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December 11, 1990 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-12-11

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ARTS

-............

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

Tuesday, December 11, 1990

A cutting Hedges: growing guitar

Theater review
Tartuffe provides
hilarious effects

by Michael Paul Fischer
It was about three years ago, I
vividly remember, when "New Age"
guitarist Michael Hedges suddenly
ot his hair cut.
A crew cut.
Whoops!
At the time of the Daily's
preview for his last Ann Arbor con-
cert in early 1988, the only photo
we had of the 36-year-old virtuoso
displayed the waist-length hippie
braids which he had sported all the
way up to the time of the cover of
Live from the Double Planet., the
* 87 concert album he was then
romoting.
"I did it not as a fashion
statement," explained Hedges a few
weeks ago, "but as a way of looking
at myself differently." (That was a
day before he fell ill and had to post-
pone the Oct. 19 Power Center gig
that was rescheduled for tonight.)
'Why," asked Hedges rhetorically,
"does a monk shave his head?"
'ell," he continued, "there's a spe-
cIal path that he has given for him-
sblf- as was mine."
Don't bring a road map (or a
chord chart) tonight - Hedges is on
new trajectory again... and this
p he's been wearing a hat (?) in
e latest promo shots.
All braids considered, Hedges
npver really did fit the New Age
jireotype of fabled Windham Hill
rds, where he did nine years and
spl> solo acoustic guitar albums
alongside sedate labelmates like pi-
ahoman George Winston. He did in-
dped, granted, engage in similar
noments of placid acoustic reverie
-, particularly on his richly tonal
1981 debut album Breakfast in the
11ld. And he even recorded a holi-
album (Santabear's First
kristm as, with actor Kelly
1Gillis).
But if any misbegotten granola
eiotopias still lingered among the
inds of those at Hedges'
spectacular Michigan Theater concert
black in '88, they were surely shorn
down to size by this truly manic
figure; Hedges burst onstage wearing
silky, red embroidered jacket, black
' lits and cowboy boots, his buzz-
cAt' head a-flailing - and blazed
proimptly into a furious version of
The Who's "Pinball Wizard"
Aside from perhaps U2's The
Eyre and the Police's Andy
Suimers, Hedges is the guitarist re-
sJXnsible for the most innovative
s pature style developed in the
1ยง0's. It's an ambidextrous, multi-
extured synthesis of simultaneous
Wythm/lead picking, punctuated by
trademark flashes of harmonics, and

My Life Go By, established the
Oklahoman as a singer and
songwriter of richly poetic depth.
And because about 50 percent of his
current-live show consists of vocals,
Hedges said it will be a more accu-
rate representation of his current sta-
tus, too. Tonight's solo performance
- in addition to a short suite of
songs from Taproot, some old fa-
vorites, and his ever-unpredictable
cover versions (look for new num-
bers by The Who and Hendrix, plus
a new arrangement of Sheila E.'s "A
Love Bizarre") - will feature songs
from the 12 new vocals earmarked
for Hedges' next album project.
It appears to be a record that will
bring Hedges' considerable talents
further into the realm of con-
ventional pop songwriting than ever
before. While Hedges said he felt
urged at this point to release the in-
strumental music which became
Taproot, he calls it a "transitory"
album - because most of the five-
year studio gap since Watching was
consumed by the building of a home
studio that will give Hedges total
control of that next, vocal-oriented
record. Aside from all that touring
and the recording of Taproot itself,
Hedges was amassing an arsenal of
six synthesizers, "several" bass and
electric guitars, and a full drum set
- plus various whistles and flutes.
He's also started his own label,
Taproot Records, and the first signee
is a former music professor named
E.J. Ulrich, who plays radical
arrangements of familiar Christmas
carols. And as the toy-soldier-like
flutes and drums of "The First Cut-
ting" and the sentiment of
Breakfast's "Baby Toes" might also
lead listeners to guess, Hedges indeed
harbors an interest in recording a
children's' album. "I've got two kids
now," Hedges reckons, "so I guess
I'd better record some stuff for
them."
But the busy father does plan to
take a real vacation after this tour,
so pay close attention tonight -
before the next layover begins.
And what about the hair? "I don't
have a crew cut anymore," Hedges
said. "But this summer I did shave
my head again and now I look
different yet."

by Janie Dahimann
Tartuffe, produced by the Uni-
versity Players last weekend, was
a production full of pageantry,
from the entrance of a great white
dog in the first act to the rolling
out of a red carpet in the second.
The courageous comedy, stunning
costumes and charming character-
ization left the audience
"Tartuffified."
The story centers around Or-
gon, an average upper middle
class family man who creates
chaos in his family when he in-
vites the hypocritical "holy" man
Tartuffe into their household. Or-
gon's wife, maid, son and daugh-
ter see through Tartuffe's trans-
parent piety to the sexually-per-
verse con-man that schemes to
dupe them all. Comic farce sur-
faces as each family member, us-
ing their unique personality traits,
desperately tries to convince Or-
gon of his naivetd.
Through the use of ominous
music at the mention of
Tartuffe's name, and a cracked-
open door to Tartuffe's hideaway
streaming with white light, direc-
tor Philip Kerr managed to pique
the audience's curiosity about the
hidden-away Tartuffe in the first
part of the play. Although these
special effects added importance
and intrigue to Tartuffe's charac-
ter, they couldn't compare to the
delightful effect Tartuffe had when
he finally appeared in the flesh.
Jonathon Hammond's perfor-
mance as Tartuffe was a delight to
watch because he enjoyed himself
so thoroughly on stage. The play
didn't really gain momentum un-
til Tartuffe made his entrance.
Whether rinsing his mouth out
with holy water, hamming it up
on the harpsichord or placing his
finger furtively in the cleavage of
his host's wife, Elmire (Andrea
Carnick), Hammond performed
with energy and intensity. Cer-
tainly his orgasmic interlude with
a prayer bench in an attempt to
seduce Elmire left a lasting smirk
on the faces of audience members.
Ken Weitzman's portrayal of
Damis, the constantly adrenalin-
buzzed, id-driven, violence-mon-
ger of a son, was a tour de force
as he threw himself into the cari-
cature of the role without hesita-
tion. One could always see the
winding frustration inside his
head, lurking underneath the

mildest of movements.
Richard Perloff's portrayal of
the naive, Orgon, on the other
hand, lacked Weitzman's depth.
He constantly wavered between
acting the straight man in the
midst of slap-stick foolery and
breaking into comedic shtick
himself. When Orgon returns to
his household after a short trip he
asks maid Dorine to fill him in
on the gossip of the house that
he'd missed. Dorine goes into
long accounts of how sick Elmire
has been, but all Orgon wants to
her of is Tartuffe.
Here, where there seems great
potential for Perloff to ham it up,
his inquiries are matter of fact.
Later, when attempting to con-
vince his daughter Mariane to
marry Tartuffe, he doesn't hesitate
to fool and play with Dorine and
extend his characterization. Per-
haps the ironic comedy of Or-
gon's role would have been
heightened had Perloff committed
himself to one interpretation or
the other.
One of the greatest touches of
the play surfaces when Elmire and
Orgon move a table with grace
and ease - a subtle but cunning
comment by Kerr on the strength
of the women in Tartuffe.. An-
drea Carnick's portrayal of the
poised, intelligent Elmire never
faltered. She remained gracefully
strong whether in the midst of
shunning sexual advances made
by Tartuffe or attempting to un-
dermine his devious plots by car-
rying out her own. Furthermore,
the feminist tirades and insightful
advice from maid Dorine strung
the show together.
Elizabeth Richmond was
charming as the maid, coyly try-
ing to put people in their proper
place. When giving words of wis-
dom to the lovesick daughter
Mariane, she seemed to be orating
an ERA speech. It was fun to
watch the speech conclude with a
female bonding ritual a Ia 1664.
No high-fives or handshakes here,
just glorious bustle bumping.
Richmond's use of a "ditzy" char-
acter voice, however, didn't seem
to fit the moxy and depth of
Dorine and , unfortunately, it was
difficult to take all her speeches
seriously because of it.
While the sexual romps and
farce of this production were a joy
to watch, when thinking about
See TARTUFFE, Page 8

In what will likely prove to be another obsolete promo shot, mercurial
steel-string guitar virtuoso Michael Hedges shows his less flamboyant
persona. He doffs his cap tonight at the Power Center.

assayed with percussive timing. One
critic has described him as "a rock
'n' roll refugee with a touch of
flamenco." Hedges told the 1988
Michigan crowd, ineffably, that he
could only categorize his music as
"heavy mental." But Hedges play-
ing, nevertheless, has always bal-
anced virtuosity with subtle emo-
tions.
Taproot, Hedges' first studio
album in five years, veers to the
latter quality in a way that again
stands all expectations on end. In re-
leasing this "autobiographical myth
told in music" - a contemplative
13-song instrumental cycle ripe with
easy-going arrangements and botani-
cal allegory - Hedges has done no
less than offer the ultimate New Age
album. Shifting the emphasis from
his frenetic guitar technique to in-
struments like flutes and whistles,
arpeggiated synth, drums, fusiony
electric guitar, and some clarinet,
Hedges creates specialized sonic pic-
tures to evoke a set of characters

from his life. The characters are
symbolized with names like "The
Jade Stalk," "The Spirit Farmer" and
"The First Cutting" (that one is
Hedges' son Mischa).
Guitar fanatics are likely to
bemoan the absence of riffs. But
Taproot, ultimately, focuses
Hedges' evocative talents to offer his
most poignant, touching moments
to date. And given patience, even the
potentially goofy concept proves a
unlikely success. Hedges' already
unparalleled palette has broadened
remarkably, and he now applies his
talents not so much to dazzle as to
create human pictures out of music.
The final piece, an adaptation of
e.e. cummings' "I Carry Your
Heart," brilliantly encapsulates the
album's sentiment - through the
vehicle, on this occasion, of Hedges'
handsome voice. That voice is an
instrument which is becoming more
and more a primary element of
Hedges' art.
His 1985 vocal album, Watching

4k

3I

e

MICHAEL HEDGES performs
tonight at 8 p.m. in the Power
Center; $16.50 tickets (sans service
charge) are available at
TicketMaster outlets.

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