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August 19, 1971 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1971-08-19

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T'M drrix A t 9 M 971

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

THMursIayIGUgUD ,A I LY.a g e F

. art
lie created 'Skul11' and it was good

By CHRISTOPHER WHITMAN
The Residential College is
possessed of some people who
are determined-at all costs, it
eems-to produce plays in their
ew auditorium. A serious, di-
verse and sometimes brilliant
crew, they have in the last
year made East Quad the scene
of an uncommon number and va-
riety of theatrical experiences,
some well-polished and compe-
tent, others disappointing in their
khsureness, but all of them trans-
mitting the special vitality which
informs and by now identifies the
R.C.'s adventuresome spirit.
This summer a small number
of these theatrical amateurs
(read that in the French sense)
stayed in town, secured funding'
A om the College's ever-watch-
ful Representative Assembly,
found various means of visible
support, and instituted "R.C.
Summer Theatre," a basically
student-operated producing unit
and repertory company which
set out to stage four full-length
4ramas.
The third offering, to be pre-
sented tonight through Saturday,
Aug. 19-21, at 8 p.m. in East
Quad Auditorium, is Skull, an
arresting original one-act by
Barry Garelick, an R.C. senior
nd major Hopwood Award win-
er. The 45-minute play is a
narratively conceived monologue
in which an old man, Trembor,
tells us, in alternate attitudes of
scornful superiority, craftiness,
paranoia and desperation, how
he has managed to construct his
life so as to defy the ultimate
Void of human existence. "I
couldn't wait to become old, so
I became old all by myself," he
boasts. "It never had a chance
to catch up with me." Touting
his self-made invulnerability to
time and worldly care, he talks
and acts us through his vast
store of memories, fantasies, and
philosophical calculations in a
free-associational manner punc-
tuated by emotional outcries and
violent physical actions.
Trembor, is the only actor on-
stage, but other characters par-
ticipate in his timeless, isolated
i existence. The chief entity is the
one we see first: Skull, an over-
sized, grinning white - on - black
death's head, posted above
Trembor's stage which almost
diverts our attention permanently
to those insistently grim features.
But the playwright is aware
*of the dramatic hazard of fixing
upon a stage border a visual
symbol of such obvious and per-
meating significance. He makes
Trembor a would-be consort of
skull - that is, of death, vio-
lence, nothing-ness, inscrutable
power. The "always old" Trem
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1209 S. University 663-715S1

bor possessively reminds us of
his mentor's constancy; he de-
scribes the image's admirable
features: he pleads for Skull's so-
lace, rails at Skull's unendur-
able silence. At one point he of-
fers Skull tea by lashing the full
cup savagely against the immo-
bile countenance. Another time
he frantically tosses one after
another of his dozens of shoes up
to Skull, gasping "Come one,
catch it now! Catch it! Catch it!"
finally screaming, "You MISS-
ED! !" Skull is omnipresent and
eternal, to be sure, but the play-
wright manages to animate him
and control our regarding of him
via Trembor's well - wrought
narration.
The other character is a son
whose existence Trembor de-
nies. But this spectral son sends
him a letter which says: "Have
you ever thought of dismember-
ing self? Your Son, with love."
Trembor violently insists that he
never had a son, but he's in-
trigued momentarily with the
notion of dismemberment. He
toys with it, as he has done with
the other ideas, fantasies and
memories that haunt him: mur-
der, crying voices from the te-
dious world, complicity with
Skull's machinations, and, most
important, "keeping one small
step ahead of the whole world."
This is the most confounding
fantasy entertained by this self-
defined seeker after immortality.
He would achieve it by rejecting
the anxious fools of the world
and becoming the beloved apostle
of "Nothing - Matters" Skull. But
dismemberment is not the way,
any more than baseball skill,
possession of lots of shoes, or
nagging rationality. "Don't talk
to me about dismemberment,"
he says. "Not for me, thank you.
-I'll have tea! Tea is for the
old . . . and Him." With that, he
hurls the tea at Skull.
The play has a good portion
of comic moments, s u d d e n
swerves away from the intro-
spective heaviness into broad
and subtle explosions of Trem-
bor's, and our, seriousness. The
opening lines set up the possibili-
ty for further verbal and atti-
tudinal paradoxes. Trembor en-
ters through a distorted door,
closes, knocks on it, listens, and
says: "He's never there. He is
always never there. As long as
I am old, he is never there."
Later he says: "Never use 'nev-

er' in a sentence." Still later, Trembor's extended speeches sufficient variety and definition,
he tells us: "I never had a girl and is especially convincing in both in voice and movement.
friend or a wife. I never wanted the arbuptly energetic moments Normally, this fault could be at-
them: they never wanted me. of emotional eruption. But a one- tributed to the director, but the
(pause Everything is so sym- man show like this is extreme- show has none. This is unfor-
metrical:" ly demanding. The unrealistic tunate, because the script is
This extended description of conjunction of all the strands strong and a perceptive director
the play is offered by way of which constitute Trembor's role could have enhanced it with
recommendation to see this pro- calls for profound control of some hard work on McCord's
duction by the "R.C. Summer body and mind and demands the
Theatre. " It is unmistakably a utmost of an accompli transitions is an untrained actor, but he is
promising writer. Patrick Mc- from one objective to the next. strong, determined and able to
of the narrative rhythm of McCord's performance I a c k s appreciate the play's material.
--- -- - - -
3arbear of Seville':* May be
beginning something good

By JOHN HARVITH
Conditions in the United States'
most prestigious (and, due to its
tours and radio broadcasts, most
influential) opera house, the Me-
tropolitan, most closely resem-
ble a living death. Analogous to
an entrenched museum whose
old-master paintings have begun
to crack and blister due to lack
of conservation, the Met contin-
ues to prop up lackluster, under-
rehearsed productions of the
tried-and-true repetoire by cast-
ing one or two stellar vocalists.
The artistic futility of this pro-
cess can be witnessed annually
at the Met's touring perform-
ances. The conductor waves his
stick, singers who may have
never acted together before go
through the motions with due
deference to the prompter, and
the whole string of arias is
thrown in predictably loose fa-
shion. Choruses are ragged,
musico-dramatic cohesion non-
existent.
The total uninvolvement cur-
rently typical of touring operatic
groups prompted -an immodest
proposal in this column last win-
ter: Why not placate opera-crav-
ing Ann Arborites with a local
company? Endless inches of cri-
tical salesmanship could not have
furthered this suggestion as ef-
fectively as the U-M School of
Music and Department of Art
have done in their new produc-
tion of- Rossini's Barber of $e-
ville at the Mendelssohn Theater.
For once, ensemble spirit was re-
stored to its rightful spot as the
focal point of music theater.
The Barber portrays a spirited

love triangle in which Count Al-
maviva manages to marry the
pretty Rosina through the ma-
chinations of Figaro, a barber,
despite the counter-efforts of Ro-
sina's amorous old guardian, Dr.
Bartolo.
While not intending to deni-
grate the produsction's outstand-
ing sets, stylish costuming and
well-drilled singers, this team-
work - conscious critic has no
hesitation in pronouncing con-
ductor Josef Blatt star of the Fri-
day evening performance. This
may come as a surprise to those
regarding conductors as human
time - beaters wielding giant
toothpicks. Blatt, however, strove
for much more, and he achieved
it. His relaxed, yet liberal ap-
proach to Rossini's bubbling
score allowed the singers ample
opportunity for dramatic effects
without sacrificing the musical
line. In addition, the musical con-
ception was unified, so that en-
sembles built uniformly, without
one member of the cast trying to
outsing the other. The discreetly
tailored orchestra never over-
shadowed the stage action, but
was always an indispensible part
of the total fabric. And, as a pas-
sionate protagonist of opera in
English, Blatt demanded clear
enunciation from his forces in
Virginia Card's highly effective
translation.
For this reviewer, it is axio-
matic that actors must take
themselves seriously to achieve
effective comedy, and it was in
its occasional disregard of this
axiom that Ralph Herbert's stage
direction was slightly less im-

pressive than the musical prepa-
rtaion. Thus, although baritone
Charles Roe (Figaro) displayed
the finest diction and most pol-
ished vocalism of the evening,
his hammed-up acting resulted in
a caricature: here was a barber
so busy admiring himself he
must have cut all his customers
into ribbons. Likewise, soprano
Lesley Manring (Rosina) pecame
type-cast as a self - consciously
coy prima donna who should
never have been allowed to stand
glued to various spots on the
stage. But for gripes like these,
Herbert managed the limited
stage area extremely skillfully,
with a fine scene of sustained
movement to match the musical
direction emanating from the pit.
The lion's share of acting hon-
ors goes to Mark Gruett for his
superb characterization of the
doddering, crotchety Dr. Bartolo.
Gruett resisted every temptation
to play Rosina's guardian as a
two - dimensional character, and
conveyed to the audience his
conviction (backed by a mastery
of basic acting skills) that he was
Bartolo, not just some singer
with a lot of make-up and hoaky
mannerisms. That Gruett suc-
ceeded in his illusion in an as-
sured and unostentatious manner
constituted a theatrical triumph
as rare on the operatic stage as
it is refreshing.
With more orchestral prepara-
tion and singer training in finish-
ed acting a la Gruett, Messrs.
Blatt, Herbert and technical lir-
ector James Joy could make Ann
Arbor's first resident opera com-
pany a reality.

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