The Michigan Daily-Saturday, May 19, 1979-Page 7
Chaillot home of fie Civic show
By JOSHUA PECK
Those who believe the Bible when it
proclaims that "the meek shall inherit
the earth" have got another think
coming. As playwright Jean Giraudoux
points out quite clearly in The Mad-
woman of Chaillot, you're nothing if
you're poor. Only the magical qualities
of money can make one important and,
above all, powerful.
Through the idiosyncrasies of an ec-
centric old countess, Claribel Baird in
the current Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
production, Giraudoux ironically shows
us that even problems as difficult as
saving humanity can be solved in the
course of an afternoon's tea party. Ms.
Baird, replete with venerable grace
and subtle insanity accentuates the
sarcasm with which Giraudoux mocks
the forces of good and evil.
IN THE play's first act, the poor
townspeople of Chaillot are presented
with a problem. The rich and powerful
president of a sort of phantom cor-
poration - it has a board of directors, a
broker, and thousands of shares of
stock, but sells no product or service -
wants to drill for oil in Paris. It seems
that this corporation has far too much
capital to spend, but not quite enough to
take over the world, its ultimate goal.
While the play's first act, in one
respect, is merely an overlong ex-
position to set up the fun and games of
the second, it does have a philosophical
point of its own: the focus is the illusory
nature of objects' titles; the fact that
names are too often divorced from the
objects they represent.
Instances of this notion are plentiful
here, and together comprise the
strongest element of a generally sturdy
Civic production. First, there is the
then the Countess, called "mad-
woman" by townspeople who later in-
dignantly rebuke an outsider who asks
if she's crazy; thirdly, there is young
Pierre, whom the Countess insists on
calling "Roderick" one hour, "Valen-
tine" the next, and so on. Again and
again we are shown that things are
never what they seem, but more, that
concepts, people, objects, as often as
not, have nothing to do with the iden-
tities their names suggest. It is but
human folly, we then infer, to attach
importance to appellation. And yet, we
are all guilty of just that.
THE MADWOMAN of Chaillot, like
Brecht's Threepenny Opera (which
preceded it by 17 years), cites discon-
certingly bitter difficulties and im-
possibly whisks them away. In Brecht,
the villainous hero Macheath is saved
from the noose at the very last instant
by the intrusion of a messenger from
Queen Victoria, who gladly proclaims
the protagonist's clemency. As the cast
itself sings, "In real life the ending isn't
quite so fine, Victoria's messenger does
not come riding often." Giraudoux toys
with the same idea, but makes the
obliteration of tai problem so tran-
sparently ridiculous that he is able to
dispense with pointing out the
hopelessness of his solution.
The Countess' plot involves tricking
all the world's bringers of Evil (18 in
number!) into marching downanendless,
unascendable stairway. The sub-
sequent disappearance of all unhap-
piness from the world is so patently ab-
surd that one can practically see
Giraudoux cynically grinning and
whispering, "Don't you wish it could be
long as does the sun.
With a cast of 40, 14 of whose roles are
substantial, AACT has mounted a sur-
prisingly good production. The com-
pany has presented more than a few
shows with far smaller casts, with per-
formances of far lower caliber than
Madwoman's. Here, there are trouble
spots, but none puts a serious dent in
the show's overall vivacity and wit.
Director Roger Wertenberger has done
this way?" By process
we are left with the grim
have an ineluctable
stranglehold on the rest
of exploiters and exploit
The Madwoman of,
Sewer Man ...........
Deaf Mote ..... .
Madwoman of Chaitot.
Madwoman of Passy..
Madwoman of St.
of elimination, well with the playwright's sometimes
itruth: the rich vertiginously high-fallutin philosophy
, permanent in keeping his characters' motivations
of us; the roles free of the esoteric altogether, and let-
ted may last as ting the action speak for itself.
Ms. Baird, truly Ann Arbor's Grand
chaillot Old Lady, plays a charming and subtly
ax wise Countess, but cleverly restrains
ace herself enough to keep her colleagues
from looking silly. Alex Miller's scene
...Debbie Mueller with Baird early in the second act is the
.... William Cross show's best, skirting playfully around
oger wertenberger the title-object idea mentioned above
SellPooter with a dozen contradictions.
.....Dave Gilbert Debbie Mueller and Dell Potter,
Howard Weinblatt whose long-hoped-for kiss at play's end
... Fr. Alex Miller is supposed to represent Man's Hope,
CtietBard were hopeless. Alice Crawford's set has
..... Nancy Huesel intrinsic and elementary problems with
entrance and exit lanes, and Dan Hur-
Marina Weidman tado indulged in a bit of uncalled-for
...Sandra Hudson grandstanding.
The Madwoman of Chaillot, however,
reitor; Alice flaws, philosophy, and all, is possibly
SusanAlford, Civic's best since 1976's superb The
SButler, Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. That's a
hefty compliment for a show with twice
the complexity and thrice the cast.
Roger Wertenberger, di
Claribel Baird enacts the part of the batty Countess in Ann Arbor Civic
Theatre's "The Madwoman of Chaillot."
Saturday, May 19 Aud. A, Angell Hall
(Arthur Penn, 1976)
Under the powerful direction of Arthur Penn, the brilliant talents of Brando
and Nicholson are employed to transform Thomas McGuane's script into a
strikingly unusual western. Brando makes a unique and surprising entry
as Lee Clayton who is hired to do away with horse thieves like quirky Tom
Logan (Jack Nicholson). Beautifully filmed, loaded with surprises. (126 min.)
7:30 & 9:40
Cinema ils accepting new member applications-
Pick them up at any Cinema it film showing.