Page 4-The Michigan Daily -Weekend etc. - December 3,1992
All's Wells that ends Wells
An evil deed a day
keeps death away
by Laura Alantas
Welcome to the Era of Her Maj-
esty Queen Victoria. The Era of the
(moderately) successful "Wells" The-
ater. Make the acquaintance of the
eccentric Theatrical Folk, including
the celebrated thespian Rose
'Trelawny. Learn of her Predicament
- which keeps her from marrying into
the noble Gower Family during an
evening of spectacular Drama, Com-
edy and Romance.
The University Department of
Theater and Drama's production of
Arthur Wing Pinero's "Trelawny of
the 'Wells"'will carry its audience to
England's grand days of the early
1860s. Complete with elaborate cos-
tumes and a detailed Victorian set,
guest director John Neville-Andrews
promises to recreate the mood and the
values of the era while telling the
story of actor Rose Trelawny and her
decision to leave the theater.
"It's not a romance, a comedy or a
drama. It's all of them. It's every-
thing," said Stephanie Fybel, a Musi-
cal Theater junior starring in the lead
role of Rose Trelawny. "This is a very
rich play. It's like a diamond, it's
multifaceted and has a real vitality,"
Much of the vitality originates in
the Victorian setting. "From the mo-
ment when the audience enters the
Power Center, we have tried to im-
merse the audience in the atmosphere
of the 1860s with the costumes, set
and program," said Neville-Andrews.
"We want to transport the audience
back to the values of that time."
During this period, acting was not
considered a noble profession. Ac-
tors were looked upon as gypsies and
vagabonds, among the lowest mem-
bers of society. Thus we find the di-
lemma of Rose Trelawny, an ingenue
in the "Wells" theater company. Rose
has fallen in love with Arthur Gower
(Aaron Tishkowski), son of noble-
man Sir William Gower (Erich
Jungwirth). Because of Rose's asso-
ciation with the "Wells" theater, the
Gower family does not approve of the
matrimonial match and will only agree
to the marriage if Rose renounces her
theatrical life and lives with the fam-
ily prior to the wedding. By residing
with the Gower. family, they hope to
make a "lady" out of Rose, and a
suitable match for Arthur.
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Stephanie Fybel and Anthony Giangrande in "Trelawny of the 'Wells."'
by Melissa R. Bernardo
Within the past ten years,
American society has become very
caught up in the spectacle of the-
ater. Look at the biggest hits -
"The Phantom of the Opera,"
"Cats," "Les Miserables," "Miss
Saigon"; all shows involving
grand sets and costumes, flashy
pyrotechnics, and sappy music
composed to tug at the heart
strings. If none, of these shows
appeal to your taste (or yourpock-
etbook), take a trip back to Victo-
rian England foran escapist, light-
hearted comic opera: The Univer-
sity of Michigan Gilbert and
Sullivan Society's (UMGASS)
production of "Ruddigore."
"Ruddigore" chronicles the
line of the Baronets of Ruddigore,
who have been cursed by a witch.
"Each reigning Baron must do an
evil deed each day or else die a
horrible death," cast member Su-
san Duderstadt explained. Enter
the pure-hearted Sir Ruthven
Murgatroyd (David Zinn), the next
heir to the baronetcy. He does not
want to prolong the reign of evil,
nor does he want to perish in in-
conceivable agony. How to es-
cape this murky fate? He disguises
himself as the peasant Robin
Oakapple and runs off to a neigh-
boring village (the standard Gil-
bert and Sullivan solution). Natu-
rally, everyone assumes that he is
Conveniently enough, while in
this village, he encounters the
beautiful and virtuous Rose
Maybud (AndreaMarkowitz), and
begins to court her. However, the
nasty Richard Dauntless (Jonathan
B. Cogswell) discovers the dis-
guised Murgatroyd/Oakapple -.
Robin for short - and snitches on
him to the current Baron. Why
does he do such a reprehensible
deed? Because he wants Rose for
himself, of course! Now that the
current baron knows of Robin's
trick, Robin is forced to take up
his duty as the baron.
Just to recap, Duderstadt sum-
marized: "Beans are spilled; Rose
will no longer have Robin; Robin
has to go off to the castle and be
bad." Additionally, when Robin
hesitates about doing the evil deeds
required of him, the portraits of
his ancestors persuade him. "The
Portraits come to life, and threaten
him with tortures too terrible to be
true," Duderstadt added.
Duderstadt acknowledged the
complexity and inane nature of the
plot, but she felt that it was an
integral partofGilbertand Sullivan
repertory. "If you look at the
Shakespeare comedies-'A Mid-
summer Night's Dream' - what
kind of plots are those? Yet it
manages to engage you. In the
same way, Gilbert and Sullivan
shows have a lot of little twists and
turns." She thought for a moment,
and then added: "It's kind of like a
sit-com, but (we) did it first."
Whatis evenmore unique about
"Ruddigore" is its supernatural
aura. "This is Gilbert and
Sullivan's attempt toparody melo-
drama," Duderstadt explained.
"You have this sort of melodra-
matic, haunted-house feel, like an
Anne Radcliffe novel."Duderstadt
and passing cast members began
to rattle off happenings of
"Ruddigore": "far off places,"
"young ladies kidnapped by evil
men," "lightning," "thunder,"
"portraits coming to life," "curses,"
"castles,"just to name a few. Dud-
erstadt added with a smile: "If (the
show) were a little later, it prob-
ably would have been ladies tied
to train tracks."
But how does The Gilbert and
Sullivan repertory compare to
today's musical theater? Duder-
stadt thought that Gilbert and
Sullivan held their own. "What
they wrote was essentially the pre-
cursor of the American musical.
When this came out in England, it
caught on immediately." The first
of their operettas to come to the
United States was "H.M.S. Pin-
afore," which met instant success
and paved the way for such hits as
"The Mikado" and "The Pirates of
Penzance." Duderstadt felt "most
broadway shows today take them-
selves seriously."In contrast, Dud-
erstadt pointed outs Gilbert and
Sullivan musicals are just plain
When was the last time you
went to the theaterjust for fun, and
not to see something? As the
UMGASS members often say,
"It's cultural. It's fun. And it's a
RUDDIGORE will be performed
at the Mendelssohn Theatre, De-
cember 3,4,5 at 8p.m. and Decent-
ber S,6 at 2 p.m. For info call 763-
"Rose is hard to characterize be-
cause she goes through so many
changes during the show," said Fybel.
"When we meet her, she is very ec-
centric. But Rose learns that that's not
what being a human being is all about.
She eventually discovers who she is
and she becomes a woman. She trans-
forms from an overly dramatic person
to a very calm, serene lady."
Rose's transformation must pre-
cede her entry into the Gower family;
such unwillingness to accept an indi-
vidual highlights the theme of the
need for acceptance. "Tolerance is a
word we use a lot in rehearsal, but not
enough in the world outside," said
While the storyline follows Rose's
personal development, much of
"Trelawny of the 'Wells"' deals with
the change in acting style that oc-
curred due to the technological change
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in theaters. During the 1860s, theaters
replaced candlelight with gas lamps
to light the stages. Before the techno-
logical change, "the acting style was
very broad," explained Neville-
Andrews, so that the actors could be
noticed in the dim auditoriums. The
manner of acting developed into a
more naturalistic style, though, once
the actors could be better seen.
"The show relates to so many
people on so many levels," said
Neville-Andrews. "It's a family play
which is perfect for the holiday sea-
son." With themes of acceptance and
tolerance, such a statement rings true.
"This is a very delicate piece. Not all
the time do you have to do experimen-
tal theater," said Fybel, referring the
latest University production, "The
Birthday Party." With some truly vivid
characters and some good old fash-
ioned singing and entertaining,
Neville-Andrews and his company
hope to recreate a charming slice of
TRELAWNY OF THE 'WELLS' will
be performed at the Power Center
December3,4,Sat 8p.m. andDecem-
ber 6 at 2:00p. m. Tickets are $14 and
$10for reserved seating, $6 students.
For info call 764-0450.
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