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July 18, 1974 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-07-18

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Thursdoy, July 18, 1974


Thursday, July 18, 1974 THE MICHIGAN DAILY


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Repertory season opens
'The Shrew' braves
the, times in lusty farcein

A stagehand warned me that I would
love the Michigan Repertory Theatre's
production of Shakespeare's The Tam-
ing of the Shrew Monday night.
He was right.
Thanks to the skillful direction of
Richard Burkwin and outstanding per-
formances by the leads, David Hopson
(Petruchio) and Pat Idlette (Kather-
ine), Shrew was everything the bard
intended: a bawdy, lusty farce with
only a glimmer of soul-searching pro-
fundity to keep from spoiling the fun.
Of all Shakespeare's plays, Shrew
has been hardest hit by the times. Both
the playwright and the play have been
subjected to feminist wrath.
Directors have approached the play
somewhat timorously in recent years
-when they approached it at all.
The charges are hardly new. As far
back as 1911 the poet John Masefield
described Petruchio as "a boor who
cares only for his own will, her flesh
and her money."
Anyone who seriously believes the
play concerns itself with such a con-
stricted theme need only see the Hop-
son and Idlette perform the final
scene to be convinced otherwise.
Together, they make it clear that
Petruchio's "victory" is Katherine's
victory as well. Both performers por-
tray their final relationship as a loving
conspiracy, and, most definitely, a
partnership. It is perhaps the first
Katherine has been offered in her life.
And Katherine remains indomitable
even through her final speech, tradi-
tionally an anti - women's liberation
As Katherine, Idlette makes an al-
ternately touching and comic transi-
tion from the choleric termagent to
a witty, saucy, confident woman. In
the final scenes she is not subdued,
merely given direction.
If there are any targets in the farce,
Burkwin shrewdly picks Bianca, cus-
tomarily portrayed as the soft, sugary,
feminine epitome.
Burgwin's Bianca, as played by Diane
Daverman, is more saccharine than
sugar. Artificially sweet and superfi-
cially demure, Daverman's Bianca only
barely masks her convincing, cagey
avarice under the thin gusise of the
cloying, simpering feminine ideal. She
spoofs every stereotypic feminine vir-
tue in the process.

Daverman's portrayal is an excel-
lent foil for Katherine, whose frustra-
tion at watching Bianca's false coyness
rewarded while she .is persecuted for
her blunt, outspoken high spirits is
Katherine's wrath is understandable.
Her strength of character makes her
both the play's heroine and Bianca's,
rather than Petruchio's, victim. In-
deed, her married life is relative liber-
ation when compared to her childhood
Hopson's Petruchio, while it does not
offer any hitherto unrevealed insights
into the character, portrays the char-
acter as traditionally envisioned to the
hilt: bawdy, boisterous, flamboyant and
A few other performances should be
mentioned in passing: Randall Forte
is excellent as Petruchio's wisecrack-
ing Irish servant, and Evan Jeffries
as Lucentio's servant-disguised-as-no-
ble, is apparently pompous and arro-
Dennis Moore and Jack Sharrar are
entertaining as the buffoon-like suitors
for Bianca's hand.
Paul Hustoles is the panting, zealous
lover who finally wins Bianca, and
Jack Van Neatter is her nervous father.
The performances and comedy of
the piece is marred in spots by over-
acting, particularly in Bianca's scenes
with her lover, and the scenes among
the would-be lovers.
As is customary nowadays, Burgwin
set Shrew in a more contemporary
time-pre-Victorian England. Usually,
the updating provides for a well-spring
of incongruities, to the detriment of
the play's credibility.
In Shrew, the change is not only
smooth and consistent, but adapts so
well to its new time it seems to be
written for it.
The play uses the time setting to
spoof Victorian mores with a teapot
fight in Baptista's parlor, servants who
dust off visitors after they have thrown
each other around the room and turn
their backs when they kiss, and Petru-
chio's comic wedding attire---with an
open trap door in the back.
The costuming, handled by Katherine
Holkeboer, was beautiful - from the
rich brown and rust hues for Petru-
chio, to Bianca's starched pink ruffles.
Burgwin's Taming of the Shrew is,
in short, a delight. Performances con-
tinue through July 26.

Bianca (Diana Daverman) 'consoles' her sister Kate (Pat Idlette) in the
wading scene from "Taming of the Shrew."
display of 50"'s mrl

Picnic, William Inge's bitter-sweet
play on small town American morals,
opened last night at Power Center and
is a success for the Michigan Repertory
Company both technically and in the
handling of the play's material.
Billed as an attempt to explain past
influences on present American living,
Picnic portrays what happens when a
so-called "bum" moves into a small,
50's Kansas town and exposes, rather
inadvertently, the double standards by
which certain of its inhabitants have
constrained their lives.
Foremost of these American mores
is sex: sex mixed with romance and
sex mixed with true love.
The plot starts slowly with a typical
Labor Day. Helen Potts and Mrs. Ow-
ens are neighbors, with the former
forced to tend to her ailing mother,
and the latter looking after her two
daughters Millie and Madge. Madge is
going with Alan Seymour, the spoiled
son of an oil baron. Alan, it turns out
is an old college chum of the "bum",
Hal Carter, who was hired by Potts
to do odd jobs. All very confusing.

Then . . . Marge falls in love with
Hal, and all Hell breaks loose when
Howard Bevans, a local shopkeeper
brings a bottle of booze to the picnic
A real soap opera.
But the decisions these people must
make because of that Labor Day's
picnic are serious and the subsequent
consequences are only tragic. The early
humor of the play is turned to irony
and points a disturbing finger at atti-
tudes upon which American love and
culture are built.
The strongpoints of this production
are its technical aspects, comprised of
precise special effects, set design and
casting of characters. These technical-
ities are often the downfall of summer
repertory, but not so in Picnic.
The acting must not be undermined.
The intensity of each actor's perform-
ance drew me into the heart of the
play and kept Inge's portrayals of typi-
cal, Americans from becoming stock.
David Hopson's role as Hal was out-
standing, as well as John Reed's How-
ard and Anne Temple's Helen Potts.
Certain episodes in Picnic are dis-
quieting but the knowledge gained from
them make Picnic worth seeing.

Exftrp endf, sion: Wh o e n e w ops iin

"Okay now, this is the hope song,
which we usually use to wind up the
show. Let's make the lovers a car-wash
attendant and, say, a ping-pong player,
and the object is, uh, a popsicle. Okay,
to start out . . .
In a house on Olivia Street, cast mem-
bers of The Extension, currently playing
at The Rubaiyat, are training a new cast
to replace them.
The Extension is an improvisatory mu-
sical revue in which members of the
audience are asked to choose categories.
from a list, and the cast performs pro-
ductions based on these categories. Later
in the show, audience members are ask-
ed to give suggestions from the top of
their heads, with no list to choose from.
The cast huddles briefly, going over pos-
sibilities, then does a sketch based en
the topics given them.
Under the name The Proposition, the
revue has played in Cambridge, Massa-
chusetts, for six years. It is this Cam-
bridge cast that has come to-Ann mAbor,
and is currently.playing&atThe. Ruhai-

yat. However ,a cast of local performers
is scheduled to take over the produc-
tion, beginning on July 31st.
The members of the new cast, chosen
from tryouts held July 1st, bring varied
experiences and talents to their new
For example, Connie Avasharian
comes to the cast with a master's de-
gree in voice, and considerable experi-
ence in opera and musical comedy. How-
ever, she has no previous experience in
improvisation or mime-two major as-
pects of the production. "It's the most
challenging form of theatre I've ever en-
countered," she says. "I basically went
to the audition to see if I could cut it,"
Woody Semeliner went to the audition
for a different reason. He works for Ca-
ble three, which was filming the audi-
tions. After the filming was done, he
elected to stay and try out for the
show, in spite of having no previous dra-
matic experience. When asked if malting
his performing debut with no script to
fall back on made him uncomfortable,
he shrugged his shoulders and said, "It's

roughly equivalent to birth trauma."
Perhaps best prepared for the new
production is Marty Colbecki. He spent
eight months as a member of Complete-
ly Different, a Detroit improvisational
comedy group in the tradition of
The Committee and The Second City. He
sees being part of the Extension as a
chance to "show Michigan the possibili-
ties in the improvisational approach.
Theatre here tends to be restricted to
set, unspontaneous pieces, "and I hope
we can change this."
This comment sparked a discussion of
improvisational theatre, with members
of both the new and the old cast clearly
soli on the idea. Among the advantages
of improvisatory theatre are indepen-
dence from the uneven quality of recent
dramatic scripts, lower cost of produc-
tion, and the greater artistic freedom
and more thorough theatrical training it
gives the performer.
Working in mime is also a rewarding
experience, cast members say, because
it develops an awareness of the body,
"Anything I do now - walking down a

street, opening a door, throwing a ball-
I notice, because maybe I can use it in
the show," says Chuck Keeps, a theatre
major and member of the new cast.
Drew Sparks is directing the new cast,
with considerable help from members of
the current production. Preparing the
group involves training in mime, inten-
sive work on a few set pieces, and con-
siderable training in theatrical and liter-
ary conventions. One cannot ad-lib a par-
ody of musical comedy or Shakespearian
drama unless one understands the form
first. Nobody memorizes parts, but ev-
eryone is expected to be able to use cer-
tain accents, dialects and stock charac-
ters (the evil boss, the all-American
girl, etc.).
But these are merely the raw materials
of the show. Putting them together to
create an entertaining, spontaneous pro-
duction takes something more. "They
take over from us on July 31st," says
Suzanne Rand, a member of the cur-
rent cast. "And that's when they'll start
really learning how to do the show."

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