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May 14, 1976 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-05-14

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Arts & Entertainment Frid, May THEMCAA
'CHARLIE'S AUNT':
Routine production earns ovation

Vincent Price

Vincent Price:
Warm, effusive,
and an actor

By JEFFREY SELBST
WELL, HERE it is. I just
observed the further degra-
dation of what used to be a fine
old custom, that of recognizing
superb artistry in- performance
by the means of a standing ova-
tion. Ovations on-the-hoof, so to
speak, are now given out to
every performance which so
much as includes an entertainer
(maybe) who has been around
at least ten years.
I am ranting about the PTP's
latest surprise, Charley's Aunt.
And yes, it stars Roddy McDo-
wall and Vincent Price. The
production was, in fact, service-
able. Buit it was not fine, it had
no cutting line of greatness; in-
deed it had no lines to speak of
at all. The play was character-
ized by a kind of fuzzy indis-
tinction that truly makes a
period piece timeless. That is, it
might as well be now as ever.
Jack Benny, as well as many
others, made the play (and the
role of Donna Lucia d'Alvado-
rez) famous. The fact is, though
written by Brandon Thomas, it
contains all the old cliches now
thought of as Wilde-ian. They
are Victorian, they are artifi-
cial, and though I blush, they
are funny.
BUT WHEN a play is given
the responsibility and the neces-
sity of carrying a production,
something is wrong. And some-
thing was desperately wrong.
Power Center was aglow, but
with stock costumes, over-lavish
sets, and a musical soundtrack
that a TV sitcom would be em-
barrassed to perpetrate.
Performances were labored as
a whole. Vincent Price displayed
that for which he is revered, for
he was madly comic as Stephen
Spettigue, the miserly, fraudu-
art, gourmet cooking, and a be-
loved pet named Joe. His writ-
ing is suffused with a sly,
warm wit, and a great deal of
personal wisdom.
Price's intelligent humor col-
ored our interview. When ask-
ed what could possibly scare
this master of terror, who has
livedsome of the mosttevil in-
carnations and committed the
most heinous acts of screen hor-
ror, he deadpanned, "I guess
the biggest fright I would prob-
ably ever have would be to be
interviewed by Barbara Wal-
ters."
A bit more reflectively, e
continued, 'By my age it doesn't
really matter. I think you're
afraid of things when you're
young. You're afraid you might
die and now you wish you
could."
Punctuated with a soft devil-
ish chuckle, this way by no
means an indication that Price
is ready to give up the proverb-
ial ghost. His enthusiasm, warm-
th and personal energy con-
vinced me that he is a "lifer,"
committed to an ever-increasing
variety of professional and artis-
tic interests.
Only recently he was award-
ed a gold record by Alice Coop-
er for his debut in rock and
roll on Alice's Welcome To My
Nightmare album. He is also
scheduled to appear in Oliver
and Damn Yankees later this
summer. It's been twenty years
since he-last graced an Ann
Arbor stage, and I can only
selfishly hope that the whirl-
wind of activity named Vincent
Price will be blowing back into
town in the near future.

'I

By DAVID KEEPS
VINCENT PRICE is not the
kind of guy you'd find
lurking in dark alleys - he's
much too busy for that. In fact,
he's so busy, and so distinguish-
ed in so many areas, that it's
hard to imagine him standing
still at all.
When I spoke with him, he
was in the throes of rehearsal
for Charley's Aunt, which open-
ed at the Power Center Tues-
day night. The production, spon-
sored by the Professional Thea-
tre Program, begins a two-
monthnational tour, starring
Price as well as Roddy McDow-
all and Coral Browne. The cast
enjoys an intimate relationship:
Coral Browne is known as Mrs.
Vincent Price in her private
life, and Roddy McDowall has
been a close friend of Price's
since they appeared together in
Keys Of The Kingdom. Of Mc-
Dowall, Price said, "I'm devo-
ted to him."
I was immediately impressed
with his rich, dramatic voice,
so familiar from my moviego-
ing experience. But contrary to
his screen image as a villain,
Price is friendly, warm and ef-
fusive. Moreover he is intelli-
gent and self-effacing about his
Hollywood image, an image
composed of menace and out-
sized characterization.
About Hollywood actors he had
this to say, "I think some of
the big Hollywood stars are
wonderful, like those people who
everybody says, 'they really
aren't actors', but they really
are, because they're playing a
double role. They're playing the
personality and they're also
playing the part; and doing it

lent uncle. Roddy McDowall,
well, he performed as Donna
Lucia. But the rest of the cast
(with the possible exception of
the restrained and lovely Coral
Browne) capered about, squawk-
ing and rushing, giving their
own (or perhaps their direc-
tor's) idea of What It Takes To
Perform A Farce. Spirit is one
thing, but mindless (and boring)
antics are another. This kind of
farce can be played without any
pretense of naturalness; but if
so, it must be also coupled with
restraint. May I add that there
wasn't any of the above com-
modity in evidence?
And, getting back to my pet
peeve, the audience stood up at
the end. I was sitting towards
the center of the audience, and
for a while only one enthusiastic
addlebrain was standing, while
everyone was clapping from- a
less strenuous position. I thought
to myself, why, they all know
what a fool he's making of him-
self.
BUT I WAS wrong. Peer pres-
sure won out over sense. When
an ovation is given to a show

that doesn't deserve it, the au-
dience stands up reluctantly,
one by one. When a show de-
serves it, it's like a spontaneous
outburst.
The point is, more, that they
were not applauding fine per-
formances or intelligent direc-
tion, they were applauding
names. Names! Roddy McDow-
all, whose major credits include
some Disney films and who, late-
ly, can almost not be recog-
nized without an ape-suit! Vin-
cent Price, whose name is best
(perhaps unjustly) remembered
for his connection with hundreds
of grade-Z horror flicks! They
weren't standing on their heads
for Laurence Olivier, and one
doesn't have to be Olivier to de-
serve a standing ovation. But
come on - these performances
merited no such honor, and this
audience couldn't tell the differ-
ence.
Charley's Aunt is fun because
the play is fun. It is formula,
and silly at that, but very amus-
ing. But this production is noth-
ing special. But one last word-
if you like to sit, skip it.

generally very, very, well."
AT THAT MOMENT I couldn't
help thinking that Mr. Price was
among those actors. He is an
expert actor who has created
a lasting screen image that is
synonomous with the phrase
"horror movie."
But it would be a disservice
to Price to only recognize his
achievements as a film star.
Though he is the veteran of
over onehhundred films, he be-
gan his career on the London
stage, and scored his first
Broadway success playing oppo-
site Helen Hayes. He also ap-
peared several times during his
early film career in Broadway
productions such as Angel Street
and T.S. Eliot's The Cocktail
Party. Moreover he has per-
formed on nearly one thousand
radio and television programs,
including a stint as Simon Temp.
lar in The Saint.
Asked about his favorite ac-
tors he replied, in reference to
Ronald Coleman, "Be was a real
film actor, everyone could learn
something from him."
THROUGH HIS public knows
him best as a king of the late
shows and a frequent guest on
Hollywood Squares, there is still
more to this extraordinary man
beyond his multitudinous acting
assignments. Vincent Price is a
true aesthete: an art collector
and critic, gourmet, and esteem-
ed author. A graduate of Yale,
he was among the cultural elite
of Hollywood in the forties, open-
ing the first modern art gallery
in Beverly Hills. He has served
on government art commissions
and is a valued and respected
lecturer on native American art.
He has also written books on

By CARA PRIESKORN
Wednesday night the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre opened their
last play of tht 1975-76 season, an inaudible version of Oklahoma.
One cannot ruin this Rogers and Hammerstein classic, but it is
possible to drag it out, and this one was dragged out. It is not
that the play is too long, but it seems that way when one cannot
hear the lyrics sung.
The orchestra was large and that caused most of the audio
problems. With that many musicians one cannot expect a low
volume level. It sounded great, but I wish I had had the chance
to hear the individual performers.
This problem was momentarily forgotten as the first act
culminated in a mystical Dream Ballet. Unfortunately, the actors
did not do their own dancing in the sequence and it w a
difficult identification for the audience to make. One cannot just
accept two new faces as Laurey and Curly, particularly since
Curly the actor was white, and the dancer representing Curly was
black. But the precise, yet fluid movements of dancers Mikell
Pinkney and Tedee Theofil helped the audience make the awkward
change. Todd Jamieson gave a powerful portrayal of Jud in the
dance sequence. He has a great amount of stage presence and
captured the strength and cruelty of the role.
The overall level of acting was mediocre, with some excep-
tions. The trio of Will (Ray Nieto), Ado Annie (Connie Marie
Cicone), and Ali (Ed Glazier) clearly stole the show. Nieto and
Cicone made a loveable and impish pair of rascals and Glazier
was endearing as the glib Persian salesman. Bill Vander Yacht
also did a creditable job as a swarthy, gruff Jud.
Most of the actors seem ill at ease and resorted to stereotypical
stage business. Laurey (Gail Williams) kept her hands behind her
back through most of the performance, trying to look like a
blushing farm girl and just appearing nervous. Curly (Bryant
Frank) took a John Wayne stance, with pelvis out and thumbs in
his belt. What was inconguous was the fact that he kept this
stance during even the most romantic duets. I was waiting for him
to draw his gun and shoot Laurey.
The costumes, designed by Denise A. Dreher were typical
but proved versatile. The make-up was another story. Most of the
women looked like kewpie dolls, with ribbons in their hair and
idiotically red Raggedy-Ann cheeks. It appears that they forgot
to put make-up on their hands and arms completely. Their faces all
had wonderful Oklahoma tans, but their arms were straight from
Alaska.
The energy level of the show was very low during most of the
first act. Fortunately, it continued to build after the Ballet
sequence. It reached its peak with an enthusiastic rendition of the
title song, "Oklahoma." This would have been a good point at
which to start the show.
The inaudibility and nervousness of the cast may be attributed
to opening night jitters. If this is so, it might be a good show by
the weekend. But, if this was not the case, it is a shame that the
audience will have to miss all those wonderful lyrics.

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