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March 09, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-03-09

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Saturday, March 9, 1985

Page 5

Beckett one-acts mystify

By Chris Lauer
EVIEWING a performance of Samuel Beckett's
L work is like reviewing Beckett himself. Besides
the fact that he is so specific as to stage directions
and insistent as to minimalism of the set, Beckett's
approach to theatre is so starkly unconventional and
so characteristic of himself that he overshadows all
other aspects of the production. It seems the duty of
the director and cast simply to avoid muddling
Beckett's personal greatness and the sublime sub-
tleties of his plays.
Four by Beckett, a series of one-acts now playing at
the Performance Network; though not as emotionally
striking as I believe Beckett intended, seems a con-
scientious implementation of Beckett's boldly
unusual conceptions. "Conscientious" is a key word,
because whether Beckett comes across as a sublime
genius, craftily meaningless, or worse, just plain
pretentiously silly, all depends on how closely the
director follows Beckett's stage directions and how
carefully he fills in the gaps. Director David Hun-
sberger seems to know Beckett, and follows the con-
volutions of Beckett's subtle, oftentimes periodic,
dramatic ploys with a consistency and suppleness
that manifests on the almost bare stage a whole
jungle of dramatic tensions and developments for the
- willing and able theatre-goer to explore. "Able" is
another key word; Beckett is more than a little baf-
fling (in the existential sense, of course) and don't
look through the program for any help.
Act Without Words II, the first of the one-acts,
begins with two white bags on stage., After being
prompted by a pointer from off-stage, one character
emerges from his-slash-her bag, proceeds through
what appears to be a "daily routine" (quotes
meaning it was not indicated whether the scene was
even on our planet), and returns to its bag; then the
other character, an opposite to the first, steps forth
from the other bag (again prompted by pointer jabs),
goes through its "daily routine", and returns to its
bag-implying an alternating, pointer-prompted

cycle between the two characters. The periodicity of
contrast might seem like a sine wave to the
mathematically inclined.
Leana Yefimov and Karen Jorgensen play their
very different roles with a confidence and consisten-
cy that sharply defines Beckett's intended contrast.
The first character, whose dialogue consists entirely
of signs, suggests lethargy, chaos within the self, and
general disgust with existence, while the second
creates an effect of bold self-generated order and
almost gymnast-like vigor. Though the respective
"daily routines", which progress to a meaningless
peak and then digress back through the same actions
in reverse order, are both intricately structured, the
particular actions proceeded through are in some .
sense opposites. The first character sighs profusely,
while the other finds constant need to confer with a
watch. Prayer followed by pill-taking for one is sup-
planted by exercise for the other. So much of the ac-
tion is performed looking straight out from center
stage-the expressions of disgust and the vigorous
hair combing for example-that it seemed the
characters were looking into an imaginary mirror. I
strongly felt that the characters were expressing
themselves just to see themselves doing something;
both were part self-indulgent and part pathetic.
What Where, the second one-act, seems an ap-
propriate companion to Act Without Words II. In each
case Beckett focuses on particular aspects of theatre
to the exclusion of others. Although the characters in
What Where do speak, their hooded robes, movemen-
ts limited to shuffling walks, and the dark lighting,
obscure facial and bodily expression in favor of the
play's intricate structure and stage blocking. One
sequence consists entirely, of the actors shuffling
around, entering and exiting the stage in
progressively complex patterns. The supporting
dialogue is bare but strikingly elliptical. What Where

is well staged; it had the consistency required of
anything with a repeating structure, and seemed free
of any spurious introduction of silly pretentiousness.
That's always a potential problem with hooded robes.
The third one-act had no characters. The lights
came up to a huge pile of garbage on the stage. Over a
loudspeaker one could hear a baby crying, followed
by the sound of someone exhaling. The lights go
down. The lights come up. Repeat. More repetition.
The lights go down. THE END. Interestingly enough,
the piece is called Breath. Apparently, the garbage
on the floor has been "exhaled" and possibly the on-
off sequence of lighting parallels the inhale-exhale of
respiration. I don't know. What about the crying?.
Was the baby also "exhaled"?? This piece definitely
wasn't a romance, and was too short to be an epic. A
plot summary is anyone's guess.
Krapp's Last Tape, the final one-act of the evening,
was the longest and most substantive of the four.
Krapp, the title character, is an old man who has lost
the sharpness of his youth and who, after listening to
a diary-like recording of himself from thirty years
before, sets about on another taping session. David
Bernstein as Krapp, now just a pathetic drivel-head,
is excellent. I felt at times however, Bernstein let his
character drift-a little overacting when reacting to
the youth-made recordings, sometimes too sprightly
for the age of his character, and definitely not enough
shakiness and other symptoms of old age-but I'm
only mentioning this because I think the subtlety of
Beckett's work calls for impeccable characterization
and consistency.
The recordings themselves were well made and ef-
fectively used. Krapp's eruptions of pathetic
squealing contrasted markedly with his youthful con-
fident, booming laughter.
Four by Beckett will be playing at the Performance
Network March 7-10 and 14-17. Shows start at 8 p.m.

Leana Yefimov in Act Without Words II from 'Four By Beckett' at the Per-
formance Network.

Kodo thrills Power audience

By Dennis Harvey

O NE DOESN'T know quite what to
expect from a concert by Kodo, the
Japanese performance art group who
played at the Power Center Wednesday
night. The curiosity of their history and
lifestyle is daunting enough: the mem-
bers came together out of an apparent
dissatisfaction with urban life about ten
years ago, settling on the island of Sado
where their regimen includes running
12 to 24 miles per day. They made their
startling U.S. debut by performing im-
mediately after running the Boston
Marathon.
But what do they do? The press
materials are perhaps necessarily
vague, emphasizing instead how
amazing and exhausting they are at
whatever it is they do. So...one sits, an-
ticipation bouncing between dance con-
cert, music concert, nationalistic
culture-exchange spectacle. Then the
usual please-no-photos-or-recording-
during performance announcement has
attached to it a solemn statement about
our being able to find out in the lobby.
how we can help support Kodo Village
on Sado and the vision it symbolizes.
Ominous rumblings of cuddly inter-
national brotherhood are added to the
tension: will this be a more tasteful
purist-traditional Japanese version of

the Up With People message? God for-
bid.
Once the performance starts, of cour-
se, it doesn't matter that one still can't
quite describe what Kodo does, because
it is amazing. Kodo is a dance troupe, a
musical troupe, and a dose of bracing
exoticism; they are, however, hardly
sermonistic, though one could say that
they perform in and transmit to the
audience a state of religious intensity.
The word Kodo means both "hear-
tbeat" and "children of the drum," and
the central emphasis of the presen-
tation is percussive, using the
traditional 'taiko' drums in ways varied
and expressive enough to justify the
program's query: "What happens to
our bodies as we confront the drums?
What do we cause to happen within your
bodies? What do you cause to happen
within ours? This performance can be
thought of as an experiment in com-
munication beyond words." The effect
is an unusually visceral attachment
between artists and audience that star-
ts from the first piece, "Monochrome,"
which starts out with the tiniest of en-
semble tapping on small drums and
gradually rises to huge, complex,
sometimes fugue-like waves of sound.
The notion of an all-percussive
evening (which this wasn't, in any
case) sounds potentially wearying, but
Kodo's pieces-on various drums (in-
cluding a huge 880-pounder), a gong,

cymbals and a bell-like object-ran a
wide range of sound, calling up
reference points as . disparate as
Burundi tribal music, the simple syn-
copation of military drum corps, and
the organized cacophony of 20th-
century percussive composers like
Varese. My knowledge of Japanese
traditional music is scarce, but the use
of a Caribbean steel drum on one
exquisitely lyrical piece, "Hae," makes
it clear that Kodo feels free to employ
any and all international influences
despite their attention to Japanese
traditions. The intricately fingered,
almost rock-folk styled playing of the
guitar-like shamisen, the sweet
qualities of the bamboo 'quena' and
'shinobue' flutes, and the rich choral
sound of Kodo's own voices on the work
songs "Okiage" and "Sakayauta" ex-
panded the troupe's musical grasp well
beyond even the mesmeric 'heartbeats'
of the taido.
Of course, by now you probably think,
all you missed was a bunch of Japanese
guys sitting around making music.
Oh, no. The drumming sections
became dance pieces simply because
the movements of the players were so
:strikingly controlled' and unified;
these bodies are at times nearly con-
vulsed with energy both held in and ex-
pended. It's often hard to discern which
is more dizzying, the drumming patter-
ns themselves or the patterns of

physical movement they cause. There
were two formal traditional dances: the
duet "Torimai," in which "a hen and a
rooster dance together and pray for fer-
tility and a new life;" and the eerily
beautiful solo "Nishimonai," which had
the company's sole female member
slowly traversing the width of the stage
with delicate, almost undulating
movements, her face entirely obscured
by a large straw hat. "Chajudida,"
probably the audience favorite of the
evening, is: a comic mask dance
mocking a famous Japanese painting,
with all members portraying various
animals inexorably drawn toward a
single drum. Revealing the remarkable
expressiveness of -the Kodo troupe as
character dancers, this piece would
more than pass muster in any modern-
dance repetoire. Like most of the
musical pieces, its structure was too in-
tricate to fully grasp at a first - ex-
posure-- a sort of visual polyphony was
created-but it was never too busy for
comfort.
No second of transition was wasted,
no stage or acoustic space left unused
during the performance; if Kodo was a
film, they'd certainly be in Dolby
sound, with a wraparound screen.
Perhaps the best thing one can say
about Kodo is that even after seeing
them, their art remains stubbornly,
blissfully indescribable.

Folk standouts return to Ark

Daily Photo by KATE O'LEARY
An energetic UB40 played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Michigan
Theatre Wednesday night for an evening of fabulous reggae fun.
R eggae muic

By Paula Dohring

D ID ASTRO incite the crowd or
did the crowd incite Astro? It
doesn't matter-it was easy to gauge
the mood of the audience at Wed-
nesday's UB40 concert by focusing
on the dreadlocked singer.
The sell-out audience wasn't even
seated when the band opened with
numbers from their latest album
Geffery Morgan. As the audience
stood and often self-consciously
swayed to the music, UB40 members
seemed underwhelmed with their
welcome. They simply sang and
played and avoided the dancing and
band interactions that were so ob-
vious and welcomed in their later
numbers.
Calling upon their crowd to show
some enthusiasm, UB40 played
many of their older songs, including
the. "real" reggae from Labour of

Wine" with cheers of recognition. As
Astro's movements and enthusiasm
gained momentum so did the
crowd's until, by the end of the con-
cert, there was clear affection bet-
ween Astro and his audience.
The show closed on a high note
with the crowd unwilling to letnthe
band leave. UB40 responded to the
strongest cheers of the evening by
returning to play fan-favorite
"Cherry Oh Baby".
The band seemed pleased with the
crowd's reactions to their perfor-
mance. Eric Falconer, UB40's bass
player, was delighted with the com-
parison between this year's show
and the one at the Second Chance
last spring.
He went on to say that the band
had no regrets about being "just" a
reggae band to Americans, as had
been claimed. "We are a reggae
band, and we don't want to be regar-
ded as anything else," he said after

By Dennis Harvey
SUSPICION was high at last month's
Folk Festival at Hill Auditorium
when Tom Rush had barely played a
song or two before genially abandoning
us to leave his basically unknown
sidemen; David Buskin and Robin Bat-
teau, behind for a solo mini-set.
The evening had already been
dashing along like a Reader's Digest
Condensed Book of Folk-just time
enough for each performer to warm up,
then whoosh, they were saying goodbye
as if the old vaudeville hook was ap-
proaching. Given Rush's charm and the
relative rarity of his appearance, his
ditching us in order to promote a couple,
of comparative nobodies was, well,
risky. There was, fittingly, a much
larger-than-usual exodus to the
bathrooms.
But the majority who stayed behind

stopped snarling fast, because Buskin
and Batteau, who are making their
debut at the Ark tonight with two
shows, immediately ingratiated them-
selves with some amiably silly audien-
ce patter and then with one of the per-
verse highlights of the whole Festival
evening, a'tango-paced theme song for
a never-to-exist projected musical ver-
sion of Thomas Mann's novella classic
of angst, Death in Venice. The priceless
lines have faded from memory, but the
tune and the near-genius-level absur-
dity of the idea remain. Buskin and Bat-
teau proceeded to do a wistful ballad
that, perhaps as a result of their having
set such a strong comic tone, seemed a
bit too blatantly sentimental to take
seriously; but the feeling of being in the
presence of unfamiliar but major folk
talents lingered.
Both Buskin and Batteau have been
established within folk circles for some
years, having released two solo albums

each and two more as members of the
band Pierce Arrow. Both play guitar,
with Buskin doubling on piano and Bat-
teau on mandolin and violin as well.
What started out as a lark, playing a
duo gig while part of Pierce Arrow,
quickly met with success from both
responsive audiences and appreciative
listeners elsewhere in the music scene,
many of whom-including Anne
Murray, The Oak Ridge Boys, Tracy
Nelson, Jennifer Warnes and Peter,
Paul and Mary-have already recorded
Buskin/Batteau-penned songs.
Lately the upswing has continued via
their association with Tom Rush, whose

knack for "discovering" great
songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Jackson
Browne and James Taylor is legen-
dary. Their own debut album is in the
works, although the duo are primarily
interested in establishing themselves
as a live act. This shouldn't be difficult
given rumours that they often employ
"Volare" as a singalong encore.
Solid songwriters and blessed with a
bone-dry sense of humor, Buskin and
Batteau are definitely rising stars
within the folk scene. The Ark show
tonight will be at 7:30 and 9:30; tickets,
at $8.50, are available at Schoolkids'
Records and at the door.

A_
SAT. & SUN. FIRST SHOW ONLY $2.00
$1 800 with this entire ad $1.00 off any
$4.00admission.t1 or 2 tickets.
OFF ~ Good al features thru 3/1 4/85

0 " 0

MSA postpones decision

d- .. .

! 0 0 a

0

(Continued from Page 1)
proven that withholding the infor-
mation best serves the public interest.
MSA President Sentt Pace said the

that it is in the University community's
best interests that this report be
discussed and debated in an open man-
ner. The more student reaction and in-
nut the htter thevelaim.

"THE HEART OF THE FILM IS THE PERFORMANCE OF RICHARD BURTON"
-'Newsweek
JOHN RICHARD
HURT BURTON
GEORGE
ORWELL'S 'Y

10

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