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April 11, 1981 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-04-11

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ARTS
Saturday, April 11, 1981

The Michigan Daily
Contemporary music

Page 5

at Rackham
The Contemporary Directions En-
semble is one of the few remaining
'groups that continues to perform ,
the genre of music known as "con-
temporary." Although the rebellious
character of this branch of musical
development has lost favor over
recent years, The Contemporary
Directions Ensemble has continued
to give a series of four concerts a
year here in Ann Arbor.
The Ensemble's last concert of the
'80-'81 season will be given on Satur-
day night in Rackham Auditorium at
8p.m. The performance will include
works by George Crumb, Michael
Tippett, and Eugene Kurtz.

A uditorium
In these works one will be able to
view influences from the radical
'60s. Crumb's "Lux Aeterna" is a
ritual for five masked musicians, a
masked dancer, and soprano. In
Tippett's "Songs for Dov," a charac-
ter from an opera by Tippett ex-
plores his misfortunes through a
combination of blues, jazz, boogie-
woogie, and music of the American
West. Also on the bill is the
American premiere of a piece by
Eugene Kurtz, a visiting composer
from Paris. "Logo," as the piece is
entitled, is composed on two
movements, "Introduction" and
"Breakdown.',

Thematic void in Loft

Cody demoted
By MITCH CANTOR place rock. Even Ken and Barbie
Thursday, April 9, 1981, 11 p.m. danced from time to time. Cody
he scene is Second Chance, a growls through his vocals, while the

Th

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
The Canterbury Stage Company's
production of Kevin O'Morrison's Lady
House Blues might better be titled Five
Actresses in Search'of a Play. It would
be difficult for the most competent
thespian to cope with a drama which
tries ragingly hard to swathe itself in
eternal truths, yet winds up being a
study of nothing. O'Morrison wrenches
his protagonists out of the soul of
Chekhov, propels them through the
wisteria of Tennessee Williams, then
abandons them in a thematic void;
Lady, House Blues is an ersatz
American Gothic as inscrutable in
motivation as it is transparent in motif.
The setting is August, 1919 in South
St. Louis. The Great War has ended,
and America's women wait for their
men to come home. O'Morrison
focuses on the tribulations of a middle-
aged widow and her four daughters.
The oldest, Helen, is in her mid-
twenties, but the ravages of consumption
render her much older; puritanical yet
achingly vulnerable, she sits at home
waiting to die. Her withered aura con-
trasts sharply with her sisters. There's
Eylie - bright, flirtatious, just into the
full bloom of sexy exuberance and it-
ching to split the coop; there's Dot -
chic, Vogue-elegant, liberated from her
plebeian roots into an upper-class New
York marriage; lastly, there's Terry -
a born crusader bent on leading her
Correction
It was reported erroneously in
yesterday's Performance Guide that
Catsplay will be playing this weekend.
In actuality, this PTP production will
be performed next week (April 15-18).
Performance times are 8 p.m. Wed-
nesday through Saturday, and Sunday
at 2 p.m.

fellow waitresses and the rest of the
country into unionized bliss. Presiding
over them is Liz, a quintessential earth-
mother, as inwardly wise as she is
superficially foolish.
O'MORRISON'S PLAY is obsessed
with the rites of passage. Liz agonizes
over whether to sell the ancestral
family farmland, thereby cutting her-
self and her daughters from their rural
roots forever. Eylie wants to get
married; Dot's relationship with her
rich husband may be on the rocks;
Terry prepares to plunge into left-wing
politics, while Helen alone remains un-
changed, bitterly awaiting her
inevitable fate.
The unseen presence in this diver-
sified sextet is brother Buddy - off in
the Navy, but due back any day.
Needless to say, he doesn't make it
back - a tragedy intended to provide
the play's motivational flash point, but
which ends up causing it to grind to a
dead halt. There's a ludicrous scene in
which the five women stand transfixed
in terror, staring interminably at an
unopened, just-arrived telegram from
The War Department. When they
finally work up the nerve to read the
message that Buddy has perished of
cholera in St. Petersburg (!), their
reaction is crashingly unanguished, as
though they equated his death with the

stoning of a dachshund puppy oft-
mentioned earlier in the play.
Buddy's demise would seem a
traumatic turning point-yet Lady
House ploughs on and on, with nothing
visibly changed. Liz refuses to collect
the indemnity from Buddy's naval in-
surance policy for reasons un-
fathomable both to her daughters and
the audience; later on her offspring
gather in a Three Sisters visual
tableaux, then leave the house for a
summer's eve walk. Alone, Liz begs
God to make life a little easier for her
children, if not for herself.
O'MORRISON'S TALE is familiar,
irrelevant, and relentlessly slow. The
play seems drenched in the inertia of its
late-August setting; the implied heat
made meltingly real by William Shar-
pe's snail's-paced direction. Under
Sharpe's studies guidance, Lady House
lurches into a sodden, stylized exercise
in inertia that remains structurally in-
terminable and thematically cryptic.
The play's shortcomings are
epitomized in the performance of Carol
Hollander as Liz. This actress is clearly
a powerhouse of fiery talent waiting to
explode, yet she's easily the worst
aspect of the show. Hollander plays Liz
as a methodical synthesis of Amanda
Wingfield and Mother Courage,
mouthing her lines in a slow, quasi-

Southern brogue (her daughters
display no accent) that acquires such a
maddeningly sing-song effect that you
can barely stay awake listening to it.
Her performance is so ritualized that
it reeks of Ethel Waters at her gospel-
show worst; the additional fact that
Liz's philosophical workings make no
visible sense only compounds Lady
House's state of sweaty ennui. Rarely
does one see a talented actress so
thoroughly subverted by both
playwright and director.
The remainder of the cast fares
somewhat luckier. Julian Tjaden and
Elaine Devlin complement each other
beautifully as Helen and Eylie - the
weary bitterness of the former set off
by the bubbling life force of the latter.
Shelly Packer is appropriately stiff and
distant as the refined Dot, possessing
an alabaster face that would make
Dionysis weep; Melissa Berger is
energetic 'as Terry, whose love for
family conflicts with her social
crusader's soul. This thespian quartet
attains, the not-insignificant distinction
of making their respective characters
seem more interesting than they really
are.
JAMES DANEK's household set
achieves a nice, shabby-but-clean

nightclub in the usually-quiet
college town of Ann Arbor. Ap-
pearing tonight is the Commander
Cody Band. Ken and Barbie, two
University students, are seated in
the bar awaiting the warm-up band.
BARBIE; What's this guy's name
again?
KEN: Commander Cody. He does,
uh, sort of boogie-rock with a country
bent. Or maybe country-rock with a
boogie bent, or maybe-
BARBIE: OK, I think I get the idea.
How long has he been around?
KEN: I dunno exactly, but it's been a
long time. He had a hit sometime in the
mid-seventies with "Hot Rod Lincoln."
The lights are low as a
videocassette of Cody appears on a
screen above the stage. Cody is seen
in various silly situations pursuing
his dream ° of -"Two Triple
Cheese(burgers), Side Order of
Fries."
Only moments after the cassette is
over, Dick Siegel and his Ministers
of Melody show up for their set. Af-
ter a forty-minute set of crafty
boogie and blues tunes, Dick and his
holy musicians depart.
KEN: Great musicians weren't they?
They have a local record out. If they
could just polish up those song endings.
Ten minutes later, the crowd is
*again treated to the videocassette of
"Two Triple Cheese, Side Order of
Fries." Once again, the dancing
fries are tantalizing. A nd finally, it's
time for the Commander in the
flesh. He's 35-ish, looking chubby
-and a bit haggard from the earlier
show this evening. The rest of the
band looks like professional country
rockers, neatly trimmed and
dressed. The exception is lead
guitarist and vocalist Bill Kirchen,
tall and lanky with rolled up shirt
sleeves and dark-rimmed galsses. He
looks like a cross between Buddy
Holly and Gordon (of Peter and
Gordon). The band opens with a
rollicking version of "Thanks Lot,
Lone Ranger." The crowd loves it.
COMMANDER (after the song): You
know, Ann Arbor, has got the sleaziest,
greasiest restaurants in the world ...
BARBIE: Uh-oh, I think I know what
this means ...
COMMANDER: . . . This is "Two
Triple Cheese ..."
BARBIE (three minutes later): I
really missed the dancing french fries.
For the next hour and forty-five
minutes, Cody and the band rom-
p through 15 or so originals and
covers with the pizzazz of a bar
band that knows how to make the

other members of the Jand eacn
sing at least one song, and passably,
too.
The band members are all
capable, especially guitarist Kir-
chen, whose vocals also stand out.
Their covers and originals are both
lightweight stuff, such as "Let's Go
Stealing at the 7-1l" and "The
House of Blue Lights. " There is a
rocking two-song encore. Ken and
Barbie head out.
KEN: Well, what did you think?
BARBIE: I think the Commander
shouldl be a private - he can't sing too
well. But other than that, there's not a
whole lot not to like about them.
They're fun. ,
KEN: Uh-huh. Anyway, let's get
something to eat; I have this strange
craving for two triple
cheeseburgers ...

See 'LOFTY,' page 10

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