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The Michigan Daily Monday, December 7,1992
Keitel: troubled saint
or tortured sinner?
by Megan Abbott
In "Reservoir Dogs," Harvey Keitel, playing the consummate profes-
sional thief, says to a cohort, "You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up
and apologize." It is a sign of Keitel's strength as an actor that when he ut-
ters that line, it comes across as no idle threat. You know he means it.
As one of America's foremost character actors, Harvey Keitel is capable
of the kind of realistic portrayals found in such classic tough-guy movies as
"The Asphalt Jungle." Finally achieving the recognition he deserves through
last year's Oscar nomination for "Bugsy" and the National Society of Film
Critics award for best supporting actor, Keitel exercises new clout this year
as executive producer, as well as star, of the current critics' darling,
"Reservoir Dogs" and as the star of the controversial new NC-17 rating vic-
tim, "Bad Lieutenant." But Keitel's oeuvre is as eclectic as it is extensive,
from such wretched excursions as "Off Beat" and "The January Man" to his
tumultuous set pieces in close friend Martin Scorsese's films, to nice-guy
roles in "Thelma and Louise" and "Mortal Thoughts."
The common thread in Keitel's performances is passionate commitment.
He stumbled into acting as a Brooklyn-raised ex-Marine. Keitel had never
had a paid acting job when he answered an ad placed by the young Martin
Scorsese to appear in what would be Scorsese's first full length feature,
"Who's That Knocking at My Door?". The two found great symmetry al-
most immediately, according to accounts by both men. In the Mary Pat
Kelly biography of Scorsese, Keitel says, "We were close to each other in
experience, in dreams. Maybe in nightmares also ... We were struggling to
reach another place."
Keitel, through his series of films with Scorsese, would become the
definitive Scorsese alter ego. While Robert DeNiro's masterful perfor-
mances in Scorsese's works dazzle audiences, you are always aware that
DeNiro is a star, a glamorous chameleon. Keitel, on the other hand, com-
pletely absorbs himself into each role. You cannot see him acting, as you
can with DeNiro.
In Scorsese's timeless "Mean Streets," Keitel is Charlie, the nephew of a
local mafioso. Torn between Catholic guilt and his violence-riddled
lifestyle, Charlie is determined to save his boyhood friend, Johnny Boy
(DeNiro), from spiraling self-destruction. In scenes largely improvised,
Keitel and DeNiro create a relationship based on testing each other, pushing
limits. DeNiro pulls out all stops as the reckless Johnny, and it is to Keitel's
credit that he gives DeNiro the space and the spotlight to do so.
But it is Keitel's introspective Charlie which gives "Mean Streets" its fo-
cus and its troubled heart. He conveys Charlie's immaturity and irony (his
girlfriend in the film says to him, about his desire to model himself after
Saint Francis, "Charlie, Francis of Assisi didn't run numbers"), while show-
ing us Charlie's innate humanity.
Keitel's villains take on a life of their own. In Scorsese's somewhat
dated, pseudo-feminist "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," Keitel
manipulates the audience, just as he does Ellen Burstyn's Alice. He comes
on as a charming, sweet-talking cowboy out to seduce Alice with shy smiles
and good manners. When he turns on Alice, the violent explosion is so
sudden and so real that the film is never quite the same again. He is only on
the screen briefly, but his presence gives an otherwise uneven movie an
unsettling rush which it can never quite match afterwards. Burstyn would
later say that the improvised scene of violence was just as much a surprise
to her as it was to the audience: "Harvey was so real that it terrified me."
Keitel provides a similar jolt to the famed DeNiro showpiece, "Taxi
Driver." Writing his own dialogue with pimps he knew from his Hell's
Kitchen neighborhood, Keitel transforms himself into the fast-talking, ma-
neuvering Sport. His dance with the 12-year-old Jodie Foster sets the audi-
ence into a seductive trance, thus making his corruptive power all the more
vile and intoxicating. DeNiro's lost Travis Bickle dominates "Taxi Driver,"
but without Keitel's strangely appealing Mephistopheles, the eventual spray
of violence would lose its horrific potency.
Keitel's villains pulse with charm and vitality, while his heroes are re-
markable in their essential ambiguity. In the vastly underrated "Fingers,"
See KEITEL, Page 8
David Zinn and Jonathan B. Cogswell perform in last weekend's Gilbert and Sullivan Society production of "Ruddigore."
Voices reverberate during 'Ruddigore'
by Melissa Rose Bernardo
When I see a show, I always make it a point
to listen to conversations amongst audience
members. The statement "They have so many
talented people" reverberated throughout
Mendelssohn Theatre after the University of
Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society's
(UMGASS) production of "Ruddigore." The
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
December 5, 1992
voice was clear, refined, and just plain lovely -
as was her presence, bright-eyed and rosy-
cheeked, with her eyes brinming with innocence
Taking command of the rustic fishing village
was Lisa Wirtz as the brassy Dame Hannah, a
strong-willed old maid confined to a wheelchair.
In addition to rolling all of her "r's" and sword
fighting in her wheelchair, Wirtz sang with a
strong and clear alto voice. Her booming voice,
especially in the lower register, made her a
powerful stage presence.
The insane Mad Margaret was played by a
sloppily clad Audrey Becker, wild-eyed and di-
slieveled. Becker was bursting with emotion and
thought in her entertaining monologue about
killing a fly ("Pop!"), and spent much time cack-
ling, collapsed in a heap on the ground. In
"Cheerily Carols the Lark," Becker was a confi-
dent vocalist, and had remarkable diction.
Among the striking female performers, the
only male who equaled their spunk was David
Zinn as Robin Oakapple, the man with "the man-
ners of a Marquis with the morals of a
Methodist." A versatile actor, he easily made the
transition from the timid, bumbling boy in love
to the pouting quasi-evil baronet. The gentleness
and purity in his voice, along with his boyish
charm, won the hearts of the audience in "I
Know a Youth."
The female chorus of giddy bridesmaids was
continually balanced in both their music and
mannerisms, whether dancing a gavotte or belt-
ing out a chorus. The men's chorus of "Bucks,
Blades, and Ancestors" was, unfortunately, not
as polished; at times they seemed to be fighting
amongst themselves for who could have the
largest stage presence.
Technical work and sets added to the show's
lively atmosphere. Since the first act was set in a
rustic fishing village, sets were neutrally colored
and lighting was bright, with minimal changes.
The second act, set in the spooky picture galler'
of Ruddigore Castle, made use of eerie red lights
and booming lightning to create a haunted-house
feel. The portrait wall was jagged, with crooked
life-size portraits also coming to life.
In the finales of each act, the whole cast comn-
bimed in graceful dances and chorale-like a cap-
pella interludes. Thanks to the all-around talent
of the cast, the show moved quickly and flaw-
lessly. As the audience observed, vocal and dra
matic talent was so abundant in "Ruddigore," it
was a wonder Mendelssohn Theatre could con-
tain it all.
light-hearted comic opera was the perfect show-
case for the variety of talent of UMGASS.
The Gilbert and Sullivan token soprano was
played by Andrea Markowicz; however, as Rose
Maybud, Markowicz was far from ordiniury. In
all of her songs, she had complete control of her
voice, never letting her vibrato or her high notes
get out of hand. Gilbert and Sullivan have a habit
of throwing their heroines on stage and immedi-
ately making them sing an unimaginably high
aria; Markowicz responded well to this challenge
in "If Somebody There Chanced to Be." Her
RC Players come up with a 'Dream' of a double bill
by Aaron Hamburger
Usually people don't take RC
productions all that seriously.
However, their latest effort, a double
bill of one-act plays, Larry Shue's
"Grandma Duck is Dead" and
The American Dream /
Grandma Duck is Dead
December 5, 1992
Edward Albee's "The American
Dream" provided a pungent, pro-
vocative evening of theater not to be
found in such "high-class" fluff as
"Grandma Duck is Dead," though
billed second, came first. The name
derives from one of the many inside
jokes batted back and forth among
the main characters. The plot, what
there was of it, revolved around the
attempts of Woody (Scott Horstein)
to hypnotize his Puerto Rican friend
Esperanza (Eli Chartkoff). The play
got lots of laughs, such as when
Esperanza believed that he was
Ringo Starr, and with the hilarious
fake British accent of Ben Davidson
(Shawn Gilchrist). Although Jeff
Herman's direction was uneven (at
first the audience was unsure of
whether the characters were engag-
ing in jokes or were just mentally in-
sane) the play was generally effec-
tive, entertaining, and thought-pro-
After the first play, the cast and
crew removed the entire set of
"Duck" (an incredible feat, since the
set consisted of an authentic messy
college dorm room) and converted
the stage into the spars; setting of a
couch, a few chairs, a birdcage, and
an urn, of "The American Dream."
From the very beginning, when
Mommy (Toni Trapani), in her per-
oxide blonde beehive coiffure,
complained to Daddy (James
Ingagiola) about how "you just can't
get satisfaction these days," the
broadly-drawn characters overpow-
ered the audience. Albee's characters
were grotesque riffs on American
stereotypes, such as the social
climbing, well-to-do couple Mommy
and Daddy, the embarrassing ne-
glected mother-in-law Grandma (a
sensational performance by Khristee
Rich), the good-looking but superfi-
cial Young Man, and the shallow so-
cialite Mrs. Barker.
Though it might sound like a bor-
ing pretentious evening of the avant-
garde, "The American Dream" was
as entertaining, and much more
funny, than an episode of
"Roseanne." The harsh, bright light-
ing and exaggeratedly streamlined
sixties background added to the hy-
perbolic performances in creating a
surrealist yet familiar atmosphere.
At the end of the play, which was
an allegory of superficial American
values, you don't feel like the
production hammered you over the
head with its arguably cliched
theme. Instead, you cane away im-
pressed by the terrific ensemble act-
ing, Albee's over-the-top but just.
right writing (similar to a Joe Pesci
performance), and completely satis-
fied that you have seen a play that
does exactly what theater is meant to
do: challenge, entertain and move.
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