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April 15, 1981 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-04-15

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ARTS
Wednesday, April 15, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

You gotta hug

Richman

Irene Connors and Nancy Heusel play the aging Skalla sisters in 'Catsplay,'
the University Department of Theatre and Drama's final production of the
'80-81 Guest Artist Series.
A chat with
Pe ecliescu

By DENNIS HARVEY
Jesus, I think Jonathan Richman is
wonderful. He inspires-eventually, if.
you don't run away in terror upon the
first contact-just that sort of half-
embarrassed confessional gush.
His work with the original Modern
Lovers in the early '70's had a core of
darkish, rawly innovative power, but it
already had an appealingly childlike
edge of wide-eyed, uncontrived lunacy
as well, a willingness to face matters
with the wondrous impulse of the
moment.
THE LATER Modern Lovers, refor-
med as Jonathan Richman And ... ,
developed thisinto a sunnily reassuring
world view, informing those of is who
didn't shrink away that the ice cream
man might still be revered, that the
Abominable Snowman in the super-
market might just be lonely and misun-
derstoodd, and that even the mosquito
has its proper place in the scheme of
things.
The sharp corners of post-childhood
living were cheerfully removed, or
ignored, their fearfulness soothed and
replaced by shameless happyhap-
pyhappiness encased in neo-'50's sock-
hop rock or campfire acoustics. How
unchic! A lot of people, unable to
withstand this onslaught of niceness,
fled to more comfortably cynical
regions screaming "Sap! Wimp!" or
"Contrived! An act!"
The problem was that it wasn't an
act, honest sentiment being the most
unnerving kind of all. Others, drawn
but uneasy, found they could deal with
and excuse Richman as some sort of
novelty, an amusing silliness, a
professional nurd with all the right
reflections breathlessly well learned.
BUT THE DREADED Truth was that
Richman was, and is, the real article.
And now that he's on his own, stripped
of the latter-day Lovers, there's nothing
left to conceal that head-patting, hand-
holding, relentlessly kind viewpoint.
You either have to drop your bullet-
proof defenses or run for your life.

Richman and his new backup band
played a somewhat hurried midnight
set last Friday at an unexpectedly
receptive place called Club DooBee
somewhere outside East Lansing. One
doesn't expect such a joint to exist
within a few minutes of MSU's chilly
campus sprawl of cashmere sweaters
and humorlessly sincere "We ARE the
University of Michigan" bumper
stickers.
Opening the set was the "local poet"
Sam Mills, who tooted deliriously on a
clarinet, accompanied by a sax, and
sporadically blurted out poetry, of
which I remember absolutely nothing.
He might have been heavily influenced
by Captain Beefheart, though the effect
was considerably diminished-still,
who can seriously object to this sort of
fun (and nerve)?
TWO FEMALE backups filled in the
vacancy left by the departure of the old
lovers' silky teen-dream harmonies
well enough, if without great distin-
ction. The remaining three members of
the band behind the singer-an official
star centerpiece now-carried on the
Lovers' basic-bop sound faithfully.
Richman warbled through a short but
sweet set of the known and unknown,
his unique I-gawd-a-code juveniile
croak as likeably precarious live as on
record.
He seemed a little weary, staring out
evasively over the crowd, saying
"Don't touch me, don't touch me to a
girl reeling drunkenly toward him with
some incoherent message of ap-
proval-this even as he sang the
ultimately disarming (or appalling,
depending on your view) "Affection,"
which unblinkingly advocates just that.
Well, maybe even Jonathan Richman
gets tired and unhappy.
But the songs were, as everm perfec-
tly swell: "Here Come the Martian
Martians" (an upbeat occasion, of
course), "I'm a Little Dinosaur,"
"Know That I'm Important," "I Saw
Dick Gregory Twice," and something
new that went "I'm not yet three/I'm

just stronger than you/and you're just
bigger than me."
RICHMAN HOLDS UP the genteel
defense of the child in all of us, "child"
being the unfortunately limited usual
description (and excuse) for an attitude
of constant sur-rise and optimism. He's
politely concerned with the neglected
right to look at the world with a
delighted acknowledgement of our in-
dividual places in it-note all those
"I's" in the titles, each pleased and un-
self-conscious. He affirms that he's
okay, we're okay, it's okay to do dumb
things, but dumb to think you're not
okay.
Cloying as this all sounds, it's cer-
tainly legit, and when it's offered up as
it is by Richman, the message isn't
messagy, and it does work. You feel a
bit silly-but also a little better.
After the encore ("Ice Cream Man,"
of course) the band walked off through
the audience-there wasn't any other
way to leave-amid a lot of shy back-
pats and grins. A few minutes later I
found Richman downstairs, sitting
desolately at the end of a bench, looking
as if he'd been left to play all alone in-
side all day-it was raining hard out-
side, alas. We played a strange game of
interviewer/ee-I was allowed to lead,
asking some fumbling questions while
he wrote down and mimed responses.
NO, HE DIDN'T write "Lydia," my
favorite happyhappy dancefloor
Modern Lovers tune. "Affection" came
out of "real life-it's true." The
situation with Berserkley Records is
fine; an album with the new band "may.
be out in a month or two;" he'd
somewhat like a bus-drawn for my'
benefit-with which to do things like
this current 12-day tour comfortably.
As usual, all the right things to ask

would mentally dawn in the car on the
way home. Oh, well. He seemed partly
curious, partly concerned that I get
whatever it was I wanted, perhaps
mostly and understandably disin-
terested. I confusedly introduced
myself and the friend I'd dragged downr
with me in order not to have to face this
frighteningly unaffected person alone,
and then exited.
_ It's awfully hard to think of a
sweeping concluding statement that
'wouldn't just gush all over the place}
and embarrass this writer. So I'll let
Jonathan Richman do the gushing, as
he's beyond embarraddment. "Well
people all over the world are good/and
people all over the world ain't bad/but
if they keep being snobs about'
it/they're never gonna get what they
wish then had/and that's affection."
Join The.
Daily Arts Staff
the ann arbor
Silm cooperative I

TONIGHT

TONIGHT

PRESENTS

By ANNE GADON
One of the more popular topics of
discussion in the Theatre and Drama
R Department lately is how to pronounce
Rumanian director Radu Penciulescu's
last name.
Penciulescu is the featured guest ar-
tist of Catsplay, which is opening
tonight at the Power Center. A
prominent figure in international
theatre, Penciulescu has spent the past
few months here directing Catsplaiy and
The Magic Journey, an experimental
theatre project, and teaching advanced
acting to graduate students.
PENCIULESCU AND University
Theatre Department chairman Walter
Eysselinck, met at Carnegie-Mellon
University in Pittsburgh when
Eysselinck was chairman of its theatre
department. Eysselinck then asked
Penciulescu to direct Istvan Orkeny's
Catsplay as part of the Theatre Depar-
tment's Guest Artist Series. The play is
also a part of the Eastern European
Cross Currents Festival.
Penciulescu explained that he was
shying away from plays in favor of
projects which allow him to explore
various forms of theatrical expression.
This type of work is almost all chance.
Penciulescu said. You can't predict the
product because you don't know the dif-
ferent elements you are testing will
react to one another.
THE MAGIC JOURNEY, an ex-
perimental children's theatre project
organized by Penciulescu explored
"the different relationship between the
audience and the stage and questioned
Correction
In yesterday's review of last Satur-
day's "Explosion of Sound" men's glee
club concert, the Daily incorrectly
identified the director of the University
of. Michigan Men's Glee Club as J.
Eugene McKinley. The director of the
Michigan Glee Club is Prof. Leonard
Johnson. In addition, the Daily reported
that the Ohio State Glee Club perfor-
med Saturday night; it did not.
INDIVIDUAL THEATRES
5th Are at iberty 741-4700
ENDS THURSDAYI
WINNER OF 4 OSCARS
incl. BEST PICTURE
Daily-7:00, 9:15
Wed-2:20, 4:45, 7:00, 9:15
WITH THIS ENTIRE AD -
one admission $2.00 any film
Good Mon. thru Thurs. Eves.
valid thru 4.16.81 "M"
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SUBTITLED

the hierarchies of conventional
theatre," Penciulescu said. He first
directed the play in Stockholm last
year.
"IN THIS PRODUCTION we resear-
ched new theatre environments, how
the public can become more active and
less framed in free space. And we tried
to establish new and creative tasks for
the main creative figure, which is the
actor. The actor is becoming more and
more the executor of actions: HE HAS
TO 'fit in.' That's a very sickening
thing," Penciulescu said.
Penciulescu describes the story of
Catsplayas "a -tale of contemporary
Hungarian society. It questions what is
normal and abnormal, what is- sanity
and insanity." It is a love story, a socio-
political study, and a tragi-comedy.
THe play's action stems from the
correspondence between two sisters:
Ersike and Giza, both in their sixties.
-Giza is aging gracefully, content with
the quietnes of her life, while her sister
rebels against the settling nature of her
years.
At the end of the semester, Pen-
ciulescu will return to Europe to direct
a production about the experience of
Portugese immigrants in France for
the World Theatre Festival there.
For Penciulescu, the greatest
challenge is "keeping the theatre a
living process and not a remake of
established forms." In his white denim
suit that could have come from the
nearest mall jean store, his insistence
that "all theatre is political," seems a
bit incongruous. But Penciulescu is not
a man to prove himself by flashy
exhibitionism. When you've directed
everywhere from Canada's Shaw
Festival to the World Theatre Festival,
your work speaks for itself.

OVER THE
EDGE
7:00 & 10:20 Aud. A
TAKING OFF
8:40 Aud. A
$2 single feature
$3 double feature

T-Birds not so fab

The Fabulous Thunderbirds - 'Butt
Rockin' (Chrysalia) - Listening to this
album you could almost convince your-
self that you're in one of those lousy
bars with a band that plays 12-bar blues
all night. But without the chatter of the
crowd the record sounds all the worse.
In other words, the Thunderbirds are
anything but fabulous. In fact, on this
record they are quite ordinary, doling
out a set of unspectacular originals by
Kim Wilson with none of the pizzazz
ingenuity of a group like Rockpile.
THERE'S NO question that the T-
birds are talented musicians,
especially lead singer and harmonica
player Wilson, but for the most part the
songs are nothing short of dopey and
uninteresting. Throw together two
guitars, piano, bass, drums. har-
monica, and vocals, and viola, we have
Chuck Berry rock.
(INCIDENTALLY, THE Daily
question of the week is: Why did the

Thunderbirds include on this album an
old wedding party song - "Cherry Pink
and Apple Blossom White?")
If this record has any saving graces,
it's the first two cuts: "I Believe I'm in
Love," and "One's Too Many." The lat-
ter, written by Wilson and Nick Lowe, is
similar in music and form to "Crackin'
Up" on Labour of Lust. These two cuts
are proof that the Fabulous Thunder-
birds are capable of something
coherent and fun, but overall, Butt
Rockin' is on the rear end of the quality
spectrum.
-Mitch Cantor

TONIGHT

CINEMA I
presents
NAT. SCI. AUD. 7, 8:30 and 10:00

TONIGHT

LET IT BE
(Michael Lindsay- Hogg, 1970)
A documentary built along the lines of A Hard Day's Night, this film stresses
informality and the Beatles' spontaneity in the recording studio. Featuring old
favorites, as well as son s never released on Beatle records, Let it Be cul-
minates with the classic-4f impromptu concert on top of the Apple Building in
London. The Beatles' final appearance together. (80 min.)
Fri.-THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)
Sat.-THE CONFORMIST

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