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October 24, 1980 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-24

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, October 24, 1980-Page 9

A stormy, successful 'Spring'

The road from sexual innocence to
wisdom is an ugly and tortuous one. It
looms with false friends, with sadists
who would provide a qpick and painful
education, with supposed allies who
suddenly wheel and become vicious ad-
The road teems with living things,
both captivating and deadly. Every
rosebush the traveler encounters is of
two fragrances: The sweet scent of
heady desire wars with its own under-
.9 side-the fulsome stench of discovery
that sexuality s no tool of ours, but
rather is our uncompromising master.
SPRING AWAKENING, now on proud'
display at the Power Center, cynically
chews up its audience's romantic
myths about adolescence. In jarringly
episodic fits and starts, it takes on sim-
* ple, soothing understandings of -the
human libido and dismisses them as the
woefully imadequate panaceas they
;are. Unbridled faith in human goodness
lakes a humiliating slap in the face, but
so .does the equally naive supposition
that the world and all its inhabitants
Are utterly rotten. Virginity is seen as
unbearably appealing, and as an in-.
vitation to the most cynical mentors.
Jim Martin, director of the Univer-
sity production, extends the play's wide
horizons to even greater frontiers. He
takes the production boldly from its
strictly sexual first stirrings to a finale.
that battles with the very ambiguiities
of existence. The (struggle between
chasity and fornication becomes an.
agreeably accessible metaphor for
much larger questions of life and death.
Spring Awakening, written by Frank
Wedekind in 1891 in Germany and set in
the same time and place, focuses on a
pack of 14-year-old boys, students at a
rigorous academy, and the girls who fill
out their world. It is a wbrld apart from
the one they have known for their first
computerized system for reporting
child abuse has been put into practice
here, reports a management infor-
mation publication.
MIS Week says the program,
operating on the Illinois Department of
Child and. Family Services computer
configuration, solves a big problem by
centralizing records from more than'70
field offices. The system makes it
possible to update cases quickly and
establish common denominators. And,
if a child is in imminent danger'of a
repeat attack an alert can be out on that
case to prevent further abuse.
A key function of the new system is to
match names and clues to turn up
possible leads in cases where the offen-
der remains undetected, such cases as
those where the abuser takes the child
for injury treatment to different
doctors to avoid revealing pattern.
The telephone hotline system
operates 24 hours daily and can handle
18 calls simultaneously. Officials ex-
pect 10,000 calls per month this year.
Information from all incoming calls is
added to the data-base of cases going
back 15 years.

12 or 1 years, for while their childhoods
may have been paced by hidden carnal
desires, here they are bursting with
erotic energy. Their yearning for
sexual freedom is the play's leitmotif,
and ultimately its lifeblood.
THE FIRST SCENE shows us Wen-
dla Bergmann, perched on the
threshhold between girlhood and the
great beyond. As played by Elaine
Devlin, Wendla's medium of com-
munication is acidly at odds with her
message. She talks and behaves like an
innocent, but her principal motivation
seems to be to free herself of the sexual
restrictions her mother imposes, as
symbolized by their argument over an
excessively modest frock: "Would it be
better if I was too hot?," Wendla
demands. "You ought to thank God
your precious doesn't rip the sleeves off,
her dress early one morning ...
The adolescents' rampant lust and
their desire to act on it battles with the
limitations of their parents' .tarchy
Christian world throughout the drama.
We meet two young friends, Melchior
and Moritz, whose chatter ranges from
child-rearing to homework, but whose
thoughts are dominated by their in-
sistent sexuality. Melchior, a
burgeoning intellectual, proclaims
shame "a product of man's education"
and then proceeds to put his theory to
work by nearly goading his friend into a
homosexual encounter. I
Moritz is at once desperate for sexual
knowledge and terrified by its prospect.
He begs his friend for a sexual
education, only to. flee as Melchior
begins his explanation of human
translator Edward Bond toy with a
theory that women's sexuality, at least
in its incipient years, is ih part an exer-
cise in masochism. Elaine Devlin
brings that theory magically to life, and
in so doing emerges as the most out-
standing performer in the show. With
delightfully childish eagerness she
presses a companion for the details of
her beatings at the hands of her father.
She seeks out a torturer of her own in
the person of Melchior, whom she
cajoles into delivering a sound (but
badly staged)-thrashing. Finally, their
relationship takes the inevitable turn
from violence to copulation in the most
achingly bittersweet mbment of the
Scenic designer Alan Billings has
done exciting work with the Power Cen-

ter stage to'hammer home the themes
of Wedekind's masterwork. Upstage is
the world of parents and teachers, with
all its attendant forebodings and men-
dacity about sexuality. It is ap-
propriately sterile; unadorned black
and white surfaces pound at the senses
in clean, stern lines, all vertical and
horizontal. A crucifix on one wall hints
at being the core of the lifelessness
surrounding it.
On the thrust, where the "children"
play, a very different environment
prevails. The stage juts asym-
metrically into the audience. Leafy,
vegetation protrudes from the stage's
perimeter, but it is weighted by op-
pressively heavy boulders and in
spots seems to be on its way to decay.
The thrust is coated with a thick layer
Of soot that brings home the truth of the
adolescent world: It is vivid and
rebellious, but no paradise of earthly
pleasures. There are pain and death in
it too, and they make it even more
hellish than the dignified universe of
the chastising adults.
ANDREW DIETZ plays Melchior
unevenly, but comes off persuasively
overall. His intellectual pontification
has a false ring, but his conniving in
pursuit of Wendla is properly
Machiavellian. And at the play's end,
caught up in a literal life-and-death
struggle, Dietz' bewilderment is affec-
ting indeed.
Less moving is Nafe Alick in the role
of Moritz, who carries his sexual
agonizing to unsympathetic extremes.
Understatement has always been direc-
tor Jim Martin's strong point, so it is
expecially surprising that he should
have let Alick's panting, screaming
catharsis get out of hand.,
Of the smaller roles, Hanschen Rilow
is most ably handled by William
Freimuth. In a prelude to Wendla's
romantically managed defloration,
Freimuth displays the ugly, stinging
side of the very same drive. He abuses
himself-to use an archaic but apropos
term-while debasing an image of the
goddess Venus. Freimuth's
misogynistic vitriol, delivered in a
ragged,angry tenor, makes for a most
effective exposition of sex's seamier
AN EXCELLENT script, clever
design, and fairly good acting all play a
part in Spring Awakening's success,
but those qualities alone would not have
made the effort nearly so brilliant. It is
Jim Martin's fiery directing that gives,

the production its greatest advantage.
When Moritz is being tormented by
some of his crueler peers, there is a
moment where the boys, huddled
together in their short-brimmed brown
caps, bring the authoritarian monster
to mind that Germany later spawned.
The analogy is a good one; every bit as
cruel as younger kids, adolescents do
indeed possess the power and confiden-
ce to make them small-scale fascists.
In a few spots, Martin has wisely
changed the play's script to modernize
and intensify its imagery. When
Melchoir and Moritz chuckle at one
point abouta friend whose dreams are
about eclair pastries (instead of about
sex), the irony is readily apparent. The
script makes reference instead to an
apple tart, which would have been
rather difficult to decipher.
Martin's'crowning touch is the play's
final scene. He has cast the very
capable Martin Walsh as the
mysterious Masked Man, an arrogant,
unpleasant hedonist who represents
nothing less than Life itself. The
dialogue leading up to the denouement
begins to document the harsh realities
of life, yet clings to the conviction
that existence still outmerits its alter-
native. The unveiling of Life's truth is
underscored by a brilliant and spec-
tacular final moment, the details of
which ought not be divulged. But the
shock of that moment leaves us
simultaneously laughing and discom-
fited, a strikingly compelling com-
bination. It should not be missed, and-
nor should the hours of intriguing
stageplay that precede it. Spring
Awakening is the University's best
student production in years.
Tne nrsty of M 2
by Frank Wedekind
Ct. 2-25, 8pm
Oct. 26, 2pm
In the Power Center
Tickets at P.T P. Call 764-0450
MasterCharge and Visa accepted

Motor City Theatre Organ Society, Inc.
"The Phantom of the Opera".
with Theatre Organist Extraordinaire
Dennis James
at the console of the Barton Organ I
Tickets: $6, $5, $4,I
Available at The Michigan Theatre #
box office, and The Redford t
Theatre box office, 17360
Lahser Rd., Detroit, 537-2560


Cinema I1
presents ?
Mildred Pierce
(Michael Curtiz, 1945)
Classic screen adaptation of one of James M. Cain's darkest stories.
Joan Crawford plays the suffering mother who rises from poverty to
affluence as a pie tycoon only to suffer because of an ungrateful child.
Joan Crawford won an Academy Award for her no-holds barred por-,
trayal of,mother love. (111 min:) 7:00 ONLY
. (Somod, 1941)
Classic Warner Brothers drama about the corrupt and psychotic side
of small town America. All-star cast includes Ann Sheridan, Charles
Coburn, Robert Cummings, Claude Rains, and, in his greatest role,,I
Ronald Reagan. When Ronald wakes up and finds to his horror that"
his legs have been needlessly amputated, he asks the same question
that even now plagues our entire country: "Where's the rest of me?"J
9:00 ONLY
(Mich l Curtiz, 1959)
Just before Elvis, the King, joined the armed forces, he completed
King Creole. He sings", he struts, he ACTS; it's Elvis at his best, strug--
gling to the top of the heap as a young drifter given a once in a life-4
time chance to star in a real fancy nightclub shoav. (116 min.) 7:00 ONLY'
Jailhouse Rock
(Richard Thrope, 1957)
Elvis learns music from his cellmate while serving a prison term forj
manslaughter. Once loose, he quickly rises to fame as a recording'
artist. One of the earliest and best Elvis films, made at the height of
his sexual stardom. With Judy Tyler and Mickey Shaughnessy. (96
min.) 9:00 'U
La Salamandre
(Alain Thinner, 1971)
The story of Rosamonde (Bulle Ogier), a complex, endlessly fascinating!:
modern woman. Like the salamander, she can endure fire-of re-
pressive work-and survive. Two men become enchanted with her,
and the fun begins. Influenced by Godard and Truffaut, Tanner pro- $
sents a many-sided vision of a complicated woman and the issues
which surround her. (124 min.) 7:00 and 9:15
All shows in Angell Hall
Single show admission $2.00. Double feature $3.00
Series tickets still available 10 shows/i 5 dollars
Next week: Hiroshima, MON AMOUR



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