Monday, September28, 1992
The Michigan Daily
A memorable monologue
Spalding Gray's latest monsters make an effectivefdm
yohn R. Rybo k
"Well now, I just wanted to begin
by clearing up the title, so you won't
spend any time thinking about what
it means. This is the box. This is the
Monster in it. It's a book I've been
working on for the past four years."
Thus begins Spalding Gray's
"Monster in a Box," which is the
Monster in a Box
Directed by Nick Broomfield; written
and performed by Spalding Gray
story of his efforts to write and to
procrastinate writing an autobio-
graphical novel titled "Impossible
Vacation." However, "Monster in a
Box" is not a conventional fihn, as it
follows Spalding on his adventures
throughout the world with casts and
crews in Nicaragua and Moscow. All
we see is Spalding Gray do what he
does best: talk.
"Monster in a Box" is similar to
Spalding Gray's previous cult hit,
"Swimming to Cambodia." What the
theater audience sees, as he puts it, is
"a raving, talking head - mine."
And while that may sound like see-
ing Dan Rather dropping acid, it
does, in fact, entertain and captivate.
Spalding Gray's film is adapted
from a monologue originally done
on stage. Throughout the film, Gray
appears behind a desk on stage.
Though an off-camera audience can
be heard, they never actually appear
on film. Gray occasionally looks at
the invisible spectators, but most of
the time, he addresses the filn audi-
ence by looking directly at it.
In the course of not writing his
book, Gray finds escapes in Los
Angeles, Nicaragua, and Moscow.
With his particular viewpoint and
storytelling talents, Spalding Gray
paints a vivid picture of all the
places, bizarre characters and emo-
tions he encounters. From depression
to panic, Spalding's neuroses carry
himself and the audience on an
emotional roller coaster which stops
and starts at a frantic pace.
The direction by Nick Broom-
field, whose previous credits include
award-winning documentaries, is
fairly straightforward. With the
exception of an occasional shot of
Gray's fidgeting hands, all he shows
is Gray's upper body. Cuts to other
camera angles are only done as the
monologue and its emotions demand
it. Broomfield never resorts to MTV-
style camera tricks, knowing that the
story is more important than the
The "Monster" monologue is ac-
companied by a wonderful score by
performance artist Laurie Anderson.
The music throughout has a sound
unique to Anderson, though it is fla-
vored by the part of the world the
monologue is talking about. Except
for two moments when the music
overwhelms the monologue, it fits
perfectly, intensifying the emotions
The mild-mannered Emerson String Quartet before their amazing conversion into a kick-ass quintet on Saturday.
Quartet reveals meaning in music
by Kirk Wetters _
In underlining one of the Emer-
son String Quartet's main precepts,
Lawrence Dutton, the group's violist
stressed in a recent interview, "We
try to get to the heart of what the
music is about ... We try to get to
the emotional aspect and try to pro-
September 26, 1992
ject a feeling to the audience of what
the composer is about."
In their concert Saturday, the
quartet achieved just that. The per-
formance of the Mozart's D major
quartet was graceful, with delicately
shaped notes and phrases. "When we
play Mozart," Dutton said, "we try
to consider early music performance
"There are certain groups that
may be more intellectual, but I think
that our quartet may have a more
emotional, energetic outlook on
music." This approach was evident
in the quartet's rendition of Dmitri
Shostako vich' s seventh string quar-
tet. Every emotion and mood of this
piece was ideally captured. From the
expectant, ambiguous atmosphere of
the opening movement through the
uneasy waltz of the closing Alle-
gretto, the Emersons never made a
"It's not a good program," Dutton
said, "unless it has something from
the twentieth century." Emerson has
proven its devotion to contemporary
repertoire in its concerts and
recordings. "We try to commission
contemporary pieces, new American
works," he said. "An unfamiliar
composition is like a puzzle. It's like
unwrapping a package with many
In addition, Dutton admitted that
complex contemporary works can
pose difficulties to chamber music
audiences. "Selling contemporary
music to audiences is a tough thing.
We're really in a time where audi-
ences don't want to be challenged
that much. But you've got to keep
challenging and educating audiences
and hopefully they will give con-
temporary music a chance."
In the second half of the concert,
the clarinetist David Shifrin joined
the quartet to perform the Brahms
Clarinet Quintet. "The quintet is a
very grown-up piece," Dutton re-
marked. "I remember the first time
playing it, maybe twelve years ago. I
don't think I got it at all. I don't
think I could begin to understand
how incredibly great it was."
Judging from his ensemble's
rendition of the piece, Mr. Dutton
possessed more than a grasp of "how
great it was." The ensemble was up
to every challenge this piece had to
offer. As in the Shostakovich, the
quartet unfailingly projected the
right mood in every passage. Mr.
Shifrin's full, clear tone was
matched by the quartet's rich, ex-
"We've seen a lot of growth in
chamber music in the United States,"
Dutton said. "We hope that young
people will find a way to come to
chamber music concerts. Even if
they don't know anything about the
music - if they've never heard a
Beethoven string quartet before -- if
they just come in, they can get into it
on many different levels. I'm
hopeful that audiences will continue
The Emerson String Quartet is
not only an example of the growth of
chamber music in America, but also
a cause and inspiration for future
growth. "We're starting to be
mentors for younger string quartets,"
Dutton said. As long as devoted mu-
sicians like the members of the
Emerson String Quartet continue to
prosper, the future of chamber music
will be bright.
The talents of Gray, Anderson,
and Broomfield blend together ef-
fectively. The audience is left
laughing, thinking, and feeling emo-
tionally drained, somehow having
been dragged through all the emo-
tions Gray goes through.
This film is a good way for all
those who missed Spalding Gray
when he was in Ann Arbor a year
and a half ago to catch up, or for
those who are simply interested in
seeing what makes a neurotic like
Spalding Gray tick.
MONSTER IN A BOX is playing at
the Michigan Theater.
I 71MIF PUMIA
Thinking of going to graduate school? Plan to attend...
Graduate School or Work Experience:
Which Comes First?
Monday, September 28
CP&P Program Room
Career Planning and Placement presents a panel featuring
successful professionals from a variety of fields who will
discuss the need and timing of graduate education.
A question and answer session will follow panelists' remarks
For all of you who (like us)
depend on the wonders of rush
tickets to get their culture, they've
changed the rules on us. The new
rush tickets for the University
Musical Society will be sold only
at the Michigan Union Ticket
Office and you'll have to show
student ID. You can only get two
tickets, but then again, they only
cost 50% of the lowest published
price plus $1. If you need any-
thing, they're open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday through Friday, and 9
a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Lost in space
Hullo! What's this? Apparently
Ann Arbor is one of the two
blessed cities in Michigan to
receive the brand new Science
Fiction Channel (51 on Columbia
Cable.) We heard at least 10
conversations on one North
Campus bus alone, and we have a
friend who's been going on about
"Dr. Who" for the entire weekend.
(Of course, he hasn't actually seen
it yet on the Sci Fi Channel, but
he'll be there at noon today.) He
also has a theory that the only
people who watch this channel are
people unable to find better things
to do (read: dates) with their
evenings. But we tend to be
If you've never been to Flint,
MI (and, we're sorry to say, we
have) make sure to catch Michael
Moore's "Roger and Me" and the
sequel "Pets or Meat." (The title is
from the sign on the lawn of a Flint
women who sells rabbits "for pets
or meat.") They're on PBS
(Channel 30 and 56) at 9 p.m.
tonight and, we've heard people
say, they're probably the most
insightful films ever produced
about this mid-Michigan city.
If you've ever dreamed of being behind the controls if you're cut out for it, we'll give you free civilian
of an airplane, this is your chance to find out what flight training, maybe even $100 a month cash while
it's really like. you're in school. And someday you could be flying
A Marine Corps pilot is coming to campus who a Harrier, Cobra or F/A-18.
can take you up for trial flights. Get a taste of what life is like
We're looking for a few at the top. The flight's on us.
college students who have the
brains and skill-as well asleta
the desire--to become Marine
pilots. 1r11 7rfm~bror77emria .
V BOOKSTORE PRESENTS THE , . M UM
The people listed below are winners, and should claim the prize at Ulrich's Bookstore during
business hours prior to Friday, October 30,1992.
Everyone Listed below has won a $10.00 Gift
Certificate to Ulrich'sBookstore:
Everyone Listed Below has won a $10.00 Gift
Certificate to Michigan WhereHouse Records:
Jesse Layman Michelle Suaevama nv'' l 'irkldI """""'IIaa
I- - . ._