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November 08, 1980 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-08

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f.

ARTS

The Michigan Daily Saturday, November 8, 1980 Page 5

Anything Goes':

Musketfires a dud

By DENNIS HARVEY
Cole Porter's Anything Goes is the
archtypical Broadway exercise in
sheer frivolity. True to its patented
formula, it tosses together a chic
romantic setting (a transatlantic
liner), several agreeably silly charac-
ters, occasionally inspired banter, and
the usual paper-thin story en-
tanglements. All of this adds up to no
more than a self-mocking thread on
which to string together one of Porter's
wittily insouciant tunes after another,
many of which-"It's Delovely," "I Get
a Kick Out of You," "Let's
Misbehave," "Friendship," "You're
the Top"-have long since passes into
immortalia while everything else about
Anything Goes has faded into the dim
;ecesses of theatre history.
It's refreshing for Musket to have
chosen this unpretentious if frail
vehicle as its fall musical, over the
usual run of elephantine standard Big
Shows that are trotted out with in-
creasing tedium at every high school
and campus.
BUT THE. PRODUCTION of
Anything Goes currently running
through Sunday at the Power Center
makes it clear why groups featuring
novice talent so often rely on those
overworked dinosaurs-they have a
broad sentimental and spectacular ap-
peal that can, to an extent, carry even
the most amateurish efforts. And they
have stories. Anything Goes is a trifle,
but this sort of flippant nonsense

demands more professional precision
just to get by than the more
traditionally structured musicals of
later years require. There's no strong
plotting to fall back on-there's hardly
anything at all, aside from the songs
and the faded jokery.
Musket's cast and crew are stuck
with the unenviable task of struggling
for a stylized gaiety that they're
generally years of experience away
from having the polish to capture.
Without achieving that precise note of
calculatedly "spontaneous" tossed-
champagne-glass nonchalance,
Anything Goes stays the relic that it is,
leaden cotton candy from another era.
The book is one of those rhymed-plot
deals in which everyone thinks one
thing, while what's really going on is
something else entirely. The comic con-
fusions are inevitably worked out just
in time for each featured player to be
romantically paired with, each
other-even if they have to be in-
troduced to each other in the last scene
just for the sake of symmetry.
BILLY CROCKER (Roxythe L. Har-
ding), general Man Friday, goes on a
cruise from New York to London with
his gruff corporate-executive boss, Mr.
Whitney (Douglas Foreman). Also
aboard is Billy's long-lost True Love,
debutante Hope Harcourt (Toni Wilen);
her undelectable fiancee, stuffy good-
sport Britisher Sir Evelyn Oakleigh
(David Moreland); her social hawk of a
mother (Karen Rodensky); Reno

Sweeny (Marsha Freeman), a genial
graduate of the Las Vegas School of
Evangelism, with her four leggy
"Angels" in tow; and bungling
"notorious criminal" Moonface Martin
(Aaron Alpern) and his squeaky-voiced
bimbo, Bonnie (Susan Goode).
Unlike such parodistic repackagings
of pre-WW2 musical-comedy cliches as
Dames at Sea and The ' Boyfriend,
Anything Goes is the real article, and
its not-entirely-satirical tone hasn't
dated well. It fluctuates between unsub-
tle physical comedy, contemporary
satire, (as in the Reno Sweeney show-
biz-for-the-lawd angle), variable verbal
badinage. and straightforward, dull
romance. Guest director Robert Miller
fails to find a happy-medium mood, so
the actors are constantly jerked from
one stance to another-heavy-handed
slapstick on the' ode to "Friendship,"
unplayable innocuous sincerity during
the scenes between juvenile leads Hope
and Billy, strenuous farcial posturing
elsewhere.
THE UNEVEN RESULTS leave the
performances too often stranded, each
battling for the limelight-the cast has
a real ensemble strength only during
their fine full-chorus .vocal interludes
on "Public Enemy Number One" and
the finale. The kind of light touch
required by the succession of amusing
("Oh, sir, liquor has never touched my
lips!" "You know a shortcut?") to
groanable dialogue exchanges, and by
such blithe Porter lyrics as "If they

ever put a bullet through your brain/I'll
complain" is generally -missed-too of-
ten the cast seems to have been instruc-
ted to hit their gags on the head with the
subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Karen Rodensky's Mrs. Harcourt has
the wonderful gurgling laughter of a
classic high-society twit, but elsewhere
she milks her laughs as if the entire
audience were stationed at the back of
the balcony, a strain echoed even more
frantically by Jon Subar and William
Boyd in small but gratingly noisy ap-
pearances as a steward and the ship's
captain. Aaron Alpern's Moonface goes
even further, if that's possible-he
needs to drastically tone down 'his
barrage of gangling gesticulating and
mugging.
Given chances to compete with such
grandstanding, romantic leads
Roxythe Harding-who delivers the
evening's best vocal solo on "All
Through the Night" and has a few other
good moments-and Toni Wilen are
more or less lost in the shuffle.
A FEW OF the actors manage to stay
on track. Marsha Freeman is thank-
fully relaxed on stage, even if she
doesn't really have the dynamism for
Reno's sexy religious come-on. Her
vocals are too casual for this score,
though she does fit in well with the
atypically bluesy "Take Me Back to
Manhattan." As Bonnie, Susan Goode
comes close to cartoonish excess, but
she has the energy and assuredness
that the cast's heavier hands lack, In-
sanely loud and energetic, like a fleshy

Betty Boop, she almost pushes through
the dated cuteness and pedestrian
staging of the "Heaven Hop" number
before it dawdles on and on through a
lengthy dance sequence. Douglas
Foreman's appearances as the star-
chily businesslike Whitney are
relatively brief, but his comparative
subtlety singles him out each time, and
with his gravelly voice (always barking
out orders) and sour expressions he's
completely credible as an older man.
The real triumph of the cast is David
Moreland as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. The
part is as old as the hills, a knickers-
and-monocle sort of Old World fuddy-
duddy to be laughed at, but Moreland's
sweet, sheepish grin and immaculate
double-takes fleetingly lift Anything
Goes into a different sphere of charmed
camp. His ditherings are at once a cen-
ter of calm in this overacted produc-
tion, and the funniest thing it has to of-
fer.

After a jerkily paced first art,
Musket's staging improves, saved by
the number-to-number rush of the plot's
windup. There are some genuine bright
spots beyond the best performan-
ces-the neat parody of a Big Entrance
for Reno and her Angels, whose
harebrained lewdness is amusing
throughout; and entertaining patter-
sermon interlude; and a few other bits.
But Miller's staging and choregraphy
rises above the uninteresting, leaving it
all too easy to keep track of the chorus'
imprecision in the dance numbers and
the gaffes of a presumably un-
derrehearsed orchestra.
Anything Goes is, finally, too light in
sense for the Musket troupe-it doesn't
provide much of a strong framework
for them to develop their fledgling
theatre skills. There are too many -en-
couraging glimpses of talent here, but
this Anything Goes is unpolished
fluff-and that isn't much of anything.

WJJX CHEAP FLICKS!
(formerly WRCN) FRI & SAT NIGHTI
INDIVIDUAL THEATRES
AT MIDNIGHT **h Ave at Liberty 761-9700
(edited)
*A3&LLAS'
$3.00 per seat
$2.00 AT
per MIDNIGHT
seat
M (R)

It all started with a Polish joke

.00

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
Need a break from those post-election
miseries? Like to spend a couple of
hours in blissful oblivion from the
coming Reaganite apocalypse? The I
heartily urge you to go see Papp,
currently being produced by The Stage
Company at Canterbury Loft. Though
Kenneth Cameron's play itself
delineates the remnants of a post-
-apocalypse world, his work is such a
9good-natured ball . of fluff that its
d4esolate-future scenario seems distin-
ctly preferable to the ievlized but sud-,
denly equally desolate present.
There's not really a great deal one
can say about a play whose thread-bare
plot serves mainly as an excuse for a
non-stop rapid-fire stream of Catholic
Churci punning that serves as the loony
structural base of the drama. In some
far-off millenium on Earth, a
dilapidated Vatican sits amidst the
scraps and residue of fallen civilization.
Huddled on his Chair of Peter is Papp,
the last, aging tongue-twisted successor
to the long, weakening lineage of
Roman pontiff s. Bereft of parishoners,
unable to read, his ecclesiastical
scholarship only a dim, befuddled
memory, Papp lives isolated in his
cathedral-shack, attended solely by his
assistant Curio and his scullery maid
Hoer of Babylond (you heard it right,
folks) to whom "service" means
something rather different from church
worship.
Papp obviously owes a thematic debt
to Beckett's Endgame, yet is far too
steeped in absurdist impishness to sink
into the dregs of existential melan-
choly. Papp, Curio and Babylond rave,
rant and prattle unceasingly in
theological spoonerisms; enunciated
through their pixilated spittle,
catechism becomes cataclysm, faith

V

becomes face ("You must not lose your
face! "), blessing becomes blushing
("My blushings upon you all."), pen-
nance becomes peanuts. Papp spreads
The Word through use of the excom-
municator-a loudspeaker system
through which our protagonist broad-
casts to a peasantry which never
responds.
WITH ONE, EXCEPTION. Into
Papp's inane kingdom walks Mak, a
military demolition expert and
questing everyman. Mak is earnest,
friendly, potentially savage (he intends
to blow up Papp's Vatican), and beset
by an overbearing quest'for knowledge
and enlightenment. Papp, sensing a
potential convert and also eager to
avoid demolition, regales Mak
Scheherazade-like with fractured tales
of "Yesu Crisis, the only forgotten son"
and his adventures in "The Garden of
Heathen", among other locales. Follow
Begin your day
U~ibe Jlatui

the teachings of the Bobble (Bible), he
assures Mak, and you will "dwell with a
thousand whores forever."
Double trouble brews when Mak'
discovers and begins to read an an-
tique, de-punned Bible, and the spiteful
Curio, enraged over Mak's
displacement of him in Papp's favor,
attempts a Papal ursurpation. Both cir-
ses are resolved in a manner that
seems to say faith can be maintained by
literally detonating one's opposition.
Papp may sound excruciating on
paper, but it plays amazing well on
stage. The plethora of puns is delivered
with such bouncy, lightning pacing
that you find yourself moved to
laughter far more readily than to
groans. The four roles are played
nearly to perfection: John Love makes
a wonderfully cranky, volitle Papp,
sinking Merlin-like into his massive,

threadbare robes as if they were
growing out of him. David Pasto is all
unctious absurdity as the prissy,
treacherous Curio, while Albert Sjoer-
dsma Jr. is a frenetic powerhouse of
energy as Mak, whose demonic search
for wisdom is equal parts tragedy and
farce. Donna Marie LaVere brings a
glorious dime-store-vamp timing to
Hoer of Babyland, looking for all the
world like a slightly stubby, equally
talented Gilda Radner.
Gail A. Vasku's direction moves.at
the nimble beat Cameron's prose
stringently requires, while the versatile
John Love's cluttered Vatican throne
room is majestically seedy. The
production never pretends to profun-
dity, never ceases to entertain. Go en-
joy it today before Papp's fantasy 'tur-
ns into tomorrow's reality. Hail
to the Chief.

U

WJJX (formerl WRCN) CHEAP FLICKS!

m--Ill

EVERY FRI & SAT
ALL SEATS $2.00 ALL SEATS $3.00
IDEBBIE
DOES DALLAS"
(Edited
ml2 LE1iII'U VERSION
INDIVIDUALTHEANOTXXX)
AT MIDNIGHT I m A THTE AT MIDNIGHT
Ave at Lber y 76 1-Te

A

I 7m Ave. 01 Liberty 751-9700 1..

mow&_ jrn ^ve 01 Liberty 701'9700

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