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February 14, 1981 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-02-14

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The Michigan Daily

Saturday, February 14, 1981

Page 5

Don't wait for a little birdie to tell

Canterbury presents not-so-

'Happy Days'

Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, which
opened Thursday night at the Canter-
bury Loft, is a compact, thought-
provoking drama that bears absolutely
no resemblance to the 'Fonzie-Knows-
Best' television sitcom of the same
name. The Stage Company offers -Ann
Arbor theater goers a rare chance to see
one of the most poignant and ultimately
hopeful of Beckett's principal plays.
But as with most classic Beckett,
Happy Days explores the ever-
deteriorating condition of man, and his
desperate effort to find even the
smallest strand of meaning in existen-
ce. Not to be confused with stark,
realistic drama, Happy Days is com-
pelling because of the unshakable
strength of its metaphorical symbolism
and cryptic dialogue.
A PIONEER of the minimalist
theatre, Beckett presents us with only
two characters. Winnie, the portly old
woman buried up to her waist in a
mound of earth, delivers a meandering
staccato monologue, occasionally in-
terrupted by her companion Willy, a
grunting paraplegic. Refusing to allow
her days to be filled with boredom and
pointlessness,. Winnie keeps herself
busy brushing her hair, trimming her
nails, and deciphering the label on her
toothbrush. Winnie forges an order to
her life, thereby giving her some sense
of purpose.
It is a testimony to Winnie's breadth
of character that we regard these
superficial 'Avon-Lady' habits with
Sempathy rather than cynicism. We can
,see ourselves waking to the ring of the
alarm, brushing teeth, combing hair,

chest, and are touched when she wist-
fully recalls the days of "the old style"
when she was slin and beautiful.
Radlow, however, seems uncomfor-
table at times with Beckett's semi-
formal diction. Several long passages,
most notably in the opening of Act II,
when Winny is buried up to her neck in
the earth, are tedious because of her
undynamic, rushed delivery. Unable to
move her body or fiddle with her han-
dbag, Winny is far less interesting in
the second act.
Beckett, we can be sure, is aware of
our waning interest, and consequently
heightens the action of the final scene.
Willy, played by Tom Tjaden, crawls
out from his hole into view and
desperately tries to climb the mound
and touch Winnie. Thanks to Mr. Tjar-
den's very believable anguish and
determination, the play has a strong
climactic conclusion. Tjaden is also
responsible for many of the humorous
moments in the drama. His baritone
drawl and fine sense of timing provide
much-appreciated comic relief in the
first act.
Director Albert Sjoerdsma, Jr. can
be credited for his decisive, upbeat,
life-affirming interpretation of Happy
Days. In stressing the hopeful,
however, Sjoerdsma has excessively
played down the anxiety and
distraughtness that Winnie must ex-
press. Winnie is seated comfortably in
what looks more like a moon crater
than a mound of earth. Perhaps more of
a balance between Winnie's strength of
mind. and the oppressiveness of her
condition is in order so that Beckett's
message may be more subtly ex-

Happy Days is a cut above the other
existential dramas of Camus and Sartre
because of Beckett's strong sense of
theatricality. Beckett comments on the
human condition not only verbally, but
visually, and the images and symbols
that are created are not soon forgotten.
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Contemplating the meaning of material possessions, Jacqueline Radlow is
Winnie in The Stage Company's production of Samital Beckett's 'Happy
Days,' playing this weekend at The Canterbury Loft.

checking our makeup in the mirror. In
a world of constant decay, Winnie
preserves a semblance of self-worth
and dignity. Through perseverance,
Winnie becomes a heroic figure in the
spirit of Camus's Sisyphus and
Brecht's Mother Courage. Like these
characters, Winny finds reason to con-
tinue in the face of absurdity.
Most important to Winnie is the
assurance that "Someone is looking at
me, caring for me still." Willy is the
only other being with whom she in-
teracts, the source of all her "Happy

Days." Despite the suffering that an in-
dividual may endure, Beckett suggests
that we are never alone; there is
always someone to talk to.
IN HER first appearance with The
Stage Company, Jacqueline Radlow, as
Winnie, deserves much of the credit for
the success of Happy Days. In a tour de
force performance, Radlow is most
engaging and endearing. Her very
physical presence on stage creates a
sympathetic rapport between actress
and audience. We smile when Winny
describes her handbag as a treasure


Beams' work shines at Schorling showing

To people unacquainted with the
process of filmmaking, it's hard to
visualize how animation is transformed
from-an idea to a reality. Mary Beams,
film-maker, animator, writer and
producer, enlightened amateurs and
film-buffs alike as she shared her
filmmaking experiences with her
audience atSchorling Auditorium in the
School of Education Wednesday night.
She was the third guelt in the Residen-
tial College Writersin-Residence
Beams' presentation included short
films that were collages of recurring
images, memories and people from
the, author's own life. Among them
Bicentennial Cat Film Festival and
Alley Cat were tributes to cats and their
movements, as simple line-drawings of
cats smoothly reshaped themselves in-
to other objects, wore stars and stripes,
and camped to honky-tonk piano tunes
ALTHOUGH THE majority of the
films were created by rotoscoping - a
process Beams defined as "taking live
action film and tracing the images
frame by frame"-this single technique
lent itself to a variety of effects in
Beams' work. In Going Home Sketch-
book, for example, contour drawings of
faces were alternately splashed with
scribbled color and left white. The
result was a vigorous spontaneity of
expression that made the film an of-
fbeat family portrait.

Piano Rub, in contrast, was an ob-
sessive black and white weaving of
piano keys and moving fingers. In this
film, the background noise played an
important part. The irregular drum-
ming noise was the sound of the ar-
twork being made, Beams explained;
the filmmaking machinery, squeaks of
laughter, and botched scales and chor-
ds all combined into a nightmarish
A slicker, more elegant visual poem'
was Paul Revere, a bicentennial film
done entirely in blue and white. Only
the outline of Paul Revere's statue and
gaping tourists were visible. What was
intriguing was that we viewed these
figures from various perspectives, at
times standing under the statue and
looking beyond it into the trees. Sud-
denly, the historical fact of Paul Revere
became nothing more than a focal point
for all the incidentials of the park scene
- pigeons, old people. families
photographing each other. The voice-
over consisted of various people-off-the-
street telling what they knew about
Paul Revere - which wasn't much.
MARY BEAM'S more recent films

include some animated interpretations
of children's dreams which she created
for the NBC kids' series, Hot Hero San-
dwich. Sensitively-drawn faces,
pleasing colors, and fanciful amoeba-
like images floating among the stars
gave there films the illustrative quality
of a carefully-crafted picture-book.
Whale Song, a 1979 animation, was the
most unified work of the presentation.
Rotoscope footage of whales humping
through the water was done entirely in
fluorescent shades of red and green, to
the tune of haunting, echoing whale
songs. When asked about the

significance of the colors, Beams com-
mented, "When whales are killed, the
survivors are forced to feed on the
blood of their companions. I didn't want
to make an obvious statement on whale-
killing, though. The film is also about
what it's like to be a whale."
Undoubtedly, the unusual subject
matter and themes that Mary Beams
chooses for her worl show her to be a
uniquely personal filmmaker, although
her creations can certainly appeal to
many different tastes.


a play by


Feb. 13 & 14 at 8:OOp.m.
matinee Feb. 15 at 4:00p.m.
Schorling Aud., School of Ed.
. $2.50 & $3.50
668 8480
A Dratman Theatre Co presentation




375 N. MAPLE

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