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October 28, 1970 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-10-28

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Page Two


Wednesday, October 28, 1970 rl

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, October 28, 1970 ~

I prefer .. .
8 frames of Feiffer

Martha Graham's art: Dead or alive?

The Actors Company's pro-
duction of Jules Feiffer's Little
Murders, this week's offering by
the Professional Theatre Pro-
gram in Lydia Mendelssohn, has
some nice things in it. A ges-
ture here, a grimace there, a
line here, two lines there. But
the overall effect of the play is
nowhere near as biting, witty,
nor pointed as a Feiffer cartoon
of some eight to a dozen frames.
One leaves the theatre happy
for the chance to see Feiffer on
stage; but all the more dubious
about the likelihood of success
when a master of one medium
tries his hand at another.
It is the hallmark of Feiffer's
visual style as a cartoonist to
repeat the same image-often of
a single profile - many times
over with only the slightest
changes of facial expression. The
generalized image on a particu-
lar human type is thus rein-
forced while the captions an-
alyse, dissect, d e s t r ou yand
otherwise wreak havoc upon the
thought-patterns of contempo-
. } rary c u 1 t u r e and counter-
:' .,~ {:.culture.
.:: ;~,:f<;What happens on stage. un-
A; ; . fortunately,. "" iste tefilling out of
.. ~.* ....the cartoon line in all its ab-
stract vividness by the features
of living breathing specific hu-
man beings. In Little Murders
'"the characters are too cartoon-
like to be credibly motivated
humans and too human to be
the universal genotypes captured
= } :> :}by line drawings. Little Murders
attempts to succeed on the out-
rageousness of its central idea.
-Richard Lee Inc. Little Murders has, for its
Making a marvelous 'Catch'

central idea, the desensitizing
that takes place when blood-
shed becomes a part of daily
routine, the absurdity that results
when it becomes impossible to
run, off to the grocery store
without expecting random bul-
lets to be flying ,about. Is the
message that we live in a waste
howling wilderness of meaning-
less violence? Perhaps it' is a
mark of our present degree of
insensitivity that we respond, I
already know that.
Is the message that all of us
are potential killers? Robert Ar-
drey has made the same point
in somewhat more chilling pseu-
doscientific terms; and Ingmar
Bergman, in Shame, has gone
into the problem with vastly
more stunning artistic success.
What one gets, unfortunately,
is not a cutting-edge but a
spoon, dishing up a little new
sauce on a very old recipe,
Such pleasures as Little Mur-
ders provides, however, come
from bits and pieces of the per-
formances. John Reid Klein
rmoving through the role of
Reverend Dupas with a nice
blend of choreography and acro-
batics; Josef Sommer hamming
it up in a pleasant sort of way
as Police Lieutenant Practice;
Albert Ottenheimer doing the
same as an elderly Jew who has
made good in the face of ad-
versity with God in his heart
and expensive suits on his back.
In the major roles there is
not much that provides sus-
tained satisfaction unless it be
the deadpan features of Theo-
dore Sorel as Alfred Chamber-
lain. Angela Paton as Margorie
Newquist is overdirected and
undermotivated as a wife and
mother on the upper west side
of Manhattan. Stanley Ander-
son as her husband it generally
amusing and blustery in an
overwritten part, and Patricia
Hamilton and Leslie Carlson
complete the cast as the daugh-
ter and son (more or less) of
the Newquists. Miss Hamilton
is now and then delightful in a
depressing sort of way as a
bundle of Amazonian strength.
For the chance to see Feiffer
attempting his thing in the
dramatic medium, one can be
grateful; but real happiness is
a yellowing Feiffer cartoon on
the wall of the Michigan Daily,
pinned up a news photo of An-
gela Davis. It is a genuine bulle-

A crowd poured out of Hill
Auditorium after M o n d a y
night's concert by the Martha
Graham Company. Chartered
buses lined the curb, silent wit-
nesses to the fact that many had
flocked to view and enthusias-
tically applaud the works of this
undisputed giant of the Ameri-
can dance theater, this great
lady of the arts. The name of
Martha Graham is known far
beyond the elite circle of dance
buffs. Graham took the infant
modern dance, at a time when
it offered little more t h a n a
vague, unrestrained lyricism,
and gave it shape and form.
At the turn of the century,
Isadora Duncan threw off shoes
and corsets in protest against
the stilted, lifeless forms of the
classic ballet. Loosing torrents
of emotion upon sometimes ad-
miring a n d often hostile au-
diences, she improvised with
flowing, "natural" movement.
In a field swept clean by these
earlier rebellions, Graham be-
gan in the mnid-twenties, under
the tutelage of that irrascible
old teacher-musician L. o u i s
Horst, to lay the foundations of
a new dance discipline-a tech-
nique designed to make the body
a sublime, precision instrument,
subject to the dancer's will and
capable of expressing the most
elemental human passions and
conflicts as they came to be em-
bodied an evolving movement
vocabulary. T h i s earthbound,
energetically percussive idiom
expressed Graham's vision of
her times and country and lent
itself to the portrayal of gut
emotions, of the archetypal hu-
man dramas that were always
to intrigue her. Graham's art
becomes, in one sense, the evo-
lution of a "personal classic-
ism," a choreographic structur-
ing of the world of each dance
in recurring movement patterns,
a characteristic use of gesture
developed by and for one highly
disciplined, consummately ex-
pressive human body - h e r
The present Graham Company
reflects the highly personal na-
ture of Graham's discipline.
Though Graham herself, now in
mid-seventies, has retired from
performing and does not travel
with the company, her omni-
scient presence draws these
finely honed bodies together;
her controlling consciousness
communicates through t h e m
t h e marvelously imaginative
stage imagery of her dances. In
the company class, conducted
a few hours prior to perform-
ance by lead dancer and con-

pany co-director Bertram Ross,
the young men and women run
through their paces with hardly
a word; a body position, a ges-
ture cues them for each exer-
cise a n d they glide easily
through the set combinations.
Contractions, twists, walks and
turns - the Graham technique
has become as rigidly codified
as that of ballet.
And the young dancers, all
products more or less of this
technique - how they can
move! Beautiful bodies, all;
breathtaking control, precision,
line. But as t h e performance
unfolded, the dancers moved al-
most too easily, too glibly
through the Graham world of
compressed, charged experience.
All the elements were there -
the carefully designed costumes,
symbolically charged p r o p s,
N o g u c h i sculptures, effective
lighting, amazingly beautiful
dancers. And y e t, in Monday
night's performance, something
was missing.
A black backdrop and wings
enclosed the stage and set the
evening's heavy mood. El Pen-
itente, lightest of the three piec-
es m on the program, framed a
series of Christian images in a
primitive ritual Mystery play.
While the clutter of props and
objects used to tell the story of
the Penitent belied the style of
the frame (the program note
describes the dance as "a story
told after the manner of the
old minstrels") and contrasted
with the stark simplicity of the
black-white color scheme, the
dance presented many stunning
images as well as rare flashes of
delightful Graham humor. Es-
pecially effective were the Pen-
itent's self-flagellation with a
knotted, hairy r o p e, and his
crucifixion, dragging a distorted
cross on a long diagonal across
the stage. Phyllis Gutelius sau-
cily tempted Bertram Ross, the
Penitent, with forbidden fruit,
and God rebuked the fallen man
with two humorously understat-
ed slaps on the cheeks. T h e
Festival Dance, which ended
the piece, expressed the sheer
joy of movement as did nothing
else in the program.
Cave of the Heart is a Gra-
ham masterpiece, and this per-
formance provided a breathtak-
ing display of virtuoso techni-
que. Based on the myth of Me-
dea, the d a n c e explores the
twisting of the human heart,
distills to its essence Medea's
jealous hatred of Jason and his
promised consort. Stage pres-
sure built as M e d e a, danced
superbly by Helen McGehee,
writhed in an agony of soul-


scorching jealousy. Through
long years of work, McGehee
has absorbed the Graham idi-
om, and she used the tense con-
tractions, the earthbound writh-
ing a n d twitching to project
Medea's violent passion. She
seemed to ingest everything on
the stage and finally crawled
into her o w n spiny, twisted
heart. Both Robert Powell as
Jason and Takako Asakawa as
the Princess also gave outstand-
ing performances. Moving with
the rapidity and weightlessness
of a light-winged insect, Taka-
ko climaxed h e r performance
with a tortured attempt to rip
from her head Medea's poisoned
Choreographed by Ross with
an electronic score by Walter
Caldon, Oases, the program's fi-
nal piece bore the heavy stamp
of Graham's influence. Dress-
ing his dancers in boldly dyed
leotards instead of Graham's
favored drapes and dresses, Ross
aimed at an abstract rendering
of mood without plot, without
dramatic conflict. But the dra-
ma was there; groups of danc-
ers, set apart by costume color,
moved with almost choric ef-
fect, and couples were united
and torn apart in accord with
some unnamed fate.
Oases recalled Graham in
heaviness of mood, the inces-
sant percussive movement, the
very shapes of t h e gestures.
Again the dancers moved beau-
tifully, and, though group rela-
tionships were interesting, dra-
matic relationships seemed to
dominate over the attempt to
shape space. After awhile the
dancers' furious, rhythmically
pace became tiring.
In fact, despite the company's
awesome display of technical

-DJaiy-Denny Gainer
prowess, the whole evening was
tiring. For some reason, the rig-
id rhythmical patterning, the
classic theme and variation
structure which is the source
of Graham's power, seemed to
work against the company. The
program, for the, most p a r t,
lacked immediacy; an invisible
wall separated dancers from au-
dience, and even a m o n g the
dancers a certain reserve pre-
Perhaps the use of canned
rather than live music increased
the sense of distance, or per-
haps the formal, ritualistic na-
ture of the material as from the
approach to performing. Helen
McGehee caught and commun-
icated .the immediacy of Medea's
passion in Cave of the Heart,
and I would guess that Graham
in her prime did the same. Her
intensity as a performer was, in
fact, her special strength. In
seeking to create a modern
dance discipline, a technique
built upon her o w n instincts
and performing ability, and in
teaching that technique w i t h
demanding rigidity, M a r t h a
Graham may h a v e created a
personal art, an art which only
she and some few chosen dis-
ciples could bring alive. Tech-
nical prowess alone cannot
breathe life into a work if the
creative process h a s ended.
Watching Monday night's con-
cert, I found myself wondering
how much life is left in Gra-
ham's art.
2 $1.50a


It's just as well there is no
single canon of critique, no aes-
thetic checklist against which
a film can be measured good or
bad. Mike Nichols' C a t c h 22
would very probably fail such a
test for it relies on caricature ra-
ther than character, it o f t e n
seems too wordy with- too little
subtlety, it sounds at times like
a film version of the Nye Com-
mittee, it is too intent on hit-
ting on the Hellerisms that en-
deared the book to so many
readers, and it gives us few new
insights into the human condi-
And yet Catch-22 is certainly
the best film I've seen this year
and one of the finest pictures
I've ever seen. No, not by a
strict dramatic yardstick. It is
successful on another level, the
level of . . . what can I call
it? . . . sheer emotive power. As
an experience it evokes the same
kind of feeling as Grand Illus-
ion or Citizen Kane or Bonnie
and Clyde. Greatness. It over-
powers you and plunges you into
a stupor of flowing adrenalin
and racing thoughts. You wan-
der aimlessly through the streets
letting the immensity of it all
either sink in or wear off. And
becauhe the feeling is so over-
whelming, you force your sys-
tem to cope with it by reducing
it to something hard and per-
fectly intelligible. I know. I've
seen Nichols' film six times.
It is no sacrilege to put Catch-
22 way up there with the great
ones. The film is that good -
flawlessly directed, photograph-
ed, performed and edited. But
it is more than technically pro-
ficient. It is an extremely com-
plex work stamped with its own
irrepressible style and driven by
its own pounding pulse. It dares
much and accomplishes most of
what it dares.
Anyone who has read the nov-
el knows the challenge it poses
for the film-maker. Heller's
book disregards all the conven-
tions. It flits like a drunken
butterfly from place to place,
from person to person, from
subjectivity to objectivity, and
back and forth in time, all the
while building a jolting whole
from its parts. But Heller did
more. As the pieces began to fit
they changed from hilarious
farce to savage drama, and it
wasn't until the very last pages
that you finally realized what
the real catch was all about.
Then you cry.
BuckeHenry, screenwriter of
Graduate fame, worked for
three years trying to find a
at the
(the place to meet
which also presents

cinematic form for the !wild tale
of the 256th Bombardment
Squadron and its sanely insane
hero, Captain Yossarian. He has
found it. Henry strings events
together as the delusions of a
wounded Yossarian. That way
Nichols can juggle time with all
the agility of a Lester, while
simultaneously keeping a fluid-
ity to the action. I must admit
that I didn't like the idea when I
first heard it (How dare they
tamper with Yossarian's delus-
ions?), but Nichols, like Hel-
ler, doesn't separate fact from
fantasy. That's up to you.; Yos-
sarian's mysterious wound laun-
ches things; it doesn't o r dear
Nichols' use of the w o u n d
actually stands as testimony to
the film's effectiveness. It is
the first scene of the picture.
A faceless man in an over-size
pith helmet jabs a knife into
Yossarian's back. Yossarian is
writhing, eyes rolling as if he
were doing a satire of gang-
ster pictures. It's seriocomic, and
the audience doesn't quite know
how to react. But when t h e
same scene is repeated near the
end of the movie after we've
traveled a path of broken bodies,
the stab elicits an entirely dif-
ferent reaction. This time there
are no chuckles when Yossarian
swoons, rubber-legged. Sadly, it
is just one more pin-prick in the
huge swathe of gore.
On one level the contrast be-
tween the audience's first and
second reactions to the scene is
what Catch-22 is all about-
baring the ugly face of war
hiding behind the Bilko bur-
lesque. Nichols has found in
rhythm a cinematic equivalent
to the book's gradual trans-
formation of comedy into
bright-red tragedy. The begin-
ning of the film is fast-paced,
E Petitioning for
Th is Week
Call 761-1576

often too fast. Each scene is
jammed with activity and/or
dialogue. The gags fly fast and
furious. Slowly, very slowly, the
pace slackens; the sequences get
longer; the tone becomes more
serious; until finally our fren-
zied, one-minute introduction to
Yossarian has become a night-
marish Felliniesque fifteen-min-
ute journey through the streets
and back alleys of Rome. This
is much more difficult than
merely juxtaposing humor and
horror as in M*A*S*H. As a
result, Catch-22 is more than
sickening; it is moving.
What the film is, then, is
montage on a grand scale - a
drama of moods. This is no
mean feat since reliance on
rhythm means that each scene
must fit perfectly into the whole;
each has to pick up from a pre-
ceding scene and redirect the
narrative a few degrees. In the
wrong hands Catch-22 could
have very easily become two
films spliced together - o n e
comic and one dramatic. But
Nichols merges comedy and
tragedy so deftly that in one
scene he even had me laughing
through my tears, which is
exactly what you're supposed to
do. Yossarian impersonates a
See PLAYING, Page 7
Prog. Info. 8-6416
IN L~E"?
COLOR by Deluxe Unftd Arh8ft
* AND *
"ChR pyDuxn** iteAnn
timCLORby~~ux UntedArtists1




- - --- - ------ - . ..... ------ ----- 11111 - -----------

-Kathleen Carroll,
,. New York Daily News

IRISH ballads
and pub songs.


"one of the

finest singers
on this continent

of this style
of music,1


October 28-November 1 quirk auditorium
for reservations: 487-1220 during box office hours (week-
days 12:45-4:30 p.m.)




I.3 &:5041


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