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February 21, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-02-21

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The Michigan Daily

Thursday, February 21, 1985

Page 5

This Torch is hot

By Chris Lauer
There are two extremes to theatre-
going: theatre as a place to go af-
ter dinner and a few drinks because it's
too early to go to bed and Dynasty was
preempted by a presidential speech,
and theatre as an emotional experience
for its own sake, all the more amazing
because it was consciously designed by
some masterful playwright. I won't
deny that both extremes can be fun,
but many shows do nothing but elicit
spells of tittering from an amused
audience, while opportunities for
theatre with real dramatic and comedic
punch - something that strikes at the
audience through their perfunctory tit-
ters, stuffy shirts, and clouds of per-.
fume - are all too rare. Enough -
let's talk opportunity. Torch
Song" Trilogy, Harvey Fierstein's 1983
Tony Award winning play, will be
staged for one night only at the
Michigan Theatre on Thursday
February 21 at8 p.m.
Torch Song Trilogy tells an
emotionally gripping and sharply funny
boy-meets-boy story of a homosexual
love affair. But, says P.J. Benjamin,
who plays the flamboyant lead charac-

ter, "the play is universal," with
relationships at issue, not
homosexuality. Noting the play's am-
bitious incorporation of a broad range
of emotions, Benjamin suggests, "It's
about love, understanding, and hope. I
feel like} I've gone through every
emotion there is up there (on stage)."
The Rocky Mountain News highly
praised Benjamin's performance,
calling Arnold "a lovable drag queen."
The Saint Louis Post Dispatch cleverly
suggests, "Arnold Beckoff is everyman
- and everywoman." universal, in-
The trilogy consists of three one-acts
which span about six years in Arnold's
life. The first act, entitled "The Inter-
national Stud", is set in a gay bar. The
second act, called "Fugue in a Nur-
sery",. takes place on a gigantic bed.
The final act, "Widows and Children
First", is apparently too long and com-
plicated for a previewer to understand,
but is said to carry the play, despite its
controversial content, to an optimistic,
even heartwarming conclusion.
Some theatres where Torch Song has
played, announced recommendations
of "for mature audiences only." Right

wing fundamentalists in Dallas
picketed the show, though playwright
Harvey Fierstein was given the keys to
the city anyway. Fierstein is also well
known as the author of the book for La
Cage lux Folles, in which he also han-
dles the subject of homosexuality with
great humor and a human touch. The
post-Dispatch asserts, "If you are
shocked at Torch Song Trilogy, it will
probably be by the emotions it calls up
in you."
If Torch Song Trilogy is a theatre ex-
perience for its own sake, then it is a
long one. The play lasts nearly four
hours. Each of the three segments was
originally a play performed alone.
Fierstein edited them himself for the
trilogy format. After playing suc-
cessfully to off-Broadway audiences,
the play made its Broadway premiere
in June of 1982. Fierstein himself
played the role of Arnold Beckoff, and
won Tony Awards for both Best Play
and Best Actor. The touring version of
the play is directed by Peter Pope, who
directed the original Broadway produc-
tion. Fierstein is currently at work
writing a screenplay adaptation.

Above sit all the cast members of 'Torch Song Trilogy.' They are seated upon a gigantic bed, the entire
stage for the second segment, "Fugue in a Nursery." The play is a highly acclaimed Tony Award-winner.

Evolution applies to every Pig

By Debbie Gesmundo
One of the lesser known (and more
commonly misunderstood) tenets of
Darwin's theory of natural selection is
that, as environmental forces change
over time, the characteristics which
have the greatest survival value will
not necessarily be those which were the
most valuable at an earlier age. In-
terestingly enough, this same principle
holds for capitalism, too, and is not
monopolized by species alone.
The Blind Pig has come to this
realization and, consequently, is now
existing in the second phase of a three
phase change. In the past, The Pig was
a tiny and quaint hideaway that cram-
med all of its goodies into a very small
amount of space. Bands played in the
basement amidst scattered tables and
crowded people, of which no more than
fifty were usually able to be ac-
comodated. The musicians played on a
small stage and the closest dance floor

was somewhere else down the streets of
Ann Arbor.
Upstairs, on the main level, patrons
could sip their cappucino and enjoy the
sounds that came up from the
basement. And, although the extensive
beer and wine list and late-night menu
were both offered (as has been the
tradition), space was hard to come by
and the only possible redemption was in
the form of a huge ballroom which was
connected, but never used!
While the above arrangements
satisfied the needs of that "era," a new
one has been ushered in, and The Blind
Pig has not lost a second's time in
responding with renovation to compen-
sate for it.
Today, the adjacent ballroom is open
for all to enjoy every day, and it
features a new and improved ap-
pearance. There exists a spacious dan-
ce-floor, a convenient bar, and a well-
placed stage for live entertainment.
The basement downstairs now features
a gameroom for video pilots and in-

cludes not just Ann Arbor's only shuf-
fleboard game, but also a pool table for
cue-happy sharks. In fact, the only
things that have not changed are the
cozy part of the main-level outside the
ballroom, the massive beer and wine
list, and the late-night menu.
Thanks to a recent exclusive booking
agreement with Prism Productions,
many of Ann Arbor's annual draws will
now be featured at The Pig. Essen-
tially, national acts will be giving con-
certs there (as they have already star-
ted doing), and music connaisseurs will
now be keeping in close touch with the
Pig agenda.
A third phase is yet to come into its
operation, although all the planning has
already been done to insure its eventual
implementation. The secret: expansion
to an adjacent building that will yield
not only a larger dance floor, but will
cause the present one to be converted
into a balcony, once a wall has been
knocked out!
The new Pig has thus far successfully

adapted to its new environment, yet has
not lost any of its old flavor or charac-
ter. Says Prism president Tom
Stachler, "The Pig is now the only place
downtown to eat, drink, and dance six
nights a week. I'm sure that it will soon
become the area's most popular night-

Roomful of Blues, a Rhode Island based R&B band, will be playing jump
blues tonight at Rick's. Count Basie called them "the hottest white blues
band I've ever heard."

Labeque sisters nearly perfect on piano

By Neil Galan ter

M Y GOSH... look at those sisters'
fingers'fy! Listen to that sound!
What volume! What intensity! What
spirit! ; What verve! and.. what an at-
mosphere that duo-pianists Katia and
Marielle Labeque created as they
played a two-piano recital at Rackham
Auditorium on Sunday afternoon.
Walking on stage, each sister to a
Steinway grand in dove-tailed position,
-they commenced at 4 p.m. with the
Variations on a Theme by Haydn of
Johannes Brahms. Katia and Marielle
produced a rich and resonant tone, full
bodied and with an amazing sense of
- vigor and drive, which was well suited
k to many poinTs in the Brahms. There
are also some lyrical precious moments
in these variations in addition to the
grandios expansions of the original
choral melody. It is here that the
Labeque Sisters did not fully take ad-
vantage of these areas, as much as they
took advantage of the noble stately
ones. Grazioso, molto dolce (meaning
"very sweetly") the score says,
- however, their full intensification
seemed to overthrow these ideas a bit
too much. Summarywise, their Brah-
ms was definitely royal in quality and
this opening number set the stage for
what was to be an afternoon of true
musical fun combined with some piano
theatrics from the pair as well.
Percussion is the next item on the list,
for the Stravinsky Concerto for Two
Pianos has a great deal of that in it.
The sisters were perhaps at one of their
most effective points in the Stravinsky,
because the piece is best suited to their
,percussive tendencies. Effective,
however, is an understatement. The
duo handled all the technical mon-
strocities in the score with a com-
bination of ease and vehemence, and
the spikiness of Stravinsky's melodic
structure was extremely well put along
with a marvelous amount of zest and
humor. The last movement, a prelude
and a fugue, was interwoven so
K skillfullv. that it sounded more a niano

"solo" to one's ear. Dynamic contrast
between piano and forte was much
more effective here, whereas in the
Brahms they just didn't get ever soft
enough, because of their initial ex-
cessive statement of "forte".
What next? After an intermission
and a chance to cool off a bit, the sisters
showed their capabilities in a more low-
keyed setting. The scene was a piano
duet (one piano-4 hands), and the selec-
tion was Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose
Suite. Decisively French and heartily
impressionistic, this small set of
childrens' pieces gave the Labeques a
chance to elaborate on their French
heritage. Their elaboration was ac-
tually quite impressive as the sisters
created many velvety and crystalline
impressions in their reading. Some of
the many impressionistic chords could
have been milked a bit more here and
there, along with that allowance for
getting softer and softer again, but still
the phenomenal high caliber of their
"oneness" in ensemble playing at the
instrument more than made up for the
The effect of a piano duet was a
pleasant scenario change and Marielle
commented to me after the performan-
ce that they enjoy playing piano duets a
great deal. For one, she said it was
easier to practice a one-piano duet
repertoire while they are on tour,
because having two pianos tuned and
readily available all the time is not
always 100 percent possible. So, since
they are usually guaranteed at least
one instrument, they are able to

rehearse their duet material. "We will
be starting a new piano duet soon:
Bizet's Juex d'Enfants and I am very
excited about that. It's a marvelous set
of pieces and I just love them," she told
Programmatically, the finale of the
day was a performance of Gershwin's
American in Paris. Hardly
unrecognizeable, the collection of tunes
in this piece are the perfect hum, tap,
and sing combination for anyone's en-
joyment. From the Labeque's excited-
ness in their performance it is hard to
imagine that they are anything but
totally enamored with the work. I can
appreciate their love for the piece, but
their interpretation seemed excessively
bombastic. They just didn't seem to be
able to relax often enough with the
music to really soak up and bathe in all
the fleeting, breezy, relaxed jazz
melodies that Gershwin so brilliantly
spun out of his pen. Gershwin's music
certainly has a certain level of intensity
to it, as does any other composer's
music, but the Labeques drove at An
American in Paris more as if it were
"Stravinsky's Concerto for Two Pianos
in Paris." They were at home in terms
of percussion in the Stravinsky, but not
at all in the Gershwin.
As I said, that was the finale
programmatically, but... it still wasn't
over yet. More fun ahead! We were
treated to two relatively short encores,
one being a very jazzy combination of
Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and
"Maple Leaf Rag," which everyone
loves and adores. Well, their perfor-

mance here had everything: flash,
sparkle, ease, and consummate savvy.
Katia really gets into the jazz aspect,
her foot happily stomping away, which
in classical performance can detract
from the music, but here it added one
heck of a chunk of character to the at-
mosphere. 'To knot things up, and
finally send the evening off with a real
bang, we then got a tiny itty-bitty Polka
by Adolpho Berio, the grandfather of
Luciano Berio, a very well known 20th
century contemporary composer.
Played at one piano (duet again) the
sisters made their final statement.
They love making music and find both
seriousness and humor in it. For
humor: Katia crosses her legs as she
plays in one spot in the polka. But, in
any instance, the Labeques easily
proved themselves to be top-notch en-

semble players, playing their grand
pianos in such a way that it almost
becomes one gigantic 176 keyed black
tool. And. . they use their tool with a
wealth of enthusiasm and character.
Shyness, stress, poor memory, or bad
habits, fear of exams, etc. will be elim-
inated with the LEON HARDT METHOD, founded in Ger-
many in 1932. Send $1 cash or stamps for brochure:
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