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November 02, 1992 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-11-02

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Page 8-The Michigan Daily- Monday, November 2,1992

'Julianus': we've seen it all before
by Laura Alantas
There it was: the cynicism that
people feel in association with our
government. There they were: the
same-old, same-old jokes concern-
ing the ability (or lack thereof) ofpfao
public officials and the common :
critiques of our materialistic soci-
ety. So why wasn't the
Performance Network's "Julianus"
memorable ? Probably because
we've heard it all before.
Al Sjoerdsma's "Julianus" de-
picted the rise and fall of Emperor -

Mime Marcel Marceau, despite our stong convictions with regard to mimes in general, put on a good show.
Master 1C mmmakesm agic

Performance Network
October 29. 1992
Didius Julianus (Andy Lindstrom.)
His rise occurred after buying the
Roman Empire at a state-wide
auction where "EZ financing" was
available. His fall resulted from
the people's disgust with his using
money to buy a public position,
his making promises that he
couldn't keep, and his being to-
tally ineffectual.
Julianus' inaction could be at-
tributed to the great power of the
Imperial Guard, lead by Gaius
(Matthew L. Weber). These are
the people, dressed in what looked
like DPS uniforms, who killed the
two previous Emperors and then
decided to make a profit by selling
the Empire to the highest bidder.
Weber shined as the cynical
guardsman without a conscious.
His performance was energetic
and blissfully wicked.
In fact, all of the actors' perfor-
mances were wonderful. Lind-

by Valerie Shuman
"You're going to see a what?"
Most of the people I told about the Marcel Marceau
mime show seemed surprised that I was excited about
going to see someone play a solo game of charades for
two hours. But Marceau has taken a simple game and
raised it to an art form. The stage Friday night was alive
with people, animals, and even a statue, all created out
of thin air by one man on a bare stage with almost no
One of the best examples of this was the pantomime
called "The Trial." It was introduced, as were all of the
acts, by an elaborately dressed mime who posed silently
with an unfurled banner just long enough for Marceau
to change costume. The stage darkened and relit on
Marceau, who then proceeded to enact the trial of a
murderous mugger, complete with doddering judge,
cowering prisoner and two quarrelsome lawyers. The
prosecution, an egotistic dandy, told the story of the
mugging, while the aged defense unsuccessfully at-
tempted to win the judge's sympathies by explaining
that the defendant was a poor man with many mouths to
Marcel Marceau
Power Center
October 30, 1992
feed. The judge didn't buy it though, and the murderer
was promptly hanged. Marceau signalled a character
switch just by pivoting on one foot - and totally
changing demeanor.
In the second half, Marceat performed a sequence of
pantomimes as Bip, a pathetic clown. The most enter-
taining of these was "Bip with a Traveling Circus," in
which Bip nearly falls off the tightrope, contends with
uncooperative tigers who refuse to jump through his
hoop (which magically rolls on stage to meet his out-
stretched hand) and accidentally kills the woman with
the apple on her head as a knife thrower. In disgrace,
Bip ends up stuck outside taking tickets.
Both of these ended on a depressing note, a theme

which ran through the entire evening's performance. In
"The Bird-Keeper," the second pantomime in the first
half, Marceau chases down and releases all the birds in
his large cage (including one who didn't want to leave
and had to be chucked out the window), only to find
himself trapped in the cage and sprouting feathers in the
end. He skitters madly around the cage, testing each
bar, but soon grows wings and is left flapping sadly in
an eerie blue light, to the accompaniment of wierd elec-
tronic music. "Pygmalion," "The Hands," and the final
mime, "Bip as Soldier" were also frighteningly grim.
On the other hand, things that should have been
downbeat, weren't. I winced when I saw the banner for
"Bip Commits Suicide," but it turned out to be hysteri-
cal, as Bip tremblingly shot the gun the wrong way, was
appalled by the smell of gas, and completely bungled
hanging and poisoning himself. In the end, he took a
second look at the picture of the woman who dissed him
and decided she wasn't all that pretty anyway, so he
tore it up and left.
The most impressive aspect of the performance was
Marceau's complete control. Every motion, no matter
how contorted, was planned and smooth. "Pygmalion,"
the only duet, was a magical, slow-motion ballet, with
him chasing and finally killing his statue in a dream,
and then being strangled by her when she actually does
come alive the next morning. The comic scenes were
amazing as well: his hand turned into a paint tube in
"The Painter," with his thumb the undulating stream of
paint; his face alternated between a happy mask and a
sad one in the blink of an eye in the "The Mask Maker";
and his whole body seemed to enlarge to be the swag-
gering Goliath one moment, and shrink to the tiny,
flute-tootling David in the next during "Bip Plays David
and Goliath."
I would have preferred not to end the evening with
Bip being bombed and then dying by machine gun, but
taken as a whole, the show balanced tragedy with com-
edy quite well. Judicious use of spotlights and various
snatches of music and twittering birds were all Marceau
needed to set scene after scene, and his silent stories
were a marvel of solo artistry.

Those folk at the Performance Network are just one big happy family.

strom's Julianus started the show
by appearing driven and idealistic,
but he soon developed into a gen-
tle bystander of his own fate. His
wife Didia (Julie Vorus) also
transformed throughout the show.
Vorus convincingly regressed
from a realistic housewife into a
materialistic follower of
whichever man was in power. The
ghost of the former Emperor,
Publius Pertinax (Troy D. Sill),
added delightful humor that
helped balance the weight of the
drama and themes depicted.
This brought us to the message
of the show. Sjoerdsma's script
dealt with many topics popular in
this election season: the qualifica-
tions of our representatives, the
manner in which they come to
power, and the actions that they
undertake once in office. The cen-
tral theme, though, commented on
the effects of having a ruler who
had bought his political position
(sound familiar?).
Although worthy topics to be

examined, Sjoerdsma uses a heavy
hand when dealing with them and
the audience seemed to be
pounded over the head with these
ideas. Again and again there were
statements like, "You have experi-
ence and intelligence. No one
wants that in government any-
more." Two and a half hours of
such comments became tedious.
. Sjoerdsma's comments on
popular culture, though, were a
direct hit, primarily the adverse
effects of materialism on society.
The perfect example of this is
Didia's conversion from hating
her husband's job as Emperor to
loving it; such a change of heart
only required the purchase of a
few hundred shoes. This love of
everything materialistic accurately
reflected certain components of
our society.
Unfortunately, this social com-
mentary was overtly displayed in
front of us. It would have been
more effective had it been strongly
suggested, rather than obviously


Comedians blow up the Smurfs

by Melissa Rose Bernardo
What if life were like a musical?
Comedy Company tackled this and
other questions in "Beach Blanket
Big Show." They did it with enthu-
siasm, eccentricity, and fresh-ness.
Sketches ranged from spoofs on
the University to TV rewrites.
Comedy Company also updated the
Smurfs. There's a new smurf in the
village - it's Jaded Smurf! She's
rude, crude, obnoxious, and a chain
smoker. She single-handedly man-
ages to blow up the whole village,
and promptly thereafter she skips off
with a triumphant, "la la la la la Ia la
Ia fuckin' Ia."
The actor who stole the show
was, by far, Brandon Whitesell.
Among the characters he portrayed
were a haughty Hamlet, the debonair
"G.Q." scheduler at E-Z CRISP, and
the jubilant Jokey Smurf. He was at

his "peak," so to speak, as Stallion, a
frustrated young man in search of
cheap late-night thrills. Hoping to al-
leviate his desires, he calls "Nifty
Doctor Thrifty," a discount phone
Comedy Company
Mendelssohn Theater
October 31, 1992
sex hotline.:Picture Whitesell's char-
acter literally on the verge of explo-
sion, writhing and gyrating, repeat-
edly invoking the name of "the
hottest woman he knows," - Roxy
(the director of the show) -
screaming into the phone "come on
you long-distance cock tease!"
Other bright spots were Sean
Donovan as "Joke Dissector Man," a

"pseudo-intellectual" windbag seek-
mng societal approval by explaining
every joke he hears; Lauren
Schwartz, a little girl frightened by
the impending threat of monsters
and chainsaw killers who prevent
her from sleeping, while clutching a
teddy bear and screaming for daddy.
"Name This Band" provided more
than adequate musical interludes be-
tween skits, with their renditions of
the Violent Femmes, Van Morrison,
and the "Sesame Street" theme.
Despite a few skits with unclean
endings and lines lost through laugh-
ter, Comedy Company put on one
intense evening of comedy. As for
what life would be like if it were a
musical, Comedy Company con-
cluded that it would be "wacky,
simple, meaningless," and generally
"stupid." Sort of what life wouldbe
without comedy.

Continued from page 5
we noticed, the performances were
decent enough, but we were dis-
tracted by six rug-rats sitting in front
of us who seemed more interested in
tossing the longest-flying paper air-
plane/program than sitting down and
being cultured on the sly. Members
of the University Philharmonic and
University Symphony Orchestra
were conducted in the first piece, an

excerpt from Berlioz' "Symphonie
Fantastique," by an "invisible" con-
ductor, while the pages of the score
mysteriously turned (well, not so
mysteriously - we figured out that
bending over and picking up and
pulling a chunk of wood is not tradi-
tional violinist behavior.) But it's the
spirit that counts (or so they say) and
we liked it.
Other spooky classics followed,
from Saint-Saens' "Dance Macabre"
to Liszt's "Mephisto Waltz." (Did

you know that Satan had green hair?)
Andrew Lloyd Webber also reared
his ugly head (the program described
him as "not dead, but dying") with
some crowd-pleasin' "Phantom" ex-
cerpts. We have to keep telling our-
selves that Webber's great contribu-
tion to modern music is making
people listen to Bach's famous Toc-
cata and Fugue. Unfortunately, some
poor souls left the- concert thinking
that Webber wrote it. Alas.
Our favorites, however, were
Humperdick's "Prayer, Dream Pan-
tomime, and Witch's Ride" from
"Hansel and Gretel" and Bizet's
prelude to "Carmen." Hansel and
Gretel (David Tang and Claire Lev-
acher) tag-team directed the orches-
tra while pursued by a real-live,

singing witch (Michelle Weger),,
galavanting about the stage, even, if
you can believe it, riding a broom.
"Carmen," subtitled "Too Many
Bullfighters, Not Enough Bulls (or
maybe too much bull)" presented
four toreadors simutaneously direct-
ing and bullfighting, eventually pro-
voking the entire orchestra to a
pseudo-charge at their red capes.
The program closed with Pro-
kofiev's brilliant march from "The
Love for Three Oranges," appropri-
ately transmogrified into "Three
Pumpkins" for the occasion. But did
the audience really have to clap
along'? Come on, we know this was-
n't the Vienna Philharmonic, but Mr.
Rogers does the classics? Please.

Continued from page 5
monopoly on sensitivity. But each
actor proved their character to be
worthy of sympathy and concern, as
Although Chloe faltered in main-
taining her consistency as an extro-
verted character, specifically when
she quieted down in order to display
genuine concern (as in talking about,
her husband's illness and infidelity),
these instances were quite seldom
and short-lived. This blemish was
sometimes true of the actor playing
her husband John (Nipper Knapp),
as well, whose shifts from the macho
self-confident to the self-critical
persona were sometimes unnecessar-
ily abrupt.
In this four-person production it
was easy for a single character to
dominate and fragment the perfor-
mance. These gifted actors, however,


managed to interrelate -so that the
desperately differing individuals
they brought to life united for
protection, support., and love, despite
all the obstacles.
One major defect was the method
of dimmed lighting to trigger certain
characters to verbalize thoughts.
When both couples were on stage
none of the actors remained in the
spotlight. So, the audience scoped
the porch. Sometimes, the lights
didn't change as a character would
go into their deep thoughts, or did
they? I'm still not sure:
But°it's the experimental, laid
back atmosphere and the unexagger-
ated efforts of the cast and director
that gave this Basement Production
its charm. Through laughter and
tears the play touched on death and
birth, disease, acceptance, and rela-
tionships. The audience appeared to
be involved and genuinely touched
by the performance. Definitely a
treat, Halloween or not.

Call for candidates
for LS&A Student Government
President * Vice President * Representatives
Pick up candidacy forms at LSA-SG office


Michigan Union 4003

Due by Friday, Nov. 6 at 2:00 pm

3-5 P.M.


(n1 TUP

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