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June 12, 1979 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-06-12

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Page 10-Tuesday, June 12,.1979-The Michigan Daily
Society mounts uneven eneft

By NINA SHISHKOFF chestra. It was the orchestra's best ef-
A benefit for Lydia Mendelssohn fort in years, if not in its entire history.
Theater can be a bonus for audiences, The musicians are usually cursed with
even if the chosen entertainment is less an anemic string section, defying the
substantial than usual. June 8 and 9, the liveliest efforts of the conductor to ex-
University of Michigan Gilbert and tract a sharp and clear sound. This
Sullivan Society presented Trial by time, however, the combination of good
Jury and selections from other G&S playing and Mark Brandfonbrener's
operettas. brisk direction turned the overture into
The resulting potpourri was nice a concert piece that held its own splen-
music hall material, but failed to didly.
measure up to the usual tightly con- THE SAME could be said of the four
structed Gilbert and Sullivan evening. songs ,from Iolanthe, Utopia Limited,
The opening selection was the over- Ruddigore, and Patience. Removed
ture from The Mikado, played with ex- from context and costume, they still
traordinary vigor by the G & S or- possessed great charm, particularly

the lesser known ones. "If Saphir I
Choose to Marry", is sung by three
men and two women, groupedhas two
couples and a leftover man, who sings
that if the other matches take place,
and he is left alone, at least he'll have
Trial by Jury
w. S. Gilbert, ArthurSullivan
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater
June 0,9
Judge... .....Beverley Pooley
Angelina.. . . ..Kathy Simpson
Edwin................................ DavidParks
Foreman of the jury ................. Mark Kramer
Usher........Tom Pehet
Bailiff....................Doug Foreman
Counselftor the defense .. ..Lee Vahsing
Mark Brandfonbrener, Musicdirector
their heartfelt sympathy. After a neatly
choreographed shuffling of partners, a
new man is left alone to sing the second
verse - along similar lines. In "A
Tenor All Singers Above," Ernest
Brandon decries the violence done his
voice when the love he vocalizes is
genuine. All the selections were well
sung, choreographed along classic G&S
lines, and served to whet the appetite
for the main course.
Unfortunately, Trial By Jury is un-
mistakably a one act trifle. It was
Gilbert and Sullivan's first
collaboration, and shows few marks of
their later wit and originality. It con-
cerns the plight of Edwin, the unhappy
defendant, who is taken to court on a
charge of breach of promise. It wasn't
his fault, he explains, he just happened
to fall in love with another girl. Unfor-
tunately for Edwin, the Jury tends to
side with the beautiful plaintiff,
Angelina, dressed demurely in a white

wedding gown and veil.
The tunes are for the most part super-
ficial, and the lyrics only nibbling
satire. The chorus, consisting of jurors
on one side, bridesmaids and town-
speople on the other, sang loudly and
indistinctly. The best moment came in
"All Hail, Great Judge," announcing
the judge's entrance in such Messiah-
like splendor that a few confused jurors
look heavenward for his arrival.
KATHY PLATZMAN, the director,
set a lightning pace, playing things
broadly, with lots of props and sight-
gags to keep the eyes busy. In other
Gilbert and Sullivan works it would
have been too much; here, it
strengthened the less-than-adequate
characterizations. Because the roles
were slight, and because this is the
team's only work without dialogue,
there was no opportunity for cast to
shine. Usually captivating performers,
like Beverley Pooley and Kathy Sim-
pson, could only sing their best and
keep moving along.
The production's main merit is that it
supported a worthy cause. The splendid
opening selections represent the
Gilbert and Sullivan Society at its best
and most entertaining. Perhaps it
would have made sense to reverse the
order, and present Trial By Jury first,
to warm up the audience for the fine ex-
cerpts to follow.

'No Place' at Eastern

No Place to Be Somebody is a play
that examines the despair and
degradation suffered by many blacks
and whites in America. It includes
symbols of the racism, materialism,
sensualism, and extreme individualism
that threaten the life blood of the
American people. Playwright Charles
Godone therefore used extremely
stereotypical characters to dress his
The large E.M.U. ensemble was well
selected by director Marvin Sims. For
the most part, No Place is coherent,
fast paced and humorous. There are
periods, however, when dialogue is
inaudible or unintelligible. Some actors
occasionally lack physical intensity and
noticeable reaction to dialogue and
immediate surroundings. The director
ought to have elicited stronger charac-
terizations from his actors. This would
have served to make the dialogue and
action more cohesive.
Gabe Gabriel, the unemployed actor-
writer, is adequately played by Daniel
Hand. Gabe is the pivotal character in
that he is the "author" of the play. As
he says in the opening monologue,
"This is my play, I'm making it up in
my head as I go along." Johnny
Williams is the one character he cannot
Robert Byrd III is the tragic
protagonist Johnny. His performance is
also fair, but both these actors and the
play would benefit if they produced
stronger images; images that showed
Gabe in command and images of John-
ny as the warrior-victim-martyr that
Gordone wrote into the script of this
powerful play. As it was, the conflict
between the two was not sufficiently
exposed to warrant Gabe's killing
Johnny in the final act.

Cora Beasley (Vickie Frederick) and
Shanty Mulligan (Dale Foren) are the
very picture of a mismatched in-
terracial couple. Both suffer from
misunderstandings of themselves and
where they come from. Frederick is
convincing as Cora, the practical nurse
seeking status and security from a
white man, and Dale deftly portrays
Shanty, the daydreaming mop slinger
with delusions of being a great jaz-
zman, and ashamed of his forced ser-
Chris McMullen is the ill-fated Dee
Jacobson, Johnny's white woman of the
streets. Carmelita Jackson is Evia
Ames, her black roommate and partner
in the life. Both roles are played very
Stanford Robinson delightfully
characterized Sweets, the aged and
consumptive black gangster who was
Johnny's father surrogate and mentor
Others who stand out in the large cast
are Herman Spearman (Machine Hog),
James McGough (Judge Bolton) and
Robert Hood, in two small parts.
Sharon Dear (Harlem Dancer) is an
excellent dancer. Her dance between
the opening ,-monologue and the first
act makes for an innovative addition to
the production. However, during
Gabe's third monologue, "There's
more to being black than meets the
eye," the dancing only serves to
Another distraction is costume
designer Katherine Holkeboer's errant
eye. Johnny and Gabe spend the first
half of the play in inappropriately
casual attire.
Still and all, E.M.U.'s No Place to Be
Somebody is an effective treatment of
Charles Gordone's theatrical lament.

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