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July 27, 1978 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-07-27

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Page 6-Thursday, July 27, 1978--The Michigan Doily
'Travesties' a rib tickling triumph

Tom Stoppard casts ideas around like
Woody Allen tossing off absurd non-
sequitors. There are so many ideas -
political, artistic, philosophical - bub-
bling about the inside of Travesties that
they may whiz by without falling into
any semblance of order.
In the impeccable production curren-
tly being mounted by Michigan Reper-
By Tam Stoppard
Michigan Repertory '78
Power Center
Henry Carr.. ... .. David Manis
Tristan Tzara ................Terry Caza
James Joyce ............... Lou Brockway
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) .. Loren Dale Bass
Bennett......Ted Badgerow
Gwendolen Carr ....................... Janice Reid
CecilyCarruthers.................... KateConners
Nadezhda Krupskaya ................... Betty Reid
Kathryn Long, director;StevenGilliam,
set designer;Nancy JoSmith, costumes;
Timothy Hunter, lighting;Richard Burgwin,

tory '78 in the Power Center, artistic
and social philosophies, erudite wit-
ticisms, and disarmingly literate
declarations are set forth with
crystalline sensibility. The play's
flaws, such as its eventual lapse into a
quasi-polemical discourse on art vs.
politics, seem merely trifles in a
production with as much spirit, wit, and
professionalism as this one.
THE WORK Itself was conceived
with the same imagination and
historical curiosity that informs E. L.
Doctorows Ragtime. Upon discovering
thst James Joyce, Lenin,nand Tristan
Tzara, an instrumental founder of
Dadaism, were simultaneously living in
Zurich at the close of World War I,
Stoppard constructed an elaborate
"What if?" Henry Carr, an incon-
sequential member of the British con-
sulate in Zurich, had had a brief run-in
with Joyce while playing Algernon in

\. ./ i

Joyce's production of The Importance
of Being Earnest.
What if Carr, through a garrulous
senile reminiscence, contrived that he,
Joyce, Lenin, and Tzara all had a series
of run-ins? (In actuality, the latter
three never met.) With this premise,
Stoppard sets the stage for some rather
dynamic philosophical collisions, as
well as a funny, "Meeting of the Minds"
bit of historical whimsey.
IN TRAVESTIES, the three legen-
dary figures are a peculiar combination

Jones/Lewis offer spirited show

of history and historical image. Joyce
(Lou Brockway,) in the process of
writing Ulysses, is the lusty, fun-loving
soul we would expect, but his preoc-
cupation with literature as religion is
blown up to consign his real-life
political concerns to the corner. Thus,
Joyce is the "artist." Tzara (Terry
Caza), the lunatic Dadaist, is the "anti-
artist," a perpetual clowner who per-
forms a magic trick and shouts "Da-
daaa!" with a child's glee. Lenin
(Loren Dale Bass) spends his days at
the Zurich Library writing Imperial-
ism, forever spewing forth Marxist dic-
tums in grim, world-weary tones.
At the play's center is Carr (David
Manis), who appears both as a
benevolent old codger reciting his oc-
casionally factual memoirs, and as an
eager young man taking on Joyce and
Tzara in rambling philosophical
arguments. Carr has some intelligence,
but a rather overblown conception of
his role in shaping vital historical af-
fairs. When speaking of "those of us
who knew Joyce," he reminded me of
the narrator in that Woody Allen story
who keeps getting his nose punched by
Gertrude Stein in Paris.
MANIS TURNED in nothing less than
a consumate comic performance,
with the subtlety to infuse his charac-
ter's haughty boasts with an air of self-
deprecation. His long monologue near
the opening was a marvelous piece of
stand-up comedy, and one could sense
Stoppard toying with history through
Carr's good-natured ramblings.
Tzara spoke and behaved like a true
wild and crazy guy, and was delightful.
Always emitting a roguish appeal
beneath his obstinate declarations, he
brought the play to the edge of sanity
during his wildest moments. Loren
Bass, though adequate as Lenin, was
not nearly as striking as the others.
Perhaps this was due to the character's
inherent lack of charm, but given
Lenin's feverish temperament, Bass
could have been a bit more comman-

In many ways, they are a throwback
that logically shouldn't be surviving.
Besides being a sadly unfortunate jazz
anachronism - a big band, which
economically is now rarely feasible and
is aesthetically shunned by a spectrum
of musicians - the Thad Jones/Mel
Lewis aggregate ignore or violate a lot
of trends commonly thought to be hard-
line propositions in the late-'70s jazz
Not only do they disavow idiosyn-
cracy, mysterious details of style
meant to be heard but not understood -
they satirize it, pronouncing their sim-
plicity of approach and exclaiming the
trueness of their connection with their
THEY BLEND spontaneity and or-
chestration consumately, firmly in the
Ellington tradition, so that at their peak
the audience is hard-pressed to
distinguish the ad-lib from what is on
the chart.
The connection with Ellington is no
accident. At their show Tuesday night
at the Earle, the Jones/Lewis band
played a smooth song penned by
saxophonist Jerry Dodgion dedicated to
Ellington, titled "Thank You." An in-
triguing conjunction of melody and
tone, "Thank You" set the pace for the
better part of the show: the band, tired
out from a lengthy road stint, relied on
arrangements full of orchestral flair
more than guts. When they played
hard, it was generally in unison
For all -their brass and sass, the

Jones/Lewis band are peculiarly fruga
artists. Unlike an artist such as Gar:
Burton, who appeared at the Earl
Monday, an artist who promises mor
than he can most times deliver, all on
expects from the Jones/Lewis is a goo(
time - a promise that the band's fu
and hard work will spread to th
audience. When Burton comes througi
with the goods the reward might b(
much greater, but Jones plays th
averages much better. And that's par
of artistry too.
OVER THE years, the band has bee
a fertile ground for breaking new talen
into jazz circles. I take it that it wa
primarily inexperience and road
weariness that made so many of th
solos empty constructs - but then solo
that are nothing much more than edite(
exercises from a unisonal scale boo)
have unfortunately always dotted th
band's performances on both record
and in concert.
Tuesday night was no exception
There was a magical moment on th
song 'Fingers," for instance, tha
illuminated this solo vapidity well
"Fingers," basically a racing be-bol
bass line charted with numerous twist
for the group, began sounding likeE
real bummer - there were three solo:
in succession, by trombone, trumpet
and part of a saxophone solo, that wer(
rootless. But as Lewis pushed harder
and harder on drums, slashini
furiously on his cymbals, the last half o
the saxophone solo came alive, infuses
with the fire Lewis was breathing
Lewis not only saved the chart, but a


the orchestration slowly became richer
and fuller, he tested the following
soloists, forcing them to do their best.
After a dreadful start, it became one of
my favorite moments.
THE BAND attacked a variety of
styles. A rendition of "Body and Soul,"
sans the familiar ascending bass notes,
was touching. The oft-played
"Greetings and Salutations," as chur-
ning and bluesy a song as the group
played all night, was given a quicker
and lighter treatment than the recorded
version, makinga stomping blues more
menacingly funky.
The keyboard work of Harold Danko
is especially worth notice amongst the
soloists. Mixing up a left-hand pattern
faintly reminiscent of McCoy Tyner
and a right hand full of Harold Danko,
he swung with a classical flair, and
backed the soloists with unusual chord
clusters and off-beat runs.
CONCENTRATING on some older

THURSDAY- The Ann A/bor Film Coopetative presents of
(Sydney Pollack, 1975) TH E Y AK UZA 7 only-AUD A
In this thriller involving Japanese petty gangsters, known as yakuza,
descendants of the wandering samurai, ROBERT MITCHUM teams with
Japanese star TAKAKURA KEN, in an attempt to retrieve Brian Keith's
kidnapped daughter. Paul Schrader (TAXI DRIVER, BLUE COLLAR) wrote and
sold the script, his first, for a tidy sum of $300,000 to catapult his screen-
writing career. "I like this film a lot."-Wim Wenders.
(John Flynn, 1977) 9:15 only-AUD A
Another shattering experience from the author of TAXI DRIVER (Paul
Schraders. A returned P.W. hero (William Devane) searches for the killers
of his wige and son. "It's a primal 'Jaws' with brains, a 'Bonnie and -Cyde'
with real bite beneath its poetic evocations of violence, a 'Toxi Driver' with
reverberations that reach for beyond pathology cultists, a 'High Noon' with
troubling moral questions to resolve after its shattering climax . . "-Tom
iv, ilawks4. .MNKEY 1 IMSS and

'Inspco' rench,
efluffy, forgettable
g Dear Inspector is a frothy little nothing of a French film that latches onto one
d lever gimmick - the reversal of traditional male/female roles - and then milks
. it for all it's worth while studiedly, painstakingly avoiding any thematic or stylistic
s risks.
Philippe (King of Hearts) De Broca's latest work tamely chronicles a budding
Parisian love affair between two unlikely-matched protagonists: She is a tough-
minded senior police inspector, he is a gently-countenanced professor of Greek and
part-time amateur choralist. She is a figure of action, he one of pronounced inac-
tion, perpetually pouting when his object of affection tears off again and again on
her varied constabulary duties.
IF PLAYED TO its fullest irony, this romantic juxtaposition might have been
amusing and exhilarating enough to make the film succeed; Unfortunately, De
Broca isn't interested in playing the situation either for trenchant social commen-
tary or for pure farce. He plays his story straight - sweet, sentimental, as effer-
vescent and forgettable as a soap bubble.
Dear Inspector is geared to make one languidly smile rather than laugh. Or
gasp, for that matter, as regards a concurrant plot involving a series of drab mur-
ders of drab French deputies (i.e., congressmen), perpetrated by a killer so
drearily uninteresting he'd put detective magazines out of business if left un-
OUR INSPECTOR of course cracks the case in rather slam-bang style, yet
even an ultimate cine-cliche reversal of the murderer using the hero rather than
heroine as, a:body-shield to make his getaway fails to click' s' it should:. It's
See INSPECTOR, Page 14

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