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September 11, 1986 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-09-11

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 11, 1986 - Page 8

'Angels Fall' is devilishly good

By Brian McCann
Community theater needs a
wham-bang opening show to set
the pace for the rest of its season
and Ann Arbor Civic Theater has
one. Their production of Lanford
Wilson's Angels Fall is a
heaven-sent undertaking, ex -
ceeding any of the limitations that
might be placed on a community
theater which dares to stage

Wilson's difficult character
study, much in the vein of his Hot
L Balitmore and "Talley"
The setting is a mission in
northern New Mexico where six
persons are confined to a church
after a nuclear accident. With
the comfort and guidance of a
priest, four travelers and an
Indian resident of the Navajo
mission await news of the local
disaster. The sextet includes a
famed art historian and his wife
en route to a care facility after his
nervous breakdown; a middle
aged widow and her latest
"project", a youthful tennis
player named Zappy; and the
local Indian doctor who is leaving
for fame and fortune in
Californian cancer research,
despite protests from the
priest.The result of this unlikely
melange is a search for a purpose,
with each character facing the
possibility of death at any
moment. Despite its title and
location, Angels Fall has little to
do with religion, and more with

personal quests. The play is
foremost a character study,
ensemble style, which asks not
only why do people act the way
they do, but how even brief
encounters can catalyze major
life decisions.
Burnette Staebler's strong di -
rection keeps the movement on
Gene Marcario's wonderfully
angular and confining set
flowing. She creates a microcosm
through the ensemble's portrayals
of Wilson's humanly comic
As the manic Niles Harris,
Robin Barlow is exquisitely Peter
O'Toole-esque in his portrayal
and provides one of the pro-
duction's highlights at the end of
the first act with a finely crafted
and timed monologue as he comes
to terms with his desperation. We
now pity him and his relationship
with his wife. Susan Morseth's
Vita brings sensitivity to the wife,
with a touch of Amanda from
Private Lives Alex Miller in his
portrayal of the Catholic priest
gives an energetic, if not bravura

performance, as the clergyman
who might be only looking out for
his own interests.
The highest honors of the
evening go to the secondary
couple, with Carol Sheldon's
funny yet desperate portrayal of
the widow who longs for the days
of yesteryear while rediscovering
her youth in her tennis heartthrob.
As Zappy, Christopher Spiro is the
ensemble's strongest member
bringing a fresh, youthful vigor to
a character who lives only for his
Rick Kukucka's Indian Don
relies a little too heavily on an
angry young man pout/slouch-
with-arms-folded school of act-
ing, but warms up to the glowing
performances around him in the
final minutes of the second act.
If the cast's intensity continues
through its weekend run at the
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater,
Angels Fall will be a good omen
for the rest of the Civic season: a
welcome sign that community
theater can have professional


The Fugue
Local artists The Fugue will be playing at the Blind Pig tonight. Pictured
above are (clockwise from bottom, left) Ron Carnell, Rob Schurgin, Eric
Buscella, and John Petrini. Showtime is set for 10 p.m.


at the
GIDEON SPIRO, Israeli Jewish Peace Activist
Sponsored By: The Ecumenical Campus Center, The International Center
and The New Jewish Agenda


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Bob Dylan-Knocked Out
Loaded (Columbia)
To all who expected Bob Dylan
to crest on the wave of his recent
rise back to prominence in the
rock scene with a heraldic work:

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well, the joke's on you.
It's not really as bad as it
seems, though. Knocked Out
Loaded emerges in such stark
contrast to the consistency of
1983's brilliant Infidels; one's
first reaction to it may be one of
disappointment, to call it an
inferior fluke. But those keen
enough to catch on with the off-
handed sneakiness of this new
record might just end up joining
in with Dylan on the last laugh.
This outing is one of little
coherence or purpose; only two of
it's eight songs were written
entirely by Dylan himself. The
balance consists of collaborations
and cover versions. The tracks
are scattershot in origin, recorded
at different studios by such a
staggering variety of musicians
(more than 50 by my reckoning)
that only one of them shows up on
more than two songs.
This sloppy approach almost
seems appropriate, given the
reckless eclecticism of Knocked
Out Loaded's selections, which
range from the scruffin' blues
stomp of Herman Parker Jr.'s
"You Wanna Ramble" to the
lackluster balladry of "Under
Your Spell," a song Dylan wrote
with (believe it of not) Burt
Bacharach's ex-partner, Carole
Bayer Sager.
Such a hodge-podge platter
might seem a clumsy, rushed
attempt at cranking out product.
In a way it is, but there's a catch.
The features of this album which
distinguish it from Dylan's more
accomplished work -- its almost
slipshod spontaneity and sneaky
sense of humor -- are the ones
which account for its hidden
pleasures. Dylan seems oblivious
to his reputation (as ever-
changing as it can be).
On "They Killed Him," his
attitude is at first unsurprising,
strident Christian testimony. But
he soon ushers into the chorus the
squeaky cries of a children's
choir to make sure that you
weren't taking him too seriously.
It's tongue-in-cheek idio -
syncracies like these that make
Knocked Out Loaded such a
confusing yet enjoyable record.
On "Driftin' too far from Shore,"
in a musical parody of concession
to dippy pop trends, Dylan piles on
the kitsch of zippy synths and the
cliched whomp of that cannon-in-
an-airplane-hangar drum
In the place of typical Dylan
insight comes the sheer kick of
his crafty, trademark wit. On the
11-minute story-song done with
playwright Sam Shepard,
"Brownsville Girl," Dylan tells
of a Texas rambler haunted by a
movie about which he can
remember nothing except how it
starred Gregory Peck.
"Got My Mind Made Up"is a
butt-kicking guitar rave-up


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