The Michigan Daily Saturday, October 20, 1984
A radical return
to the land of Oz
Doily Photo by CAROL L. FRANCAVILLA
Tim McGraw and Rebecca Boeve play Mr. Harbison and Florence in the political drama/musical at Mendelssohn
Theater tonight and Sunday afternoon.
Guarneri performs the complete cycle
By Andy Weine
J UST WHAT role should politics play
in the theater? It's a question you
can't help asking after seeing
Revolutionary Ghosts, a musical spon-
sored by Canterbury Loft and ap-
pearing Saturday (8 p.m.) and Sunday
(3 p.m.) at Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.
Unfortunately, the play offers no good
answer to the question.
There's a simple formula for the
play. Take the fanciful world of Oz and
make all the midgets dirty
businessmen, all the flying monkeys
republican politicians, and the bad wit-
ch Ronald Reagan.
Make Dorothy a young activist lost in
this evil world, guided by the good wit-
ch who's replaced by several
"revolutionary ghosts." The titles and
costumes are different, but it's the
same old story we've been seeing on
T.V. since we were three.
Political Dorothy is Bea, played un-
spectacularly by Susan Filitiak. This
Dorothy clone whimpers and whines
her way through a sticky miasma of
political issues, from nuclear arms to
third world politics to feminism.
Oh, poor Dorothy. In the first act,
she's sitting at a picnic with three con-
servative stereotypes: brainless mom
("I'm a simple woman ... Eat your
pickles."), Mr. Harbison (plaid-suited
conservative like Mr. Whipple on
"Green Acres"), and Milton, the new-
age conservative whose cynicism
knows no limits.
In one song, they all gang up on Bea,
saying that powerful institutions and
imperialist exploitation are just "the
way of the world, and there's
nothing you can do about it, just
pray." Later, they pant at her,
"Money! Money! Money! (It's
they way of the world....)".
The saving grace for Bea and for the
play is her friend, Emily, marvellously
played by Rebecca Smouse. Her voice
is clear and sonorous in the best song of
the play (untitled) which was a sen-
sitive ballad comforting Bea. Emily
sings that despair can be allayed by
love, which can empower us for social
change. Right on, but that's the play's
last root in reality before curtain
Politics soon drift away from reality
like a balloon in high wind. Enter the
"revolutionary ghosts" - Jefferson,
Ghandi, Lincoln, Susan Anthony, and
an anonymous abolitionist. The way
they're presented, they're all ghosts
The ghosts' ideas are gems, but it's
the outright delivery that ruins
dramatic appeal. How much can you
take lines such as these, from Anthony
and Ghandi? - "Courage, dear. It is a
giant step." "Leave fear behind .. .
Violence begets violence . . . Peace is
Then there's the reciting of the
Declaration of Independence, and
we're supposed to be inspired by
this? It's verbatim. pop political
psychology, and it doesn't work.
There is substance to the ideas in the
play, but to say its political principles
outright is a violation of every
development of modern theater. It is
mere political platforming, which has
no place in theater. That's not to say
that political theater is bad - on the
contrary, I'm hungry for it. But I'd
rather starve than witness such an
aesthetic abomination of important
Political theater can be good if it
avoids rhetoric and outright ideology.
Successful plays include Hair,
Streamers, The Boys in the Band, and
Brechtian theater. All have powerful
messages but remain rooted in reality
without drifting off into the political
Similar to Dorothy,, Bea comes to
believe. She emerges from despair like
Rocky, firing political punches to those
nasty republicans. Without any
precedence whatsoever, conservative
Martin converts, and they join hands on
a tide of soap-opera music.
Go see the play if you want to hear the
preaching of a certain political system.
(Of course, it's not material for the
staff of the Michigan Review.) Go for a
couple good songs and a few funny con-
frontations between stereotyped
characters. But if you want to see art,
go somewhere else. Oz beats this.
By Mike Gallatin
EDNESDAY NIGHT marked the
y17th appearance of the Guarneri
Stung Quartet in Ann Arbor. Founded
in 1964 at Vermont's Marlboro Music
Festival. The Guarneri is considered
the finest senior quartet in America.
Wednesday's performance at Rackham
Auditorium is the first of six to be
presented in Ann Arbor over three suc-
cessive seasons, in which the Guarneri
bill perform the complete cycle of
Beethoven's string quartets.
The program consisted of three quar-
tets; one from each of the represen-
tative periods of Beethoven's creative
output. The first was a quartet in E flat
from the late period - a period charac-
terized by Beethoven's tendency to
break established traditions of tonality
and form in order to cr eate
revolutionary and intensely personal
Works of art.
Completed in 1835, two years before
Beethoven's death, this piece is a cryp-
tic and profoundly mysterious work. It
is a world of complex modulations,
frenzied chords, diverse textures, and
The first movement ended with a gen-
tle high cadence that left much unsaid.
The adagio cantabile of the second
movement was exquisitely balanced
with Arnold Steinhardt at first violin
spinning out a long revolving melody
*hich is repeated peicemeal by the
other instruments in turn.
The last chord finally resolves the
harmony but very little else. The
scherzo was played in a spritely but
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never lighthearted fashion. The trio in
a minor mode possessed a dancelike
gaiety which was at the same time grim
The final movement showed distant
signs of modernism in a series of chords
which must have seemed dissonant in
Beethoven's day. The Guarneri con-
tinued to play as a close-knit ensemble
with a musical dialogue passing from
one instrument to another in a relen-
tless drive to conclusion.
The second work was an early quar-
tet in G major. The Guarneri played
this bright and happy work with all the
lyricism required to accent the joie de
vivre expressed. One notices the direct
influences of Haydn and Mozart in the
rigid adherence to form and balance.
The finale possessed aninspired new
strength as a vigorous rhythm and flood
of gaiety bring this work to a trium-
The second half of the program con-
sisted of the third Rasumovsky quartet
from the middle period. The middle
period is characterized by music such
as the Eroica symphony and the 5th
symphony. Here we see Beethoven grip
fate by the throat and wrist out of suf-
fering, in a thoroughly Promethean
manner, a final meaning and
justification of life.
The final fugue of the work is a
powerful musical statement which is a
mystical answer to Beethoven's earlier
suicidal Heiligenstadt Will. The music
evokes the memory of some forgotten
and alien despair, or a remote and
frozen anguish wailing over an im-
The Guarneri will be presenting their
second performance of the complete
cycle of Beethovens string quartets
Let Them Know
How You Feel! !
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