk,
they do soul, funk, boogie-till-you-puke,
they do "Not Fade Away." And,
phenominally, they make it all sound
the same. It sounds like a gang of wim-
ps raised on Bob Wills jug band, Stax-
Volt Folkways records, thinking that if
they play long enough, and cartooney
enough, they will get to the heart of
what all that other music is about. It
doesn't work.
I guess they have a new keyboard
player, and he fit in well with the "just
lay a whole lot of notes until you get.
your next idea" approach. Lessee, they
did a real long version of "Terrapin

Station," a really long version of
"Ramblin' Rose," a really long version
of "The Promised Land." .. .
AND THAT'S ALL I want to say
about the concert. The Grateful Dead
stand for a theology of acid, Krazy Kat
mythologies, and being extra-
terrestrially laid-back. But all this only
has importance when you're rich
enough to buy all the tanks of nitrous
oxide you'll ever need in your lifetime
to never confront your problems, and
are detached enough from what it's like
to live these days that none of the
realities-the good stuff as well as the
scabs and ringworms that walk the
street-can ever get through to you.
Really I feel sort of bad for the Dead
fans, and what all this Deadness does to
them: Like the poor dope who has been
calling me all week to arrange a
backstage meeting with Jerry Garcia
(something I can't do) because "he's
like not even really human, man. I just
want to talk with him and see what he
thinks about space and time and stuff."
The Major Events Office seems more'
interested in excavating dinosaurs this
season than does the archaeology
department. So far this wonderful term
we have had such relics as Elton John,
Kenny Loggins, and the Eagles. And of
course, now the Dead.
I lived in the sixties, I was a teiny-
bopper. Once. But if there were ever
much reason for the Grateful Dead, it
was when we discovered it was easier
to take tabs of acid and freak out than it
was to get anything done. Nowadays, I
get as much work done while I watch
Mork and Mindy eating a bowl of Cap-
tain Crunch.

DEAR DIARY:
We had our first Marxc Brothers' film festival last
night to raise $ for our organization. The publicity
was great; 1000 people came and we had to turn
others away. The films arrived on time; the tickets
were printed; the pop corn sales made us lots of
money; and the lights went out at 8:00 on the dot!
BUT can you believe it, no one told the projectionist
to come with the projectors!!
Could This Entry Be One of Yours? Is this a DEJA VU?
If So . . Please Attend a Workshop on "THE NUTS & BOLTS"
OF SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMMING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13 from 11:30-1:30
KUENZEL ROOM, Michigan Union

FEATURING: "Make Your Own'
Sandwich and Cold Buffet for
$2.00 or bring your own brown
bag.
Sponsored by Student Organizations, Activities,
d Programs, 1310 Michigan Union, 763-5911

ThenefrChnseSude

The Center for Chinese Studies
PUBLIC LECTURE SERIES
TE POlPEA S REPUGLIC
OF CHINA AFTR 30 YEARS

Jerry Garcia

How was their concert Saturday night
(at Crisler Auditorium, at 7:30, spon-
sored by our Major Events Office, blah,
blah, puke, puke, puke ... )? I dunno.
How is it to sit quietly for four hours and
have somebody steadily tap on your
forehead with a rubber mallet?
It was like being on the set of God-

NOVEMBER 14
Wednesday

CHINA'S NEWIfTERAlRE:
HOW NEW iS NEW?
HARRIET C. MILLS
Professor of Chinese

vil' in Mr.

Webster

NOVEMBER .28
Wednesday

CHINA'S NEW
ECONOMIC PO ICY

him by handing him a note.
"Baniset! "gasps the sleeper.
"It greev'd me much to heare the
sentence," replies his friend, struggling
into a pair of leather punk pants.
"Ha,Ha, o Democritus thy Gods that
governe the whole world," cries the
other, and then he throws up.
IT SEEMS THAT modern-day direc-
tors are constantly unveiling new, sup-
posedly innovative versions of old
Elizabethan/Jacobian chestnuts,
usually featuring an incongruous 20th
century reading. We-have had Olyier's
Oedipal -Hamlet and Robeson's reading
of Othello as a civil rights dilemma;
one BBC director in the late sixties
discovered, to his delight, that
Marlow's Edward II is full of blatant
homosexuality, and cast Ian McKellan
as a flaming, mincing Edward; at the
Hilberry last year, young male charac-
ters in Romeo and Juliet were provided
with a dazzling array of staves, swords,
sausages, etc. to waggle provocatively
before their codpieces in the name of
earthiness. The list goes on.
In Kahn's Devil, the juxtaposition of
Jacobian dislogue and the liberal use of
rock and disco as incidental music and
campy, quasi-soft-core visuals is funny
at first, and, indeed, ultimately effec-
tive. Almost too effective, in fact, since
both plot and dialogue and buried
beneath the razzle-dazzle onrush of
outrageous costumes and stage
business.
At one point, Flamineo-the
Iagoesque villain feigning mad grief af-
ter his sister Vittoria is sent to
prison-struts into a leather bar
wearing a hot pink feather boa; spike
heels and a garter belt. All logic, all
character empathy, all pretense of
psychological motivation go poof! and
we are left with only an amusing spec-
tacle.
I DOUBT THAT Wenster would have
liked his handiwork thus obscured, but
then, what's he going to do about it?
Not that the story is any sort of subtle
dramatic gem. It is a sensational ex-
ploitation of a scandal inItaly, artfully
spiced by Webster for the delectation of
his- English audience. It concerns a
duke, Brachiano, who conceives a
passion for Vittoria, a poor lady. Her
syncophantic brother, Flamineo,
hoping to profit from the match,
arrangesttrysts between the two, and
-

also has the Duke's wife and Vittoria's
husband murdered. Vittorio is framed
for the murders and is sent to a prison
for penitent whores. Various people
take it upon themselves to avenge
crimes against various characters, and
the play ends in a bloody tangle of
bodies, in the dismaying but charming
tradition of Renaissance tragedy.
IN THIS VERSIONof the story, in-
fluential noblemen wear business suits
and lounge in executive swivel chairs,
murderous courtly adventurers carry
chains and wear studded leather cod-
pieces over their jeans, swords-become
switchblades, etc. Brachiano becomes
a trim, jet-setter with a penchant for
auto racing and Vittoria is a slinky
playgirl. Apparently, the Acting Com-
pany found its White Devil in Vit-
toria's irresistable sexuality, and
costumer her accordingly in pure
white, with a fluffy head of mahogany-
red hair.
But the real devil is Flamineo, that
greedy monster who virtually pimps for
his sister and kills his brother with
spaced-out unconcern. Randle Mell's
Flamineo was a particularly wicked
caricature of a burnt-out, violent punk
rocker, all to obviously modeled after
late Sex Pistols star Sid Vicious. I sup-
pose Kahn felt that Vicious, an accused
murdered and recovered heroin addict,
was fair game to be made into some
kind of archetypal pervert. That's
rather cruel in my estimation, but,
maybe Sid would have wanted it that
way.
I know you're all wondering about
that business in the playbill that
promised nudity and the forbidden ap-
peal of the pornographic imagination.
It was good, but not all that blatant.
There were a lot of bodies rubbing
together in feigned abandon, as in that
first scene with the amorous, bare-
bottomed men. There was also one long
interval where Vittoria's maid climbed
atop a wheeled stretcher to bathe the
nude body of the dead Prachiano, but,
alas, my seat was too good.
ONLY VIEWERS in the raised back
rows got a really good peak at his
anatomy. The reverse was true of the
scene in which the Duke of Florence's
dead sister appeared to her brother in a
vision weating a black sheer nightie.
vites you to join him for

She pulled open her gown to show us her
nude body, but the Duke immediately
collapsed in a fit of incestious guilt, and
the vision quickly disappeared. Kahn
apparently found it deliciously perver-
se to imply not one, but two incestuous
brother-sister relationships; not only
did the Duke of Florence have an ob-
vious passion for his dead sister, but
ever poor, stoned Flamineo made a few
grabs at the unsuspecting Vittoria. In
one hilarious scene, he nibbles rap-
turously at-e{his sister's rshoulder while
she embraces Brachiano.
The violence is a bit less satisfying:
Oodles ofthat fake bright blood aboun-
ded in the final scene, so that none of
the deaths were convincing, except
Brachiano's poisoning. Actually, most
of the dying was pretty hilarious since
no one really cared what happened to
the characters anyway, and most of the
gruesome silliness was intentional. At
the play's end, when most of the
remaining characters lay dead aftera
bloody massacre, the heir to
Brachiano's fortune, a little boy, sur-
veys the scene with grief and horror,
then turns on a portable cassetts player
and dances off as Gloria Gaynor sings
"I Will Survive." Too bad the Acting
Company had not stayed in Ann Arbor
for an encore performance of The White
Devil. Word of mouth would surely
have drawn a full house for the second
showing. It isn't often in this poky
college town that we get a good, all-
around naughty show, and it's a shame
so many connisseurs of lustful fur
missed out on it.
HtAIRSTYLISTS
For Men, Women
and Children at.
DascolaSstylists
Liberty off State--64-9329
Easto. at Soth U.-662-0354
Arboriand-971-9975
Mple Village-761-2733

ROBERT DERNBERGER
Professor of Economics
ALL LECTURES WILL BE HELD IN
150 HUTCHINS HALL (LAW QUAD)
FROM 7:30 TO 9:00 PM

The University of Michigan
Men's Glee Club
LEONARD JOHNSON, Director
Wayne State University
Men's Glee Club
HARRY LANGSFORD, Director
IN CONCERT
NOVEMBER 17, 1979-8:00 p.m.
HILL AUDITORIUM
Tickets: $4, $3, or $2 (student si)
MAIL ORDERS SEND CHECK TO:
Ticket Manager, The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club
1024 Administration Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Hill box office open November 12, 9-5
air

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