Page 10 -The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 30, 1990
Going by the book
Brecht Company faithfully reproduces Romeo
by Jay Pekala
IF a Shakespeare company performs a Brecht play or
even Guys and Dolls or Les Miserables, no one
seems to mind. But when Ann Arbor's Brecht
Company announces they're doing Shakespeare's
Rcmeo and Juliet, that's unusual. But Company
Producing Director Bob Brown, who directed Romeo
and Juliet, assures that the group's latest production
faithfully follows Shakespeare's text.
Aspects of the Romeo text are surprisingly similar
to techniques Brecht used in his own play structure.
The chorus at the beginning of the play, for example,
summarizes the whole play in a 14-line sonnet before
the actors walk on stage. Anyone who doesn't already
know the story of the "pair of star-crossed lovers (who)
take their life" and thereby "bury their parents' strife" is
told what happens. All of the suspense is removed, and
the audience will inevitably focus more attention on
the depiction of the societies in which the two feuding
households of Verona exist.
Brecht was actually a strong advocate of the
classical repertoire. What he objected to was the
Victorian spectacles that sacrificed the classical texts to
visual extravagance. He believed that redoing works
gave the plays a new historical perspective. The plays
are able to convey insight into our contemporary lives
even though they are hundreds of years old. Brecht
himself wrote versions of Coriolanus and Measure for
lie also wrote hypothetical scenes for Romeo and
Juliet and Hamlet which were to be inserted into the
existing scripts and used during the rehearsal process.
These scenes were basically extrapolations of the story
that informed and expressed the characters with a more
political and social bent.
The two scenes written for Romeo and Juliet relate
the title characters to their upbringing. In one, Romeo
gets money to purchase gifts for Juliet by selling a
family servant's land from underneath him. In the
other, Juliet forces a household maid to abandon her
lover in order to create a diversion while Juliet and
Romeo are on the balcony. In both cases, the jaded
youths are much more than mere romantic souls; they
are products of privilege.
Brecht's additions, though, only help to point out
what Shakespeare's play already does. It depicts a larger
social picture of which Romeo and Juliet are only a
small portion. Capulet and Paris arrange Juliet's mar-
riage to which she is expected to submit willingly, the
Friar marries Romeo and Juliet hoping to do good, the
Prince (the ruler of Verona) constantly fails to keep
order in the city, etcetera.
As director, Brown says he wanted to bring out the
ongoing eruptive violence that characterizes Romeo's
Verona. He didn't set out to create a Brechtian adapta-
tion of Shakespeare but, by simply following the text,
created similarities that are perhaps staggering.
ROMEO AND JULIET opens tonight at the Resi-
dential College Auditorium and runs March 30-April
14: Thurs.-Sat. 8pm and Sun. 1pm. Tickets are $9-$12,
call 668-8397 to order by phone.
Daniel Stern, Patrick Demp
Coupe de Ville
dir. Joe Roth
by Wendy Shanker
I can picture screenwrite
laughing themselves silly arou
ner table each year when th
Story." Somehow, I doubt th
between that family tale and th
became Coupe de Ville, even d
Patrick Dempsey, Arye Gre
tray the three brothers who ar
father (Alan Arkin) to drive a C
Florida for their mother'
(Loverboy, Can't Buy Me L
young rebel seeking acceptanc
Gross (Soul Man), as the midd'
life with his college girlfrien
between baby Bobby and th
played militantly by Daniel St
Unlike movies with a them
and self-discovery, Coupe deV
to make a right hand turn tow
or hang a left to laughter, like
One source of constant l
Arkin's hilarious performarn
sey and Arye Gross took a wrong turn. Wrong movie, guys.
grouchy, unemotional father who's life advice to his *
sons is, "Don't screw up!" Yet Arkin has a believable
soft side, something that the actors who play his sons
don't quite manage to convey.
As much as Coupe revolves around relationships be-
r Mike Binder's family tween the brothers, the father's road trip idea is the cata-
nd the Thanksgiving din- lyst that brings them together. I couldn't help but think
iey retell "The Cadillac that if Fred had been a better father this expedition
ere are many similarities among the three sibling strangers wouldn't have been
e script Binder wrote that necessary.
though he claims this is a Marvin, Buddy and Bobby are part of the generation
that was the calm before the storm of Vietnam. The
oss and Daniel Stern por- music - early '60s dance tunes - includes "Louie
e commissioned by their Louie" (which inspires a huge debate over whether it is
Cadillac from Michigan to a dance song, a hump song or a sea chantey), "The
s birthday. Dempsey Wanderer" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On."
Love) plays Bobby, the Coupe's claim to fame is that the love renaissance
e from his older brothers. between the brothers, along with the trials and tribula-
le son Buddy, dreams of a tions that follow them as they travel south on the inter-'
d. He acts as peacemaker state, really happened. It is too much of an adventure
e oldest brother Marvin, and has too much silliness to be a successful imitation '
ern (Leviathan). of reality and its heartfelt emotion isn't compelling
ne of cross-country travel enough to make it a family drama.
Ville can't decide whether Let's put it this way: If you want to see a great
ard drama, like Rainman, movie about people in a car, go see Driving Miss .
Midnight Run. Daisy. Coupe de Ville is headed directly to the video
anhter in this movie is junkyard.
Continued from page 8
And, on the subject of guitar groups
fronted by women: the Sundays are
better than the Primitives or the Dar-
ling Buds. If they're given the same
"push" that Rough Trade gave the
Smiths, they could be as big as
Blondie. Their songs are just meant
to be sung in kitchens and on buses.
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
is a very English record; with its
almost Victorian title and the re-
straint of its plangent music, it's.
akiii to a fine china ornament on the
mantelpiece - beautiful but fragile.
Mast of the songs deal in a specifi-
cally British way with being trapped
in a humdrum existence, and yearn-
ing to escape the confines of home,
family and class into a space where
individual identity can be formed.
The lyrics are double-edged; escape is
never fully realized, but the simple
urge and effort to overcome circum-
stance is welcomed. As for love, the
Sundays echo the tender pathos of
the Shirelles or the Shangri-Las:
love is always too awkward and ill-
fated to reach complete fruition in a
Lyrical twists and Harriet's
strange enunciation mean that there's
enough irony and self-deprecation on
the record to assuage those
(misguided) listeners annoyed by
Morrissey's tragicomic narcissism.
On the brilliant "Here's Where the
Story Ends," Harriet delivers the
cynical lament: "I never should have
said that the books you read were all
I loved you for." Lines that touch
the heartstrings of every bibliophile,
"Sticks and stones may break my
bones/ But words will just finish me
off," goes the refrain in "Hideous
Towns," a song dealing with provin-
cial mentalities. The beautifully ach-
ing and lush "You're Not the Only
One I Know" (very Smithsonian ti-
tle) includes the word "lavatory" and
is about is as rude as Harriet gets on
the LP. "What's so wrong about
talking aloud when I'm on the lava-
tory," she inquires quite reasonably.
In "My Finest Hour," Harriet con-
fesses that her finest hour was find-
ing a pound on the (London) Under-
ace as Fred Libner, the
COUPE DE VILLE closed last night.
ground, and goes on to address her
prospective lover: "I keep hoping
you're the same as me/ And I'll send
you letters and come home to your
house for tea." Very English, indeed.
Of course, the incredibly wise and
wonderful "Can't Be Sure" had to be
included here. Ironic, resigned, but
still desperately romantic, the song
has the feel of one of Jacques Brel's
morose yet darkly comic gems.
"Live for a job and the perfect be-
hind," relates Harriet, and then sums
up the nation perfectly: "England my
Distinguished Lecture Series
DR. REGINALD JONES
"Psycology and African Americans:
the Decade Ahead"
Wednesday, April 4, 4:00 p.m.
1270 Business Administration Bldg.
Reception immediately following the lecture
BANNER DAY CAMP
This series is sponsored by the Center for Afroamerican and
African Studies, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and the
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
June 18-August 10
Excellent Wages-Call Collect (708) 295-4900
Director-Dean Earl Coleman
Friday, March 30, 1990
Tickets-$3.00 Students, Seniors
$5.00 General Admission
at School of Music offices 9-5
or at the door.
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country, the home of the free/ Such
miserable weather/ But England's as
happy as England can be/ Why cry."
The chorus of "Can't Be Sure"
captures the essence of Reading,
Writing and Arithmetic; Harriet -
opines, "Did you know desire's a ter- ;
3 rible thing/ The worst that I could
jfind/ And did you know desire's a
terrible thing! ButI rely onmine." - ,
-Nabeel Zuber :
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