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November 21, 1980 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-21

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, November 21, 1980-Page 9
Ia

Feld ends stay with new work

By ELISA ISAACSON
On its third visit to Ann Arbor, The
Feld Ballet, a company whose style is a
cfusion of classical ballet, modern dan-
ce, and jazz, firmly established itself as
a local favorite. And with its com-
bination of tall, thin Balanchinesque
dancers (with the exception of the com-
pany's unofficial prima; Christine
ay, who is small and perky), im-
rgssive gymnastic abilities, and well-
fedeloped acting skills, the company
crtinues to prove to the dance world at
e that it is capable of exciting and
fportant work.
Stednesday night's performance was
~efey bit as competent and crowd-
asing as the two previous evenings'
elections, but the program was given
extra dose of richness by the in-
ntion of a new Feld work, Circa. The
blet's themes of ancient Greek art
< myth were hinted at by two
uitations printed on the program, one
m Lheiber and Stoller (Elvis
rsley's "Hound Dog") and the other
rom the immortal Homer. But ver-
lization was hardly necessary; the
neges of figures on a Greek vase and
Aphrodite rising from the sea were
Idence that Feld the choreographer is
a way as adept at conjuring up
~William's a
By DENNIS HARVEY
The U. of M. Department of Theatre
and Drama's Showcase production of
ie Eccentricities of a Nightingale is a
ginerally able mounting of one of Ten-
nessee William's most fragile and af-
sting dramas. It's essentially a
:write of William's better-known
'ammer and Smoke, paring down the
>nelodramatic clutter of the latter and
getting closer to the tremulous heart of
the matter.
Alma Winemiller, its central charac-
tdr, is the quintessential Williams
Nherbine-a still-fading Southern belle,
" alittle shopworn and dated in her
breathless antebellum graciousness,
anuxious for romance, desperate, sen-
timental, outcast. Her author called her
"the best female portrait I have drawn
in a play. She simply seemed to exist
somewhere in my being, and it was no
ffort to put her on paper." A prisoner
of her own intelligence and yearnings,
Alma is too sensitive to appear normal
to boors.
Helen Oravety's Alma in the
Trueblood staging is a less complex
creature, perhaps more of a chattering
eccentric than she should be. The ac-
tress interprets the character a bit too
superficially, resulting in something
closer to a real glibbertegibbet than
William's conception of a woman too
warm and emotionally naked to be
regarded without embarrassment by a
town of staid pre-WWI Southerners.
ORAVETY doesn't quite achieve this
t requisite "transcendental tenderness,"
though she creates a likeable enough
misfit, fluttering about with "hands
flying about like a flock of wild birds,"
) 4lways on the verge of panic. If Oravety
misses overall shadings of intelligent
desperation in Alma, she does quite
fwell with isolated bits. She's especially
fine in a degrading episode in which her
mother makes a spectacle of herself in
Sfront of guests as Alma's face goes taut
with utter humiliation.
The play begins and ends with Alma,
[%,the local minister's daughter, watching
the Fourth of July fireworks in the town
square of Glorious Hill, Mississippi.
,J ohn Buchanan, Jr. (Richard
Eleming), the rich boy who lives across
the street from the Winemiller house,
has returned home after graduating
from a northern university. Like most
bf Williams' central male figures. he's
attractive but held at arm's length, like
forbidden fruit. The barrier between

John and Alma is his mother (Amy
Fleetwood), a domestic tigress who
guards her badgered but generally

imagery as are Homer the writer or
Botticelli the painter.
THE CURTAIN rises on three muses
encased in gold-colored leotards, posed
in a protective triad around a crouching
man (Richard Fein). The dancers
proceed to move through a progression
of intertwined movements, frequently
posing as if for one of the anonymous
ancient artists who spent their days
painstakingly imprinting black and red
figures on Greek pottery. They pause in
profile, arms raised, wrists flexed, feet.
turned in. The movements' are stately,
but backed by a tensile strength,
echoing the often haunting score by
Paul Hindemith. The words of Leiber
and Stoller revolve in the heads of those
members of the audience who contem-
plated the program beforehand. "One-
eyed Etruscans play follow the leader
Forever around the edge of a vase."
The steps are so well-sustained, and the
techniqueso sure, that one could indeed
imagine the dancers parading in and
out of each others arms and legs for a
good long while.
The birth of Aphrodite-who, as
legend has it, first appeared on Earth
when she rose naked from the sea-is
described explicitly in a series of

techniquely daring gymnastics. The
Aphrodite dancers parallel the Greek
vase-painting figures: three blue-clad
men support a single woman (Gloria
Brisbin), dressed, like her male coun-
terpart, in flesh-toned bodysuit. Brisbin
is held aloft, lying on her back, by the
three men. The group moves across the
stage, and as the men rise and fall from
half-toe to crouching position, the god-
dess' body ripples as if rocked by
waves. Though without quite the im-
pact, say, of the sand in the film
Lawrence of Arabia, the image of a
gentle sea is very tangible indeed.
In Circa, Feld uses his company's
acrobatic prowess to its fullest. demon-
strating once again its ability to incor-
porate modern dance, jazz, and gym-
nastic technique into a classical ballet
base. One particular motion-when,
Brisbin crossed her elbows, wrapped
them around each other a few times,
and ended up with a finger pointed
gracefully into the air-had several
members of the audience so intrigued
they tried their own unsuccessful ver-
sions during intermission.
BUT WHILE the repetition and
cyclical nature of Circa were ap-
propriate to that dance's theme, Feld's

ffecting 'Eccentricities'

acquiescent "precious" from all im-
proper influences. Alma's childhood
crush turns -to a life-or-death passion,,
and her flurried attempts to make her
love known to John are finally
satisfied-not in happily-ever-after-
ness, but in melancholy survival, as
usual with Williams.
KENDRA CHOPCIAN'S staging of
this delicate action is generally fine,
though she's partially betrayed by the
shallow pitfalls of her leads. Helen
Oravetz hasn't gotten deep enough into
her character for Alma's dead-of-night
breakdown, her impetuous romantic
rendezvous or her final transformation
to be genuinely moving-the changes
are all slurred, not so much a
progression from her earlier flightiness
as more of the same.
Oravetz, however, makes a respec-
table and watcha'ble attempt; Richard
Fleming's John is just all wrong. This
character should be down-to-earth,
charming and sympathetic, visibly
sensitive enough to let us understand
why he's the only one to see what's un-
derneath Alma'a "eccentric" surface.
Fleming has the right boy-next-door.
looks, but he rushes through William's
sentimental prose glibly, without"
feeling, feigning sarcasm at totally
imappropriate moments and sporting a
wildly unconvincing Southern accent.
He doesn't begin to make us understand
Alma's overpowering love, and their
climactic scenes together-in the
Buchanan's parlour, and, finally, at a
cheap hotel on the "wrong" side of
town-are nearly reduced to maudlin
hokum.
The supporting cast fares much bet-
ter. Adrienne Thompson is wonderful
as Mrs. Winemiller, who has drifted off
increasingly from reality since her
sister scandalously left town with a
travelling owner of "mechanical mar-
vels" and died in a fire fifteen years
before. Frazzled and vague, Thom-
pson's sanity seems to almost visibly
the ann arbor
film cooperative

drain away each time she's on stage.
On the opposite end of the emotional
scale, Amy Fleetwood is a fully com-
manding harpy as John's mother, and
James Cramer is fine (if not quite con-
vincingly aged) as Rev. Winemiller, a
decent enough man burdened with what
he regards as two female loons in his
family. James Noseda, Melissa Berger,
Christy Rishio and Alan Comfort play
Alma's only young friends a "company
of the faded and frightened and odd and
lonely" who gather for a "vaguely
cultural" meeting at the Winemiller
house in a well-timed, amusingly
chaotic episode.
The Showcase Eccentricities of a
Nightingale is an intelligent staging,
far from a definitive interpetation but
worth seeing all the same. The uneven
qualities of the leads make the tale
somewhat less moving than it could
be-Thursday night's audience prac-
tically treated it as a comedy-but the
play remains one of Tennessee
William's most touching works.
Elton John topped Billboard's list of
the 'top popular albums two years in a.
row, in 1974 and 1975.
'All PizzaYrPrice I
with this coupon
Every Friday & Saturday
11pmto2am
at
114 E. Washington I
wEccentricities
of a Nightingale
800 PM NOVEMBER 19-22
TRUEBLOOD THEATRE
FRIEZE BUILDING
Professional
Theatre Program
Ticket Office 4Q
Michigan League
M-F, 10-1 and 2-5
Phone: 764-0450

often excessive repetition missed the
mark in another of the 1980 works,
Anatomic Balm, which was also per-
formed earlier in the week.. In this
ballet, danced to various ragtime tunes
with violin and piano, the dancers glide
through series of well-oiled turned-in
leg lifts and shoulder rolls. As in most of
Feld's compositions, the dancers cap-
ture the spirit of the music very well,
but in this case the music was just not
meant to be embodied by an entire
troupe of dancers. Most of the ragtime
selections are langorous, even non-
chalant-therkind of music one should
play while mopping up in a bar after
closing time. When a stageful of dan-
cers try to imitate this mood in alter-
nating patterns the result is already off-
hand movements made all the more
muddled. When the music speeds up, as
it does during a few of the pieces, the
dancers' movements become sharper,
verging on spastic, and the new
precision makes those sections ex-
citing.
The final work performed, A Footstep
of Air, a Feld classic from 1977, was
danced with an abundance of light-
heartedness and humor welcome after
the heavier Circa. In this sense the
work was well-placed on the program;
the multi-colored peasant costumes,
and the folksy dancers' antics-which
included swatting flies, checking the
bottom of shoes for foul substan-
ces-would have seemed to me too cute
if performed at any other point in the
evening. All in all, though, Wednesday
night's selection was the perfect ending
to the company's Power Center ap-
pearance, and judging from the
audience reception, The Feld Ballet
will probably be back in Ann Arbor
before too long.
THE CONSUL
on opera by.
Gian-Carlo \
Menotti
a4
e0
presented by the
U-M School of Music
Tonight and Sat., 8 pm
Sunday, 3 pm
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Tickets at PTP-$5
764-0450

I Seals ofJ
(Continued from Page Eight)
than the last. The first set was only a
foundation for the marvels that were a-.
coming, and Seals' apparently unsur-
passable renditions of "I'll Play the
Blues for You" and "How Blue Can You
Get?" in the second set were only
bricks in the wall.
The third set was the eighth wonder
of the musical world. Seals' guitar
shrieked, moaned, soared, cried, poun-
ded, and laughed-seemingly on its
own-while its master rampaged
through "She's Mine," "Call My Job

SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE
This film marks In mar Bergman's first departure from the style of his earlier
films. In it he exprores the relationship between a husband and wife and the
essential conflict they face; should one hide in a relationship for comfort's
sake, or risk the pain that comes with growth and change. "Seeing it made
me grow"-Sarah Bellum. With subtitles. 7:00 810:00 at LORCH.
Saturday: AMARCORD by Felilni
Sunday: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW

CINEMA GUILD

Roll 'em Ferndock

SUNDAY FUNNIES
Q: Why Should You Go See The
Sunday Funnies?
A: Because They're AMadcap, Zany
And Wacky Comedy Troupe Who
Like To Use Cliche'd Adjectives To
Modify their Nouns.
Q: Why Don't They Modify Their Ads?
A: See The Sunday Funnies.
Thurs., Fri., Nov. 20, 21-8 P.M.
Michigan Union Ballroom
$2.00 At The Door
$1.50 At Ticket Central

0

!pproval
and Tell the Boss I Won't be Coming In
Today," "You Got to Love Me," and a
hushedly beautiful rendering of
"Fever."
. Bedlam reigned in the dancing,
cheering crowd as Seals unwound the
set, gave it a few final twists, and
strolled triumphantly from the stage.
One all-too-brief encore later, it was all
over and the road crew was packing up.
The people exited reluctantly, glancing
over their shoulders to be sure Seals
was gone. Many of us would have
stayed all night.

I

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