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March 22, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-03-22

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, March 22, 1980-Page 5
Nimoy illuminates Van Gogh

'St. Mark
It happens on occasion that a
critic finds it necessary to focus
on the script of a show, rather
than on its direction, performan-
ce, or design, in evaluating its
aggregate value. Critics often
will focus on the play itself when
they have been displeased by a
given dramatic offering, if only
because a poor script ensures
failure, while a good one is only
one element of success.
The last time I picked on a
show's script (and words and
music, as it happened) was last
spring. The show was MUSKET'S
On The Town. I was greeted with
unpleasant remarks from mem-
bers of the company and the
public, who said it was unfair to
harp on the written material and
to play down what that particular
set of performers had done with
I vehemently defended my
position then, though, - no one
really minded that much. Only
the most ardent Bernstein wor-
shippers regard On The Town as
sacred, and therefore, unfit for
negative criticism,
St. Mark's Gospel is another
matter entirely; it comes com-
plete with worshippers who do,
indeed, consider it sacred. The
title of the play is not a metaphor
for its action, nor a clever
allusion to some element of its
text. St. Mark's Gospel is nothing
more than a two hour and fifteen
minute recitation of that very
book-quite entirely unadorned.
It is performed by one
moderately competent actor by
the name of Michael Tolaydo. But
its source is rather well known,
and to question its merit will no
doubt arouse the wrath of a good
many readers.
STILL, THE Bible's status as.

Chapel' flounders

literature is a relatively recent
development-quite closely con-
nected with its fall from being
held as a model of veracity.
St. Mark's Gospel is something
of an anomaly; a sort of answer
to Jesus Christ Superstar, God-
spell, et. al. There is no heroic
Judas here, and no cute fun and
games played with Jesus'
parables. There is only Michael
Tolaydo, casually and contem-
porarily dressed, with but a
dining room set, a jug of water,
and a copy of his source ("just in
case") to see him through.
Tolaydo's most extraordinary
accomplishment in this play (?)
sadly enough, is having
memorized all 16 chapters of the
gospel-27 pages in my Revised
Standard Version. Once in a
while, there are long pauses in
strange places ("And the damsel
.-. gave it to her mother," he in-
tones at one point), but the
overall feat of memory is admit-
tedly amazing.
Tolaydo's treatment of the text,
though it's questionable that
much more would have been
possible given the format of the
evening. The actor must, first of
all, play the storyteller. Beyond
that, he must play assorted
beggars, lepers, possessed
people, pharisees, Sadducees,

scribes, disciples, and of course,
Jesus himself. It's no wonder
that not a single one of his many
characterizations seems to have
any particular depth or richness.
It was the illustrious British ac-
tor Alec McCowen who first came
up with the idea of doing a
straightforward recitation of
Mark, and it is somewhat sur-
prising that McCowen never
seems to have asked himself
whether there was anything to be
gained by adapting the scriptures
to this particular format. When a
work of art uses previously ren-
dered material, it generally does
so in order to shed new light on
the topic. The Bible has certainly
worked its way into many hun-
dreds of works of art on its own,
sometimes openly-the Passion
Plays are an ancient example,
and some nicely cloaked-One
Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
comes to mind.
BUT WHAT NEW light is shed
on Mark's words here? The only
fresh assessment of the text
Tolaydo seems to have made in
the course of preparation
resulted in instances of inter-
pretation that were quite entirely
disagreeable. He turns the gospel
into a sort of cops and robbers
game; with Jesus moving from
healing to miracle, and at each
stop instructing the beficiary of
his deed not to reveal the wonder.
Tolaydo's mugging, letting the
audience in on the "joke" that
somehow the word gets out,
rapidly becomes tiresome.
The actor's reactions to the
miracles themselves are an en-
dless sequence of expressions of
feigned astonishment. But then,
in such a strait-jacketed,
predeterminedly unsurprising
assignment, what was Tolaydo to

Most people know this much about
Vincent Van Gogh: he was the Dutch
impressionist painter who cut off his
ear. What they might have found out
this past week at the Detroit Institute of
Art theater was this: he was a lonely
man, crippled by epilepsy, who turned
out over 1700 works, but only saw one
sold before his death at 37.
The show is Vincent, billed as a
"multi-image dramatic production," a
variant of the one-man show. The one
man is Leonard Nimoy, portraying
Vincent's brother Theo at a time shor-
tly after Vincent's suicide. Theo ad-
dessses the people in the audience
directly, trying to convince them that
his brother wasn't crazy, just "dif-
ferent". It's an awkward device;
although Theo actually planned a
memorial exhibition of Vincent's work
(interrupted by Theo's own death), it's
difficult to believe he'd reveal to an
audience, as he's made to do here, the
sometimes sordid details of his
brother's life. The actual framework,
however, doesn't matter as much as
Vincent and Theo's own words. It is an
absorbing dialogue.
THEO VAN GOGH was an art dealer.
He supported Vincent throughout the
latter's life and was convinced of his
genius. Over 600 letters of their lifelong
correspondence have survived, and this
dramatization is formed around them.
The props are minimal; two desks,
various articles of clothing used by
Nimoy to help distinguish when he is
playing Theo, and when he is evoking
Vincent; and two large screens behind
the desks. Theo reads from the letters,
comments on them and paces across
the stage. He is sometimes amused,
sometimes ironic, and as he reveals the
story of Vincent's life, increasingly sad.
Behind him on the screens, Vincent's
paintings and letters appear and
vanish. Occasionally Vincent's voice is
heard offstage on tape, also supplied by
Nimoy.) The slides skillfully punctuate
the text and make the performance on
the Institute's small stage less static
than it might have been.
Theo is an impartial narrator. He
loved his brother, but wasn't fooled by
him. He says his brother thrived on
failure. It's true that he never allowed
Theo to show his works. He also picked
the most unlikely women to fall in love
with; his recently widowed cousin and a
cigar smoking prostitute with one child
and pregnant with another. Through it
all, Theo sent him money and en-
couraged his interest in painting after
failure in his first vocation, preaching.
As a young man Vincent had gone to a
small mining town as an evangelist.
Soon he had given away all his
possessions to better preach to the poor.
He was dismissed from the post and in

his disappointment turned to painting.
The slides show his progression from
simple sketches of miners to more am-
bitious works. Even here, Theo is im-
partial; he says Vincent's early pain-
tings were good, but not yet saleable.
THE FIRST PART ends with the
story of how Vincent got in an argument
with Gauguin, with whom he was living
at the time, and cut off his ear. He
wrapped it up carefully in a piece of
cloth and delivered it to a prostitute at a
nearby brothel.
The second part begins with a show of
Vincent's mature works, to Bizet's
music. The paintings up until now are
good, but these show Van Gogh's
genius. When Theo returns on stage and
says "My brother's paintings were not
the work of a madman" we believe him.
The second half swiftly tells of Vin-
cent's decline. He is persecuted by the
townspeople, who think he should be
locked up. He voluntarily commits

himself to a sanitorium, and is
diagnosed as an epileptic. He suffers
terrible seizures.
And yet he paints. 'Things begin to
look up; he is let out of the hospital into
a doctor's care, and Theo sells one pain-
ting (for the equivalent of $80). One
day, however, Vincent leaves for the
fields with his paints, easel and a
revolver. He died of the gunshot wound,
saying, "Theo, I wish I could die like
this." Theo never recovered from the
blow of his brother's death, and died
shortly afterwards.
This production is modest in its aim:
to show Vincent Van Gogh as a hero
struggling against great obstacles.
Vincent's favorite quote was "Man is
not on this earth simply to be happy, or
even simply to be honest. He must
realize great things for humanity." It's
something Theo and apparently Mr.
Nimoy believe. Nimoy has taken this
show on a nationwide tour, after adap-
ting it from a play by Phillip Stevens.
After a slow start, he makes us believe
in Theo, and in his off affection for his
brother. When he describes Vincent's
death, he is intensely moving. The star
of the show, however, is the eerie last
self-portrait of Vinvent Van Gogh,
which appears on the screens, spectre-
like, throughout the show. Mr. Nimoy
acknowledged this fact, and gave it the
first bow.

Details the lives of an Australian family that makes newsreels. A singing
dog, Richard Nixon, Chico Marx singing "Waltzing Matilda' are juxtaposed
with scenes of the family's dramatic but insecure lives. "I was hooked."-
Andrew Sorris. An Ann-Arbor and Midwest Premiere.
7:00 & 9:05 $V.50
CINEMA GUILD located t the
Old Ad& D Aud.

Jazz: Back to the bars!


Remember the Earle? Jazz fans have
mourned the demise of a club scene in
Ann Arbor since that establishment's
valiant but financially doomed attempt
t resent creative music in an intimate
nosphere. In perhaps their most am-
bitious presentation yet, Eclipse Jazz is
bringing the excellent quartet Old and
New Dreams to the University Club in
the Michigan Union next Friday, March
28, at 8:00 atd , p.\

Formed in 1977 for a one-off album
on Black Saint records, Old and New
Dreams was reformed last year on a
more permanent basis. Formed around
the nucleus of Ornette Coleman's
ground-breaking quartet of the late 50's
and 60's, the band consists of trumpeter
Don Cherry, drummer Ed Blackwell
and bassist Charlie Haden. Replacing
Coleman in the new line up is
saxophonist Dewey Redman. His blues-

based approach offers a fresh contrast
to the off-the-wall spontaneity of the
rhythm section's "harmalodic" ap-
proach and Cherry's diverse cultural
Old and New Dreams combine their
ultra-progressive bent with a tuneful
immediacy that makes this appearance
the hottest jazz ticket of the season.
Tickets to see internationally renowned
ensemble are still available at press
time; but the limited seating capacity of
the University Club means if you want
to see this unique show, you'd better act
soon. Also scheduled is a workshop,
open to musicians and non-musicians
alike, on the day of the concert in the
Kuenzel room of the Union at 4:00 p.m. "

The jazz quartet Old and New Dreams: Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Don
Cherry, and Ed Blackwell. They'll be making a rare appearance at the
University Club next Friday, March 28.

asrgoyle Films
proudly presents




Best Picture
In 1973

Saturday, March
Natua Science Aud
Performances begin at 7

22 takes is
erium a little
:07 & 9:39 Confidence.



e 0



K Fri &. SotI

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