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March 06, 1982 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-03-06

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

I

Saturday, March 6, 1982

Page 5

'Indianwants to improve

Ronald "Smokey" Stevens plays Papa Du in the National touring company production of the hit jazz review, 'One Mo'
Time.'
1S
'ime 'or the '20s jazz

By Tania Blanich
" rT'SNOT REAL. It's just a game.
's not real," insists Murphy,
goading his pal Joey into harassing an
East Indian. Unfortunately, the game
turns out to be damaging, physically, as
well as emotionally, for the three
characters in Israel Horovitz's Indian
Wants the Bronx.
The one-act play, being performed at
Canterbury Loft through March 7 and
the 12-14, paints a dim portrait of life in
the Big City. Two New York street kids
come upon an East Indian, who speaks
no English. The encounter turns out to
be a brutal one for all, full of
frustration, inconsiderateness, cruelty,
and, strangely enough, compassion.
An earlier loft production of a
Horovitz play, Hopscotch, also dealt
with a traumatic, emotional encounter.
In both, he has written simply yet
powerfully, Indian winning an OBIE
award in 1968 for best play. Horovitz's
work affects us on two levels. Objec-
tively, we recoil from the forceful
situations presented, but the real punch
is subjective, when we begin to
recognize bits of ourselves in his
characters.
In The Indian Wants the Bronx,
Horowitz decries lack of com-
munication as a hopeless problem. A
web of desperation is spun in his play as
the characters become imprisoned by
their inability to express their needs
and fears.
The Indian personifies that loss: the
language and culture barriers being
obvious. But Horovitz weaves
statements about incapability of ex-
pression throughout the whole play.
The interaction between Joey and
Murphy, supposed "best pals", reflects
their inability to see eye to eye. And in
the most symbolic moment of the play,
the telephone cord is cut, thus severing
any possible communication.
The Loft's Stage Company has done a
fair job with the play, but there were
some weak spots. The play is poten-
tially forceful but the actors don't have
the necessary punch. Basically, their
performances had the left jab of a
street fighter, not the knock-out power
of Tommy Hearns.
Tony┬░ Kelso had the most difficult
role. As the Indian who could not speak
English, he needed to express his fear
and confusion through body language.
Unfortunately, he could not always
bring this off. Perhaps the use of more
facial gestures would have convinced
the audience of his fright. However,
Kelso delivers the most poignant and
forceful moment of the play when, left
alone, and beaten by Joey and Murphy,
he talks into the severed telephone

'l

Photo by Raimie Weber
William Sharpe and Robert Moses in the Canterbury Loft's production.of
'Indian Wants the Bronx,' playing this and next weekend.

13y Carol Poneman
F EW THINGS are as contagious as
the excitement of jazz. Qne Mo
Time!, a musical appearing at the
Power Center this weekend as part of
the Best of Broadway series, happily
recreates the '20s-when black perfor-
mers played a theater circuit perfor-
The writer chose to
depict a time and group
of people that actually
lived. it was much'
harder than you ever see
us portray it. '
-Ronald Stevens

Currently the national touring com-
pany of One Mo' Time! is travelling all
over the country, performing once or
twice a day. Ronald "Smokey"
Stevens, who plays the role of Papa Du,
has some thoughts about playing the
life of a black performer on the road
sixty years ago. "We're doing a series
of one nighters and space and place and
time-it's hard to keep up with! But its
interesting travelling, meeting my
people."
For Stevens, One Mo' Time! is a
pleasantly nostalgic look at the life that
was often far from pleasant for the
people who lived it. Stevens says,
"Segregation and racism were
thriving. To be a performer it was hard
to deaI with these issues and it was
tough. The writer (Vernel Bagneris)
chose'to depict a time and a group of
people that actually lived. There was a
lack of money and decent hotels, and
there was bootlegging. It was much
harder than you ever see us portray it.
Now it's easier (for black performers)
because those people went through hell.
"Nostalgia has a place now," adds
Stevens, "because it doesn't give you
anything to reflect upon concerning
today: In fact it still is today like it was
then, in a sense. The musical has
historical significance and value, and I
like it for those reasons."
Despite similarities, life is in many
ways essentially different and easier
for black performers now than it was,
sixty years ago. Many of America's
greatest black performers, like Ethel
Waters and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson,
played this circuit. In order to survive
in the business, the black performer

sometimes had to conform to an often
outdated view that the white clientele
expected. Says Stevens, "He had to be
shamed-to perform in black face. A
black person doing a black face
because white people liked it."
Stevens, a native of Washington D.C.,
has been a performer for 14 years, and
has worked in theater, film, and
television. Much of this experience has
enabled him to work with such talented
performers as Diana Ross, Ruby Dee,
and Cab Calloway. He has found
working with these talented people
valuable. "I look at all those experien-
ces as learning, a key to put me into a
proper perspective. They are all won-
derful people and it was a great ex-
perience working with them."
New Orleans jazz is featured in Onie
Mo' Time! and Stevens has been en-
joying this art form. "It's rewarding to
be doing something like this. Growing
up in the city, you don't get into it. When
I perform it, it gives me time to do a
sort of research into it."
Says Stevens of performing in One
Mo' Time!, "I'm glad to have a role like
this. To sing and dance-this role gives
me a chance to exercise everything.
And it's a great show-people love it.
It's a day in the life of people, sixty
years ago.
"I feel very fortunate to be doing
what I am. It's hard to be an actor; I've
been lucky. If you hang in there, you
can do whatever you want."
One Mo' Time! should be a fun and in-
teresting musical to experience, full of
life and energy.
Performances are Saturday, March 6
at 6:00 and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, Mar-
ch 7at 2:'1}4.

receiver, desperately reaching out for
help.
William Sharpe, as Murphy (the role
won an OBIE for best actor for Al
Pacino in 1968) was properly tough.
His character never wavering, Sharpe
made us really dislike Murphy, yet he
also enabled the audience to pity him.
As Joey, David Kitto did an excellent
job of mixing the macho toughness .of
his character with the compassion he
really felt. The players work fairly well
as an ensemble. The play is physically
demanding (lots of roughing up) asell
as emotionally difficult.
Those who saw Horovitz's Hopscotch
earlier this year may be disappointed
by this play.
While Hopscotch was an electric ex-
perience on both accounts of acting and

writing, Indian isn't up to that level of
drama. The production seemed unsure
of itself, at times unconvincing, at other
times succeeding.
Indian Wants the. Bronx is not a
likeable or a great play but perhaps in
future performances the play will
coalesce into a good one.
Support the
March of Dimes.
BIRTH DEFECTS FOJNOATION

ming jazz. The circuit was called
TOBA, for Theater Owners Booking
Association, but the people who played
it called it Tough On Black Actors.
375 N. MAPLE
769-1300
BARGAIN SHOWS $2.50 3.fare 0 PM
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$1 and AWARD
TOES Enthralling NATIONS -1:15
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T:3E
BURT LANCASTER :30
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ATLANT:C 5:30
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5 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS
JACK NICHOLSO
He found a fine 11
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The most tun money can bu) 140
Two
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