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February 01, 1981 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-02-01

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ARTS
Sunday, February 1, 1981

Page 5

The Michigan Daily

'Elephant

Man'

a dramatic

triumph

By ANNE GADON
The Elephant Man, now appearing at
the Power Center, is cathartic. After a
semester of imported bilge such as Mr.
R. and Mr. H, and the non-theatre
theatre piece Dancing', the play is a
taste of dramatic manna. Bernard
Pomerance's work is humorous,
poignant, and dramatic by turns. And
this road company brought via the Best
of Broadway series, creates an even-
ing to smack one's lips over, a
superlative Ann Arbor theatrical ex-
perience.
Probably one of the best plays to
come out of the 1970's, The Elephant
The Elephant Man
By Bernard Pomerance
Power Center for the Performing Arts
January 30, 31, and February 1, 1981
John Merrick ...................Courtney Burr
Frederick Treves ..............Kenneth Garner
Mr. Kendal.........................John Grant
Carr Gomm ......... .. . Larry Swansen
Ross ............ ...... K. Lype O'Dell
Directed by Brent Peek, Setting by
David Jenkins, Costumes by Julie Weiss.
Lighting by Beverly Emmons
Man's key to success is its suggestive
simplicity. Pomerance never indulges
in maudlin displays of sentimentality
which would be so easy in this tale of
John Merrick, the celebrated sideshow
freak. In fact that was the chief flaw of
the film. It was pretty to look at in black
and white, but the shock of seeing the
grotesque visage of Merrick eclipsed
the intellectual side of the work.

THE PLAY IS free of this visual
gimmickry, and the emotional essence
of Merrick and his savior, Doctor
Treves, comes through. Treves, a Lon-
don doctor, rescues Merrick from his
life as a sideshow attraction. Under
Treves' care, Merrick blooms. He
becomes the toast of London society,
hobnobbing with dukes, princesses, and
actresses, discussing Shakespeare and
Thomas Hardy.
With twenty-some years of abuse

highly acclaimed English stage actress
of his desire to see a naked woman.
Kendal and Merrick have become great
friends, and out of her affection for him,
the actress slowly starts to strip. The
scene is a prize collection of stage
silences. The tension between Merrick
and Kendal envelopes the audience.
Like the moment before a first kiss, the
two performers gaze at each other,
eyes locked. And when.Merrick's eyes
hungrily devour her bare chest, it's not

women naked when he operates on
them. .
"Is it okay to see them naked if you
cut them up afterwards?" Merrick asks
only half in jest. The doctor doesn't
know how to answer such logic. He
clings to his basic tenet that such
behavior is not normal, but the
shallowness of his logic is exposed by
the Elephant Man, one of society's
greatest victims..
The company, under the direction of
Brent Peek, does justice to Pomeran-
ce's script. For a road show, this
production is surprisingly proficient.
No mugging, no lighting problems (now
that's a change!) and - Ye Gods -
what pacing! If anything, the' show

clips alone much too rapidly.I
THERE ARE a few minor - but
irksome - problems with perfor-
mances. The players are generally
good, although no one approaches
greatness. Courtney Burr as Merrick is
fine in the second act, but we never see
his evolution from freak into a member
of society. From the moment he walks
on stage he is the brigh perceptive
Merrick that we should be seeing
chiefly in the second act. He is,
however,° able to convey Merrick's
deformities physically without the help
of makeup. Kenneth Garner as Treves
performs competently. We are convin-
ced that he is emotionally sterile. Joan
Grant, who portrays Mrs. Kendal is

wonderful in, the second act, although
she starts off rockily. She is a little too
much The Great Artiste.
The Elephant Man is like the model of
St. Philip's church that Merrick works
on throughout the play - "grace flying
up and up from the mud" - the mud of
a not-so-thrilling theatre season other-
wise. Elephant Man is meant to be
devoured and savored because it will
probably be a long time before anying
half its quality appears on the Power
Center stage again.
the ann arbor
film cooperative
TODAY TODAY
PRESENTS
Charlie Chaplin's
MODERN TIMES
2:00, 4:00, 7:00 & 9:00
MICHIGAN THEATRE
Admission $2

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS? DOUBLE BILL
At:00only-MONSIEUR VERDOUX
Dir. Charles Chaplain. With CHAPLAIN, MARTHA RAYE, BILL FRAWLEY.
Chaplain's controversial black comedy about a Parisian Bluebeard who mur-
ders wives for their money was twenty years ahead of its time and just right
for today. Raye is great as the wife who can't be killed.
At 9:00only-THE BELLBOY
JERRY LEWIS directed, wrote and produced this comic tour de force. He
plays a bellboy at Miami's lavish Fountainbleu Hotel whose only faults are
overeagerness and a certain lack of coordination. Many stars arrive.
CINEMA GUILD-You'i believe a man can try.

Courtney Burr as John Merrick and Kenneth Garner as Frederick Treves
appear in 'The Elephant Man' at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.
A Broadway import, the play traces Merrick's rise from sideshow freak to
the toast of London society. Tickets to this all-around superb production are
unfortunately almost all sold out.

Never
Remains
Silent
764-0558

behind him, the young Merrick does not
view the would in such a charitable
light as his pious colleagues. He con-
stantly questions the social standards
that Treves imposes upon him. When
Carr Gomm, the governor of the
hospital in which Merrick lives, fires
two men for gawking at the freak,
Treves paternally tells Merrick to
thank Gomm. Merrick shoots back, "If
all that'd stared at me'd been sacked -
there'd be whole towns out of work."
In one of the high points of the
evening, Merrick tells Mrs. Kendal, a

a moment of cheap eroticism, but
poetry.
THEN TREVES walks in. End of
beautiful moment, but time for Merrick
to confront Treves about prudity. Why
was looking at Mrs. Kendal wrong,
Merrick wants to know? Treves sees

BOOK SALE
10% OFF
The list price of all cloth and paperback titles in the store
(except textbooks and special orders)
FEBRUARY INVENTORY REDUCTION
PAIDEIA BOOKS
313 S. State
Above Wild Men's Clothes

FINAL PERFORMANCES TODAY
at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
POWER CENTER
Power Center Box Office
opens at Noon (763-3333)
AN RBR

II

INDIVIDUAL THEATRES
5th Ave of tbberty 761-9700

7

-BARGAIN MATINEES-
WED, SAT, SUN $2.00 til 6:00
A FILM BY AKIRA KUROSAWA
"AWESOME"
N. Y.TIMS
THE SHADOW
WARRIOR R
FRI-6:30, 9:15
SAT, SUN-12:50, 3:45, 6:30, 9:15
POSITIVELY THE
LAST 12 DAYS
A

t-
S T
-/
The
Jacobson's Bride
Jacobson's of Ann Arbor
° jcordially invites you and your
guests to attend the preview showing
of Spring-Summer Bridal Fashions for 1981
on Wednesday the Fourth of February at
seven-thirty in the evening at
Jacobson's of Ann Arbor.
A3
Reception immediately following.
Erica Mosher
Bridal Consultant
r.a

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