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December 04, 1989 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-12-04

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E

Page 10 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 4, 1989

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INLsiVAUV

A

Comedy
Company goes
Bonzo
They came. They saw. They
cackled.
Under a spell of laughter cast by
tle witty humor of the Comedy
Company in Bedtime for Big Show,
audiences came away from the Men-
delssohn Theatre this past weekend
looking at the lighter side of life.
All of the sketches took regular
situations or ideas out of their usual
clay molds and shaped them into
slightly bizarre, Play-doh representa-
tions of life. The generation gap be-
tween father and son was satirically
depicted in "The Family Stone,"
with a Neanderthal-like father (Jon
March) and evolutionized son (Jason
Dilly) finally resolving their petty
differences after reminiscing about
The Flintstones lullaby.
And speaking of differences, back
in the '70s a heavy date was a far-out
and groovy one. But in "He Ain't
My Brother, He's Heavy," the pro-
verbial blind date turned into a hefty,
hefty, hefty experience with Blake
Robinson playing the literally dense
date.
Another twist of reality was
shown in "Coffee, Tea or Me(xico)"
in which plane hijackers Jon March
and Blake Robinson ended up taking
orders and threats from feisty pas-
sengers instead of giving them. How
many people do you know would
ask if there was going to be a movie
during a flight pirated by skyjackers?
Southern belle Susan Potok didn't
seem to mind. Of course, if the story
were in The National Enquirer, it
would contain three-headed aliens
who took over the plane and brought
it back to their planet, Alphazentron,
holding all passengers hostage until
President Bush traded them for
twinkies. In "Meet The Enquirers,"
BOOKS
Continued from page 9
sive. His main impulse towards
other human beings was to establish
a dominant relationship over them
- something that Wells fiercely re-
sisted."

an Enquirer reporter (Todd Callen)
and his family played off of the pa-
per's ridiculously sensationalistic
journalism as well as running into a
living and fully costumed Elvis (Jon
March).
One of the most creative skits
brought audiences into the fantasy
world of Bazooka bubblegum with
eye-patched Bazooka Joe (Matt Price)
and the gang. With "meaningful"
fortunes and crazy jokes, Joe and the
gang made the crowd burst their
bubbles with their hilarious chorus
of "Oh ho ho that Bazooka Joe!"
Complete with the fifth-dentist sur-
veyed and a Hubba Bubba showdown
of the biggest bubble, this skit, with
all nine cast members, brought out
each of their distinct comical talents.
And, how many times have you
wondered if milk really does a body
good? In the "Milk" sketch, similar
to the commercial, a young boy is
shown getting progressively older
but not necessarily taller or in better
form while talking to an image of
the perfect girl. In the end, he real-
izes milk not only doesn't get you
the girl but it makes you fat as hell.
Milk... it only shatters dreams.
Overall, Bedtime for Big Show
reeled audiences in hook, line, and
sinker with its absurd wit, satirical
vaudeville style, and creative writing
and directing. In between skits, the
audience showed humor of their own
with rousing choruses of theme
songs from The Brady Bunch,
Gilligan's Island, and The Addams
Family accompanied by piano and
banjo, maintaining the spirit of
laughter throughout the show.
-Ami Mehta
Present
Laughter
postscript
Love and lust among the upper

class with a case of mid-life crisis
tossed in for spurious loftiness.
With little digression from the
love/lust crisis, Noel Coward's Pre-
sent Laughter is a witty view of Bri-
tish actor Garry Essendine, a man
accused of ceaselessly acting, and his
retinue, consisting of his ex-wife,
producers, secretary, debutante one-
night fling, Swedish maid, Cockney
butler, producer/good friend's wife-
cum-one-night fling, and a crazed
admirer. Essendine's dealings with
the egocentric, greedy bunch leads to
a reunion between himself and his
independent yet watchful and loving
wife Liz.
The University Players, under the
direction of Philip Kerr, gave an en-
ergetic if somewhat remedial presen-
tation of Coward's play at the Power
Center this weekend. Unfortunately,
by reducing each character to one
broad clich6, Kerr has erroneously
washed the subtlety and subtext from
much of Coward's script. At times
when other characters believe
Essendine is acting, he isn't really,
but the audience never got to sense
Ian Knauer's Garry without his
masks.
Clad in stylish 1930s blazers and
robes, designed by John Gutoskey,
Knauer's performance had tremen-
dous enthusiasm, despite being mis-
guided at the end of the play. He was
quite adept at over-emoting to get rid
of a pouty Kristen Berhendt as
Daphne Shillington, the aforemen-
tioned deb, who had spent the night
in the spare room of Garry's studio
apartment, and at briskly fending off
advances by Patrick Beller's
overblown, love-struck writer,
Roland Maule.
But what is necessary is more
variation between the performing
Essendine and the relaxed, casual
Essendine. The last act, as Essendine
is pushed to the dreaking point by
Hugo and Morris, husband and lover

I
q

DAVID SMITH
Gary and Liz Essendine (Ian Knauer and Erica Heilman) live the good life in the University Productions
staging of Noel Coward's Present Laughter. Wit and sophistication reigned supreme, although some of
the performers were not up to the task.

respectively of Joanna (who also
seduced Essendine in the second act),
there needed to be a period of
uncontrived sincerity from which
Knauer could explode to throw his
most cutting and verbally abusive
punches without being falsely
melodramatic. Then, moments later,
when the two men tell the actor that
he will have to perform in a theatre
he abhors because they just
purchased it, Essendine should have
been leveled. This news should have
left Knauer writhing in the death
throws of a hunted animal rather
than simply posturing in another
over-acted bit.
Those actors whose characters
were more or less unidimensional by
Coward's design - secretary Monica
Reed, maid Erikson, and butler Fred
- worked best within Kerr's stag-
ing. As Monica, Lisa Mintz pre-
sented a perfectly timed, wry-hu-
mored depiction of Essendine's hard-
edged, no-nonsense secretary. Lines
like, "I'm not taking a moral view. I
gave that up years ago," in response
to Garry's implication that she is be-

ing too critical of his tete a tetes,
combined her brass tacks attitude
with a blend of sarcastic humor
which endowed the play with its
most entertaining moments. Missy
Hart and Ken Weitzman added to the
humor with their caricatures of the
chain-smoking, befuddled house-
keeper and the lively stepping, eye-
brow-raising butler. Weitzman and
Knauer have a delightful musical in-
terlude which opens the second act as
Knauer gently plays the onstage pi-
ano and Weitzman tangos virilely
with a serving tray.
Despite the musical diversion,
the first scene of the second act in
which Essendine is seduced by a
friend's wife left one flat. A misdi-
rected Joanna, played by Andrea Car-
nick, presented the Lorelei in a series
of misshapen rantings. Visually
Carnick is captivating in both a
black velvet gown with an open
back and a white traveling suit with
black Russian collar and millinery,
but her monotonous, over-empha-
sized accent reduced the dimensional
temptress, who plays numerous lit-

tle games before finally snaring
Essendine in her web, into a forced,
persistent nuisance.
Undeniably, Present Laughte#
was largely a show of pretty pica
tures. Gary Decker's elaborate one-
room, studio flat with its expansive
windows and cozy atmosphere wad
deftly lit by Tracy Eck (except for
the mirror-balled curtain call). Ms.
Eck's soft tones created both late
morning sun and interior evening
light to vividly complement cos-
tume designer John Gutoskey's ele-
gant period creations. Smartly
dressed British elite smoked, drank
posed, and quibbled their way across.
the footlights, although with only a
modicum of the true subtlety and so-
cial grace that Coward's play de-
manded. And a few performances
were lost in the affected British ac-,
cents (especially that of Patrick
Beller, whose bombastic, rural di
alect all but buried his best lines).:
But the play did have many humor-
ous moments, and the energy of the
cast made a commendable evening. '
-Jay Pekalaa
him business advice."
Still to come in this prodigioust
life are Heartbreak House and St
Joan; the 1925 Nobel Prize; Shaw'f
lifelong friendship with Lawrence oc'
Arabia; his visit to Hollywood ii
the '30s; and his admiration of Muse
solini and Stalin as strong leaders
Holroyd's final volume, The Lure of
Fantasy, is scheduled for publicatiorv
in 1991.
-Edward Karam

This Bernard Shaw, in fact, is
often arrogant, tactless and perverse.
His criticism'of World War I so en-
raged fellow writers that 53 of them,
including Wells, G. K. Chesterton,
and James M. Barrie, signed a decla-
ration supporting the war effort. As
Holroyd points out, it was Shaw's

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need "to feel up to his chin in what
was going on" that motivated him.
"He could not sit quietly at home
and continue with his peaceful work
as he advised others to do - he
would rather actively represent such
peace-desirous people."
Yet Holroyd makes clear that
Shaw, despite his shock tactics, did
have a tender side. When Barrie's
beloved godson was killed, the au-
thor of Peter Pan, "pushed a note
through the doors of Shaw's apart-
ment. When he read it, Shaw wept."
Shaw's writing also provides him
with power. After Stella, who played
Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, threw
him over for a young officer, George
Cornwallis-West, Shaw was deeply
hurt. His 1916 epilogue to the play
was a response to the audiences at
Pygmalion who believed that Eliza
and Higgins would get together
again. Shaw insisted that Eliza ran
off with Freddie Eynsford-Hill, con-
sciously mirroring Stella's situation.
In both cases the great intellect, Hol-
royd points out, had been rejected in

favor of "a double-barrelled nonentity
like George Cornwallis-West."
But the Pygmalion story comes
late in the book, and the theatrical
events in the first half of The Pur-
suit of Power lack sparkle. Holroyd
is thorough in most aspects of
Shaw's theater life, but he is often
dry. (Strangely, the death in 1905 of
actor-manager Sir Henry Irving,
Shaw's nemesis for 20 years, is
glossed over with a reference to
Shaw's "controversial obituary.")
Things pick up with Holroyd's sharp
analysis of Misalliance (1910), on
through Pygmalion.
One of Holroyd's strengths is the
panorama of Edwardian society he
gives us. Shaw knew everyone. He
meets the reclusive Strindberg. He
sits for a bust by Auguste Rodin in
Paris in 1908. During the Boer War
he clashes with Arthur Conan
Doyle. Almost as fascinating as the
Shaw-Wells rivalry is the series of
debates about socialism that Shaw
and Chesterton, author of the Father
Brown detective stories, carry on pe-
riodically between 1911 and 1927.
What's left? Women's suffrage,
rights of authors, war, peace, box-

ing, vivisection, vegetarianism, Irish
home rule - and the Shavian wit,
of course. On French playwright
Victorien Sardou: "Sardou's plan of
playwrighting is first to invent the
action of his piece, and then to care-
fully keep it off the stage and have it
announced merely by letters and
telegrams." Advising authors on
how to protect their works:
"Whenever a publisher gives me lit-
erary advice I take instant and
hideous revenge on him - I give

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