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November 18, 1983 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-11-18

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Friday, November 18, 1983

The Michigan Daily

Feast your

eyes on

'Devour the

Page 5

By George Adams
T HE NICEST surprises are often the
most subtle - the kind that arrive
inconspicuously and linger after
their discovery.
Devour the Snow, a University
Players' Showcase Production which
opened Wednesday night, is one such
surprise: Simple, solid, and wonder-
fully honest, this performance puts the
lustre of quality theater on the
Showcase Series and offers a reprieve
from typically tarnished University
The play, written by American
dramatist Abe Polsky, tells the story of
survivors of the Donner Party, a group
of pioneers heading west in 1846 who
are trapped by winter and freeze to
Polsky sets the drama in a make-shift
courtroom in northern California
during the spring of 1847 where German
immigrant Lewis Keseberg, played by
Gregg Henry, accuses two other Don-
ner Party survivors of slander.
Counter charges of murder and rape,
along with haunting stories of can-
nibalism, reveal the truths of the par-
ty's months of entrapment.
More generally the play asks what
people will do to stay alive, what limits
humans place on the extension of their
existance, and what reaching those
limits means for the human mind.
Henry is masterful as the tortured
Keseberg, whom survivors Bill Foster
(Scott Weissman) and William Eddy
(Anthony Shaw Abate) leave behind
when they set out to seek help, and
who is forced to eat the deceased mem-
bers of the party to stay alive.
Keseberg's intensity and agony are
everywhere present in Henry's por-
trayal while the immigrant prosecutes
his own case against Foster and Eddy.

Henry shows us a Keseberg always on
the verge of a mental break, an in-
trospective character who sits contor-
ted in his chair, uneasy, ready not to
lash out at his opponents but to collapse
in a crippling implosion of torture.
Special mention goes to Henry's con-
vincing German accent and believeable
Henry's moving speeches highlight a
predominantly vocal performance; the
play's strength lies in dialogue, par-
ticularly in the sparring between
Keseberg, defense attorney James
Reed (John McGowan), acting judge
John A. Sutter (William Dawson), and
the deliciously depraved frontiersman
Captain Fallon, played by Joshua Peck
in his final Ann Arbor appearance.
Dawson is especially effective as the
even-handed, dispassionate arbitrator,
a breath of justice who deftly handles a
cigar and a whiskey glass.
Particularly arresting are the scenes
with Peck, who lumbers about the stage
with earthy confidence and complete
ignorance of courtroom etiquette. Cer-
tainly a character with some mettle.
The play does have its drawbacks,
however. The audience is led to believe
that Fallon's testimony will spell
Keseberg's doom, but when Fallon ap-
pears in court he is too easily disposed
of. Though perhaps a flaw in the script,
the effect is nonetheless disappointing.
The actors also appear stiff in
movement, again it seems because the
script allows very little motion. When
the action does erupt, it appears far too
controlled and actually annoying jux-
taposed with the near-hysteria of the
Director Don Rice has set the cour-
troom in a rough circle with Keseberg,
the defense, Sutter, a witness chair, and
Sheriff McKinstry (David M. Viviano)
at the periphery, all in period costume.

Though this configuration creates
some interesting tensions between
characters during the trial, it is not well
suited to the confrontational thread
running through the play.
And Viviano is a pure distraction in
the play's geometry. Lifeless and con-
trived as the Sheriff, Viviano in this
minor role is a pesky stain on an other-
wise fine acting troupe.
Also distracting are the play's special
effects - wind noises and simulated
candle-lighting - which work
adequately before the trail begins but

should have been abandoned earlier in
the performance.
But Rice has pulled together a fine
play Devour the Snow is well-
planned, moving, and well-acted.
Rice's occasional artistic contrivances
do little to mar his very polished
This is good theater, and good theater
feels just great. Devour the Snow con-
tinues this weekend at the New
Trueblood Arena Theatre in the Frieze
Building. What a nice surprise.

The Comic C

Dpera Guild


Tickets on sale at Box Office 10 am to 5 pm ,

Lewis Keseberg (played by Gregg Henry) has a difficult courtroom confron-
tation with the depraved Captain Fallon (played by Joshua Peck) in 'Devour
the Snow.'

Cellist excels without strain

By Robin Jones
W HAT A NIGHT. Once eagain; cellist Mstislav
W I Rostropovich astounded the audience at Hill
Auditorium, just as he does every time he performs
in Ann Arbor.
How does he do it? From the instant he walks on
stage he projects a sense of warmth towards the
audience, and total familiarity with the cello. Unlike
some cellists who tend to attack the instrument,
Rostropovich lets the cello do the work and responds
to it, making his performance look easy. When begin-
ning a slow passage, he lets the bow glide across the
strings, gently coaxing the sounds out. Fast
passages that require immense technical ability are
approached in the same manner. The key to his
genius is total relaxation and concentration. He keeps
his shoulders loose, and arm movements fluid,
allowing for total control of the instrument without
the tenseness.

The concert opened with a fairly well-known piece,
the Adagio by Marcello. Rostropovich produced
smooth tones that had a calming effect on the
audience. When the last note sounded, there was a
long pause of silence, as no one wanted to break the
mood. The second work on the program was
Variations on "Ein Madchen oder Weibchen" (Mind
over matter) from Mozart's opera, Die Zauberflote,
Op. 66 by Beethoven. It was a bright, energetic piece
in which Rostropovich and his accompanist Lambert
Orkis demonstrated their ability to communicate, an-
ticipating each other flawlessly. The third work on
the program was again by Beethoven, Sonata in A
major, Op. 69. It is a standard work for the cello, and
frankly seemed too prosiac for a master such as
Rostropovich, though the piece provided many con-
trasting movements that he linked effortlessly.
The second half of the program was undoubtedly
the most exciting. Schumann's Adagio and Allegro in
A-flat major, Op. 70 were first. It is an expressive,

romantic work that showcased Rostropovich's ability
to play from the heart, just as Schl.mann would have
wanted. However, the final work was the highlight of
the evening: Benjamin Britten's Sonata in C major,
O p. 65. The piece -was literally meant for
Rostropovich. Britten composed for such artists as
Rostropovich and the cellist's wife, soprano Galina
The sonata was simply a dialogue between cello
and piano, in varied forms. The second movement,
Scherzo pizzicato: allegretto, allowed the two in-
struments to echo back and forth, and left the audien-
ce in awe. He continued with three other movements,
once again demonstrating his incredible versatility
and energy.
The concert ended with the audience applauding
for more, which Rostropovich gave in two encores
that were as enjoyable as a glass of cognac after a
fine dinner. The nice thing is that Rostropovich
seemed to have enjoyed it as much as the audience.

British Islesf
By Elliot Jackson
THE NAMES OF Malcolm Dalgleish and Grey Larsen
may be familiar to lovers of British Isles folk music, as
performed with such instruments as hammer dulcimer, con-
certina, fiddle, guitar, and tin whistle. To people not a part,
of this select group, however, these names probably boast no
other significance.
This is a situation which deserves to be rectified; Malcolm
Dalgleish is one of the finest hammer dulcimer players in the
country, and the Dalgleish/Larsen band does not restrict it-
self to interpretations of British and traditional American
music, but performs its own compositions as well. The band
also has Pete Sutherland providing rhythmic and sonorous
counterpoint on his fiddle.
Before I go any further, it might be a good idea to explain,
for the benefit of anyone bewildered, just what a hammer
dulcimer is. It resembles in name only the Appalachian

dk has rhythm
mountain dulcimer, which one holds on one's lap, and in look
and sound is not unlike a guitar. The hammer dulcimer is
possessed of about a hundred strings; to play it, one strikes
these strings in rapid succession with two mallets. The effect
is not unlike that of a harpsichord. To achieve different sound
qualities and textures, the player can use different mallets
and striking patterns.
This description may sound cut-and-dried, the effect of this
sound, however, may well be indescribable. In the hands of a
master player like Dalgleish, the dulcimer's sounds resem-
ble those of a Celtic harp, a honky-tonk piano, or a sibilant
wind, depending on the tune or his whim.
Grey Larsen offers this versatile instrument excellent and
varied accompaniment on flute, concertina, fiddle, and tin
whistle. Be prepared for more than just instrumental vir-
tuosity, in concert the two cut loose and actually sing
If this combination of dulcimer, fiddle, vocals, and other
acoustic instruments sounds appealing, I suggest a visit to
the Ark Monday night, 21 Nov..at 8 p.m.

"'THE DAYAFTER" A Nuclear War
An ABC, two-and-one-half hour, made for television movie
THIS SUNDAY, NOV. 20th, 8 p.m., TV CHANNEL 7
Followed by a discussion-led by the Physicians for Social Responsibility

to arts
F YOU HAVE ever eaten at a
restaurant, seen a play or movie,
listened to an album or engaged in
any other sort of divertissement and
wanted to share it with others, the
Daily's Arts section would be pleased
to give you the chance.
We want competent and skilled
critics for the many varied hap-
penings that Ann Arbor boasts.
Writing for the Arts section will
provide practice in writing and
analysis, and can be an enjoyable ex-

We've Heard Rumors

West Quad, ask at main desk
South Quad, ask at main desk
Lawyer's Club, TV room basement
Fletcher Hall, TV room basement
East Quad, room 126
Stockwell, blue carpet lounge
Mosher-Jordan, Jordan lounge
Alice Lloyd, 1st Floor TV room
Couzens, red TV lounge
Markley, lobby TV lounge
Oxford Housing, Seeley House

Baits Houses, Eaton House
Bursley, snack bar TV room
Walden Ill Coop, 1504 Gilbert Ct.
Owen House, 1017 Oakland
Minnies Coop, 307 N. State
Vail House, 602 Lawrence
Joint House, 917 S. Forest
Ecumenical Center, 921 Church
Lord-of Light, 801 S. Forest
Wesley Foundation, 602 E. Huron
Quaker House, 1416 Hill

is more expensive than
other Michigan gift shops

People who want to watch the program in their own places, and then go somewhere to'talk about
it, can come to Canterbury Loft, 332 S. State, where a discussion will begin about twenty minutes

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