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November 25, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-11-25

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'The Michigan Daily Monday, November 25, 1991 Page 5

Family's freaks
aren't so funny
4 The Addams
dir. Barry Sonnenfeld

by Gabriel Feldberg

Life of Eyes author
Hurston chronicled
by Jessie Hallyday
Spunk, spirit, courage and energy are words Elizabeth Van Dyke uses to
describe the prolific Black American author she portrays in the National
Black Touring Circuit's biographical production of Zora Neale Ifurston.
The show, which lasts for about an hour and 20 minutes, spans 30 years
of Hurston's life. It chronicles her achievements as an author, an anthro-
pologist and a woman, detailing her triumphs as well as her defeats.
"Viewers should expect a lesson in Black American history and some
innovative and unique and beautiful acting," says Woodie King Jr., pro-
Hurston rose from poverty to become an influential and ground-break-
ing author of the the 1920s and '30s. She wrote several novels and short
stories; her most famous work is Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston
was often referred to as the "Queen of the Harlem Renaissance," but her
career was ruined after she was falsely accused of sodomizing a young boy.
"She was a person who danced to the music she heard no matter what,"
says Van Dyke, who has played the part of Hurston for the past two years.
Co-starring with Van Dyke is Joseph Edwards, who plays the four male
characters presented in the show. Edwards' characters range from
Hurston's mentor, Dr. Alain Locke, to author Richard Wright. One man
was chosen to play the only other characters in the show, so that the focus
would remain on Hurston. The men depicted represent all of the men in her
The show, written by Laurence Holder and directed by Wynn Handman,
premiered at the American Plays, an off-Broadway theater in New York. It
was there that King first saw the show and decided to produce the play, so
that the historical significance and vivacity of Hurston's life could reach a
wider audience.
"The goal of the play is to tell, in a theatrical way, the major signifi-
cance of a major Black American writer," says King. "I thought it could be
interesting if the show could reach a larger audience."
The National Black Touring Circuit Inc. is a nonprofit theater that takes
professional theater, music and dance to cities across the country. The orga-
nization is sponsoring the first showing of Zora Neale Ilurston at the
During its two year run, the show has received an enthusiastic response.
Van Dyke attributes these reactions to the energy that Hurston's life ex-
empl ified.
"It's very rewarding to have your work received in such a way," says
Van Dyke. "But I don't take credit for it, and I hope I can live up to that en-
ZORA NEALE IIURSTON will be performed tonight only, at 8 p.m. in the
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Tickets are $16.50, $12.50 for students and

If you're curious about what the
movie version of The Addams Fam-
ily is like, just imagine what would
have happened if the bar scene in Star
Wars never ended. Freak after freak
parades across the screen, for no rea-
son better than because Paramount
gave the movie a big enough make-up
The film is all vignettes and ve-
hies for jokes that make you go
"yuck!"; there's not much of a story
line at all. Gomez (Raul Julia) and
Uncle Fester had a falling out 25
years ago, and the Addams' have re-
gretted it ever since. When an iden-
tical imposter (Christopher Lloyd)
poses as Fester'in order to get at the
Addams' vault, the family wel-
comes him back, and the look-a-like
comes to love the family. That's it.
There's not much more.
The good part of The Addams
Family is its cast. Julia isn't the

Fester (Christopher Lloyd) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) are shocked to hear Hammer's spooky, ooky, 2 Legit 2
Quit version of The Addams Family theme song pervading the soundtrack of their film.

bug-eyed, goofy Gomez of the tele-
vision series; he's smooth, elegant
and terrifically light on his feet.
With her pallid skin and slinky so-
phistication, Anjelica Huston cap-
tures all of Morticia's graceful,
deathly essence. Both of these actors
are upstaged, however, by the lesser
known Christina Ricci, who played
Winona Ryder's little sister in
Mermaids. As the morbidly dead-
pan Wednesday, she's the only actor
who never forces anything, allow-
ing all the viciousness of the jokes
to come through.
Unfortunately, the script does
not equal the actors who read it.
Watching the movie is like listening
to third graders tell grosser-than-
gross jokes for nearly two hours.
Eating snakes and reading books

about scabs in a feature length film
isn't much funnier than hearing
booger jokes on the back of the
school bus. Some of the humor is
too intellectualized to work, such
as the Siamese twins named Flora
and Fauna, or the Alcatraz pennant
pinned to the wall of Fester's room.
In its most bland moments, The
Addams Family sinks to the comic
style of The Muppet Movie.
At its bottom, The Addams
Family is an ambiance picture along
the lines of Dick Tracy. It's not
surprising that the film's director,
Barry Sonnenfeld, started as a
stylish cinematographer (Raising
Arizona, Miller's Crossing). The
colors in the movie, even the rainy
grays, are beautifully photographed.
Ruth Meyer's costumes are lavish

and original. The scenery and the
props are filled with great details;
they look like they were pulled
right out of one of Edward Gorey's
The essential problem with this
dressy exterior is that there's not
much behind it. The picture is a
loosely structured excuse to crack a
string of jokes about the Addams
family. Perhaps the screenwriters,
Caroline Thompson and Larry Wil-
son, should have dropped all preten-
sions of a story line and made the
film nothing but quick slices of
Family life. Then the cheap plot
checkpoints that pull the movie to-
ward its unconvincing wrap-up
could have been avoided altogether.
Maybe the best design for the
See OOKY, Page 8

* Weekend in review
Eerie Lather washes blues back into your
hair; MUSKET Evita works like a prayer

Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Dance Building - Studio A
November 23, 1991
I thought idealism was reserved
for student artists. How could
University Music School students
- who play violin, belt out show
tunes, recite soliloquies or
choreograph modern dance pieces -
get through their four years here
unless they denied the cruelty and
heartlessness of the world that
awaited them? It seems that it
would be practically essential to
ignore the rotten stuff of the "real
world" in order to retain the joy in
the art.
The four dance school seniors
who presented their thesis concert
this weekend were keenly aware of
the world and all its evils. Rather
than shutting that world out
through their art, they seemed to
open the windows of their perfor-
mance space and invite it in.
Modern dance is certainly one of
the most intellectual forms of
dance; it can be a painful, distorted
and angry expression of the real.
With every self-created jerk of a
flexed foot or fluttering of a finger,
there is an accompanying emotion or
thought. I
All four of the dancers' presen-
tations were politically charged and
decidedly bleak, and with names like
"Moan" and "Descent into the
Maelstrom," they threatened to be
melodramatic. Largely, however,
the dancers' anger was manipulated
with sepsitive restraint.
The result was an emotionally
heavy show indeed, but a very effec-
tive one. They treated subjects such
as urban alienation, ignorance and
intolerance with sophistication,
skilled execution and slick technical
A physical theme pervaded the
evening: agitated ticks, sudden con-
tractions, strong movement. Ericka
Frederick's self-choreographed ab-
stract solo, "Moan," began the
*M, tilt "F~

evening with a feast of quirky con-
tortions and a dynamic tension that
never waned. A simple, short piece
performed in purple pajamas,
Frederick's face and body expressed
a gamut of emotions. Her positions,
affixed at the back of the stage, kept
the audience alienated from her
eerily lit form, as she flowed grace-
fully from twisted awkwardness to
long, clean lines.
The group pieces took
Frederick's theme of turmoil and
expanded it to astounding heights.
Amy Drum's "Trespass With Care"
presented four dancers in an intri-
cate web of leaps and zig-zag
movements to the frenzied record-
ing of car honks. The dancers' indi-
vidual movements were as detailed
as their interactions with each other.
The piece was a slick, sophisticated
This quality was similarly ex-
hibited in the group pieces by Fred-
erick and Matthew Rose. Freder-
ick's "Carriers" displayed a sensual
quintet of women against a fuzzy
video backdrop that was used spar-
ingly, avoiding the usual overkill
.that technical accompaniment often
ensures. Four of the black-clad
dancers sometimes alienated the
fifth, while at other times, they
worked in unison, supporting each
other with complex partnering. A
haunting vision of all five sinking
to the floor in a silent scream left a
lasting and disturbing impression.
Rose's "Descent Into The Mael-
strom" was perhaps the most dis-
turbing of the social commentaries
- a highly polished depiction of
Mad Max-inspired personae
wrapped in a game of sexual ap-
proaches and rebuffs set to eerie
electronic music under very, very
eerie black spotlighting.

Drum's solo, "Needle in the
Haystack" (wonderful choreogra-
phy by Janet Lilly), began and ended
with her cynical rendition of "Okie
from Muskogee" - a soulful voice
that sandwiched an angry dance set
to Southern men laughing and fart-
ing. Rebecca Shubart's interpreta-
tion of Jessica Fogel's "School of
Ives" was dramatic and beautiful -
a properly eerie (yet again) picture
of alienation within the
establishment, though Shubart's
dance lacked the dynamic build-up
that Frederick and Drum seem to
have mastered.
Even Rose's solo, a sweet, ballet-
inspired romp, had a note of cyni-
cism. A self-mocking jab at the aris-
tocratic grace inherent in a Chopin
piano nocturne ("Nocturne" -
wittily choreographed by Peter
Sparling), Rose danced with preci-
sion and just the right balance be-
tween camp and true artistry.
Sure, it was a heavy, heavy night.
But it was also a redeeming experi-
ence in dance. Not many choreogra-
phers, whether they're seasoned or
beginning, can pull off these serious
themes without spilling over into
melodrama, but these talented stu-
dents did.
-Elizabeth Lenhard
Power Center
November 22, 1991

This weekend, the power and in-
tensity of Eva Peron's story illumi-
nated the Power Center stage.
Evita is essentially the story of
Eva Duarte (Ellen Hoffman), a
young woman starved for attention.
Her "cold and hungry ambition,"
which an early lover, Magaldi
(Marc Kessler), foresees as her
doom, drives Duarte to the top.
Even from those early days as a
simple tango dancer, Evita power-
fully projects her undying desire to
become somebody important among
the people of Argentina. As she
tosses a variety of useful gentlemen
aside, she not only rises to the top,
but seems to become a spokesperson
for the people - loved and adored
by the masses.
Although she remains despised
by the aristocracy and military,
Evita's marriage to Juan Peron keeps
her dynamic personality atop the
political games. As an icon, she con-
tinues to mesmerize the bourgeois
populous until, after deciding to run
for vice president, she unexpectedly
falls ill.
Needless to say, the dynamic
lifetime of Eva Peron was a chal-
lenge to convey in a two-hour per-
formance, but this production pulls
it off, with Hoffman captivating
See EViTA, Page 8

Elizabeth Van Dyke stars in Zora Neale Hurston, the National Black
Touring Circuit's version of the life of the great feminist author.

In case you need a reminder
that you are indeed aging like the
rest of humanity, CBS is present-
ing a 90-minute special on the
now-classic M*A*S*H series,
Memories of M*A*S*H. (De-
troit, Channel 2, 9:30 p.m.)

Hosted by Shelley "Whatever
happened to...?" Long, the nostal-
gia fest will feature interviews,
news clips and outtakes.


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