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August 11, 1979 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-08-11

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, August 11, 1979-Page 9

A fine smorgasbord at Stratford

If any Shakespearean play is suited
to being yanked out of its customary
period and settled in an alien time and
place setting, then surely Love's
Labour's Lost must be it. When Alan
Scarfe, as King Ferdinand, makes
clear his plan for withdrawal from run-
dance existence in favor of asceticism
and scholarly study, it seems perfectly
natural, dressed as he is in the garb of
members of the "Bloomsbury group,"
a set of writers, artists, and intellec-
tuals that engaged in a similar
operation early in the century. There
have, in fact, been quite a few times in
history when men and women of-an in-
tellectual bent have sought refuge in
some variety of cloistered sanctuary.
Owing to the unorthodox design of the
Stratford production, the theme of the
nearly universal inclination toward
sdeking such sanctuary-and
ultimately its contrariness to human
nature-emerges ringing clear as a bell
from the performance of Scarfe, his
leading lady Martha Henry (as the
Princess of France), the rest of the
superbly selected company, and of
course from the generally taut, in-
telligent direction of Robin Phillips and
Urjo Kareda.
Much of this Labour's pleasure-and
there is an abundance of it-derives
from Richard Monette's swiftly sar-
castic Berowne, a curious figure caught
between respect for his monarch's high
ide'als and skepticism about their
genuine merit. His situation is further
complicated by the burgeoning of a
thorny romance with Rosaline, one of
the Princess' ladies, in pursuit of which
he must defy his pledge to the King.
Domini Blythe shines in the role of
Monette's romantic object, and in fact,
the witty exchanges between the two
soon come to stand out even from Scar-
fe's and Henry's fine work, and a host of
other magnificent assets.
Richard McMillan, a young and
relatively new face in the Stratford
company, has been sauntering through
a variety of comic roles during his few
seasons with much too little critical
recognition. There is a familiarity
about McMillan's portrayal of Costard,
a clownish and lowly court member,
but when an actor does anything as well
as McMillan plays a doltish fool, why
shouldn't he continue doing it?

Designer Daphne Dare's huge, light
beige tree is the centerpiece of this
production, and it has caused con-
siderable controversy owing to its
rather lifeless appearance under cer-
tain lights. But that difficulty is
fleeting, and is largely overshadowed
by the beautiful way the tree blends
with the shades of tan all the King's
men wear during their more casual
moments on stage.
In all, Phillips and Kareda have built
a masterpiece, both with the usual
elements of the play, and their addition
of the new setting, plus its accou-
I WAS UNABLE to catch The First
Part of Henry IV during my three days
north of the border, but Part 2 did not
leave me quite as disappointed about
having missed its predecessor as I had
hoped it would. Douglas Rain, try as he
will to put them behind him, has never
completely shaken off his memories of
having played the computer in
Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey 11
years ago. Though he is not without a
thespian's standard repertoire of facial
and vocal expressions, there is
something fundamentally wooden in his
treatment of the title role. He comes
across as knowing what the proper
responses are to a given situation, but
as lacking the humanity to actually feel
The play itself is rather muddle-
headed. It presents two entirely
separate foci-the King's predicament
and Falstaff's ribaldry-and leaves its
audience up in the air as to which is
worthier of note. We end up being
somewhat uninterested in both.
Real fasciiation could and ought to
lie in the figure of young Prince Hal,
who will, in a later play, appear as the
greatest of all the Bard's monarchs,
Henry V. With Monette playing the
part, it comes asa surprise that the bits
of plot surrounding Hal are weak.
Monette's director here is Peter Moss,
not an ungifted artist, but considerably
less experienced and capable than his
boss, Robin Phillips. It would seem that
Monette, despite his nine years with the
Ontarians, is at something of a loss
without a director to match his enor-
mous potential.
Despite its problems, Henry IV, 2, is
saved by the same sturdiness and soun-
dness of creative abilities that seem to
show themselves nearly everywhere
one looks in Stratford (exception noted
below). There are actors of adequate
strength, at least, in virtually every
part, and Lewis Gordon, as the stout

and devilishly clever Falstaff, is
superb. Gordon handles the fat man's
repartee with as much grace and wit as
he does the body cushions that round
out his form. There is at once sad
longing and grand farce in his encoun-
ters with his lady friend Doll Tearsheet
(Martha Henry). It is mostly to Gor-
don's credit that the three hours of the
play never fall to even a nearly
dangerous level.
A note for name droppers: John
Wojda, who only two-and-a-half years
ago was a University student playing
Hamlet on our very own Power Center
stage, has netted his first sizeable role
with the current Henry. He is Rumour,
the mysterious, dark, spinner of
whispered half-truths who entrancingly
opens the show. Wojda's reading is
lively, enigmatic, but not inaccessible
in the least. It's a pleasure to see one of
our own rightfully making a name for
nest is back for its third season with
scarcely an icy glare altered. As with
McMillan's mastery of farce, it was a
wise decision to leave wonderful'
enough alone. Oscar Wilde's
devastating wit is the star of any Ear-
nest, but an unworthy crew of perfor-
mers could make it look very bad in-
deed. I wouldn't know for sure, though,
as Phillips (again!) has impeccably
cast this show, brought out the best in
his company, and even gone about the
business of blocking it with admirable
attention to the minutest detail.
The human star of the show is
William Hutt, as Lady Bracknell. Cam-
piness is not the object; veracity is.
There's nary a hint of decadence in
Hutt's horse-faced, cow-voiced
dowager, but the humor is almost over-
powering in knowing that under that
starched, prrroper, disapproving ex-
terior sits a man.
As clever as Wilde's script is, it is
matched in brilliance by Phillips'
lacing of the action with the raised
eyebrows, smartly understated double
takes, and especially his icy silences.
There is one uproariously eternal
moment of quiet with which Hutt greets

Nicholas Pennell's (John Worthing)
admission that he is a foundling, has no
idea what his actual name is, but that
he still wants to marry Lady
Bracknell's darling ward. If there is a
Hall of Fame for comic moments on the
North American state, this pause is my
nominee for its most prominent plaque.
The exception to the general ex-
cellence, or at least, adequacy at Strat-
ford this year is the mercilessly stupid
musical "comedy" Happy New Year,
with largely unknown songs (and right-
fully so) by Cole Porter, and a book
based on a Philip Barry play. The
singing is acceptable, but the acting is
generally abominable, and from there
it gets worse. It's the silly idea of rich
boy meets rich girl foolishness that
causes the chief difficulty. Every sen-
timent, whether sung or spoken, is ex-
pected, even downright hackneyed.
Every song expressed worn-out ideas in
a worn-out manner, with worn-out
mugging as adornment.
Stratford unfortunately has no choice
but to churn out soggy marginally
professional musicals year after year;
they have a way of making ends meet.
It's a shame that the company must
stoop to doing what it doss worst in or-
der to be able to continue doing what it
does better-than just about anybody.
is preserved on
The Michigan Daily
420 Maynard Street
Graduate Library

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
TOM COURTNEY plays a delinquent youth who, by virtue of
his running ability, becomes the hope of the headmaster at
the reformatory where he is incarcerated. Based on Alan
Stllitoe's novel, one of the best works to come from the
"Angry Young Men," this film is a unique, accuratebnd merci-
fully cliche-free work. With MICHAEL. REDGRAVE and JAMES
(Performance) FOX, (103 Min.)
7:30 & 9:30-Angell Hall Auid AJ

HUMPHREY BOGART has the best good bad-guy role of his career as Rick,
the night club owner in Casablanca-a place of intrigue and displaced
persons during WWII, like INGRID' BERGMAN and PAUL HENREID who
are prey to various breeds of scoundrels like PETER LORRE, CLAUDE
RAINS and SYDNEY GREENSTREET. "The fundamental things apply ..."
SHORT: Ann Arbor Filmmakers-A film by Jim Kruz
Sunday: SANTA FE TIRAIL (Free at 8:00 only)
TONIGHT AT 7:30 & 9:30
(The Rest of Cinema Guild's Summer Schedule:)
Friday (Aug. 17): Truffaut's STOLEN KISSES (at 7:30 & 9:30)
Saturday (Aug. 18): Polonski's CHINATOWN (at 7:30 & 9:45)
Sunday (Aug. 19): BLOOD AND SAND (Freent8:00)
Friday (Aug. 24): Stones in GIMMIE SHELTER (at 7:30 & 9:45)
Saturday (Aug. 25): Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (at 7:30 & 9:45)
Sunday (Aug. 26): WIZARD OF OZ-silent version (Free at 8:00)
CINEMA GUILD $1.50 Old Arch Alud


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