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January 25, 1993 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-01-25

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ARTS

ay,

Kalin calls for
equalityn 'Swoon'

by Camilo Fontecilla
Beyond the friendly faces of Rich-
ard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr., a
dark secret lurked. Not their involve-
ment in theft and petty crimes. Not the
brutal murder and disfiguration of a
young child. This secret was their ho-
mosexuality. In his surprisingly intelli-
gent investigation of the Leopold-Loeb
affair concerning the death of Bobby
Frank, aged 8, Tom Kalin examines the
power struggle within the relationship
of these two lovers and how it led them
to their conviction for the murder of an
innocent boy.
Swoon
Written and directed by Tom Kalin;
with Daniel Schlachet, Craig Chester.
Tom Kalin gives such an artful twist
to "Swoon" that one can't help admir-
ing his audacity. Jeopardizing his posi-
tion by incessantly reminding us, the
audience, of the cold brutality of the
criminals, he nevertheless lures our
sympathies toward their camp. He
makes us accomplices to the murder,
witnesses to every gruesome detail,
and invites us to join in the intimacy of
their private lives. We become con-
nected to Leopold and Loeb because
they are the persecuted.
Before the murder, the major issue
was not the murder, but the homo-
sexual relationship between its two
executors. For their contemporaries,
their sexual orientation was a deter-
mining factor in their actions, an inevi-
table source of instability and therefore
murder. Bobby Franks' killing, despite
a visually stunning death, rapidly fades
into the background. It is clear that Mr.
Loeb and Mr. Leopold are not being
judged fortheir act. Itis their way of life
that everyone condemns.
Kalin portrays Leopold as an ex-
ceedingly modern man who, intellec-
tually, is light years ahead of his gen-
eration. Nathan Leopold is a genius in
the wrong decade, a mind put to waste
because of the restrictions of his soci-
ety. Kalin underscores this by superim-
posing our contemporary world onto
his own, granting him access to techno-
logical devices of very recent inven-
tion. As if in a time warp, he wields a

remote control, uses ear-phones and
dials from a touch-tone telephone.
Loeb is Leopold's fascination, his
weapon but also his weakness. As ob-
ject of desire, Loeb knows his limita-
tions as well as his power. He is much
more primitive in his manipulation of
Leopold's desires, but this sole advan-
tage is more powerful than any hold
Leopold may have on him. Mr. Kalin
makes an essential differentiation be-
tween the two: Loeb enjoys the actual
act of the murder, while Leopold detests
it, interested only in the social repercus-
sions it may have. Again, one inhabits
the present, the other lives for the future.
The performances are superb. With
unflinching coolness, Daniel Schlachet' s
Richard "Dickey" Loeb drags Leopold
into the depths of their fatal relation-
ship, and just as heartlessly tears it all
apart to save himself from a probable
death penalty. Craig Chester, as Nathan
"Babe" Leopold Jr., characterizes the
complexity of his character to perfec-
tion, exploring the contrast between his
deep insecurities and his inhibited moral
superiority. His love for Loeb also turns
out to be deeper than even the latter
could have suspected.
I do not condone murder and neither
does Tom Kalin. "Swoon" questions
the limits of artistic expression, and in
that sense it is controversial. Murder is
Nathan Leopold's art, for lack of any-
thing more challenging. But it was the
first step toward an extremely positive
and productive life for him. Good and
evil are blurred in the film; this ambigu-
ity becomes one of its strongest points.
Regardless, Mr. Kain's strongest
point is concise and well-expressed: the
censure of homosexuality in our society
mustend. Can the portrayal of two cold-
blooded killers help? As individuals,
they were unarguably unique and dar-
ing, passionate and with an overbearing
desire to be heard. It was their misfor-
tune that they were shunned by their
peers. Strong action causes strong re-
sponse, which is what Swoon" is striv-
ing for. Captured in a beautiful but
restricting world of black and white,
'om Kalin' s film resumes the search for
a more colorful future.
SWOON is playing at the Michigan
Theater

'LIGHT' fizzles
by Laura Alantas
There are times when you go to a show, and the performance incorporates
all of the elements necessary for a successful production, but you leave the
theater unmoved. On your way home, you analyze the acting, the lighting, the
costumes, the music. It's then that you realize that the show had many positive
attributes. But you still feel unaffected. That was my experience with Michael
Lee's mime drama "DREAMLIGHT."
The Biblical story of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus served as the basis
of "DREAMLIGHT." However, artistic director Michael Lee transplanted the
story into the present day. This updating gave Lee a means of drawing a parallel
between this classic story and today's homeless problem.
The show opened with a lullaby entitled "Dreams," sung by Jerald Irish.
"Dreams are when the angels sing to you," Irish told us in his rough bass voice.
Throughout the rest of the performance, Irish masterfully played piano or guitar
accompaniment, backed up by James
Barnes' pulsing drums.
DREAMLIGHT Then the action of
Performance Network "DREAMLIGHT" began. The actors
January 23, 1993 introduced their various characters to
us, one by one, in mime. With each
character performing a few basic movements, the entire company successfully
related to the audience who they were and what today's inner city is all about.
Mary (Rebecca Surmont) and Joseph (Michael Cooper) were a well suited
couple. Surmont, graceful in motion, contrasted well with Cooper's more
clumsy, but concerned Joseph.
When the Angel Gabriel (Michael Lee) visited Mary, he brought a candle
to her, demonstrating that she is thecarrier of the Light. In their interchange, Lee
and Surmont created the most beautiful poses of the show because they
artistically represented the essence of their connection rather than making-an
attempt at realism.
If the rest of the performance had focused on representing the Biblical story
artistically rather than realistically, "DREAMLIGHT" would have been amore
intense, more enriching experience. Instead, Lee chose to realistically portray
the difficulties of life in the inner city, and this decision weakened the weight
of the show's message because the realism was very tedious to watch.
The actors performed one particular scene of the show, their entering and
t'1leaving the homeless shelter, twice, back to back. The repetition suggested how
difficult it is for homeless persons to break out of their situation. The scene
y, - moved extremely slowly, though, and the point was lost in this tedious quality.
"DREAMLIGHT" did fulfill its goals of retelling the story of Mary, Joseph
and birth of Jesus, and of depicting the magnitude of today's homeless problem.
However, these goals were reached in an almost academic manner that did not
engage the audience. What the audience never gained was an ability to relate
No, it's not the cover of Al Camus's "The Stranger." It's "DREAM LIGHT." to the show's celebration of joy and hope.
Ann Arbor Civic Theater gets 'burned'

by Karen Lee
Lanford Wilson'switty,pungentdia-
logue is what makes him such abrilliant
writer. Even though his dialogue is real-
istic, Wilson always manages to keep
his work entertaining. His play, "Burn
Burn This
Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
January,21,1993
This," is especially infused with the
kind of incisiveness that distinguishes a
good play from a great one. Ann Arbor
Civic Theatre's production, while ef-
fective, was helped along more by the
richness of Wilson's script than by any-
thing else.
The play opens with Anna (Mary
Anne Nemeth), a dancer and aspiring

choreographer, mourning the drowning
death of Robbie, her roommate and
collaborator. Through the course of the
show, Anna becomes torn between Bur-
ton, heraffectionate and attentive screen-
writer boyfriend, and Robbie's alter-
nately poetic and profane older brother,
Pale. Under the watchful eye of her
other roommate Lary, she attempts to
come to terms with her feelings for Pale,
making herself miserable as she tries to
denies them.
Great pains were taken to recreate a
lower Manhattan loft apartment, all the
way down to the dance posters, the
phone jack on the side of the counter,
and the magnets on the refrigerator. The
same care was apparently taken with
the choice of music as well, which was
aselection composed of popular, classi-

cal, and original music that ably illus-
trated the various moods of the scenes.
ChipMoehle was awonder as Larry,
using his constant one-liners and great
comic timing to point out various caus-
tic truths to Anna, Pale, Burton, and to
the audience as well. Steve Memran,
playing Pale, was effective as well, al-
though it seemed that in his first scene,
he emphasized his character's cocaine
high too much. He did, however, im-
prove throughout the show, reaching a
poignant peak in a sober and quiet dec-
laration of his love for Anna during the
last scene of the show. Tim Morley's
Burton, however, was colorless.
The real disappointment, though,
was Mary Anne Nemeth in the part of
Anna. Nemeth, herself a dancer, physi-
cally fit the part; the problem was that

her performance was flat. I did not
really see her struggling with her emo-
tions, nor could I tell that she really was
in love with Pale. The chemistry be-
tween Nemeth and Memran simply was
not there A pivotal role like Anna
deserves a stronger actress.
Koengeter also added two "roles"
not in the original play. In between
every scene, two dancers, Gregory M.
George and Suzanne Willets, who were
apparently meant to signify Pale and
Anna, basically reenacted the episode
that had just been seen. While the danc-
ing was beautiful, it became repetitive
after a while.
Wilson's dialogue in "Burn This"
stirs up feelings of desperate love in its
listeners. Unfortunately, though, this
production left me unmoved.

Volcanically engaging Volkov wows audience

by Kirk Wetters

Anyone whowent to Oleg Volkov's
Saturday recital in hopes of being
coddled into a daze of pianistic bliss
Oleg Volkov
Kerrytown Concert House
January 23, 1993
must have been badly disappointed.
Volkov' svolcanic outbursts challenged
the audience and kept it engaged and
expectant.
Generally, Volkov's approach em-
phasized contrast with pieces more than

their overall unity. This was the most
successful in Beethoven's32 Variations
and Prokofiev's "Sarcasms." To his
credit, Volkov was neither ashamed nor
intimidated by the young Prokofiev's
brash, banal attempts to shock the con-
servative musical establishment of his
time.
Although he does have a poetic side,
Volkov's powerful rhythmic and har-
monic aggressiveness were far more
prominent. His rock-solid chords and
almost maniacal intensity were remi-
niscent of the great American pianist,
Earl Wild.
Schubert's A minor Piano Sonata
was mostly successful, although

Volkov's treatment was notas idiomatic
as it could have been. For instance, in
the sonata's second movement, which
is very similar in character to Schubert's
idyllic, ecstatic, melancholy song,
"Friihlingsglaube" (Spring Faith),
Volkov should have infused the
composer's melodies with more sun-
light and gentleness.
Instead of bringing out Schubert's
magical qualities, Volkov chose to em-
phasize the structural perfection of the
music itself. He used the same approach
in Preludes and Waltzes by Chopin, but
with much less success. Instead of ca-
ressing Chopin's delicate melodies,
Volkov blazed through the short pieces

with almost obsessive rhythmic accu-
racy. Unfortunately, instead of showing
the quality of the music, this tended to
emphasize its structural deficiencies and
seemed to justify pianist Artur
Schnabel's criticism of Chopin as a
"right-handed genius."
Volkov's unconventional approach
to Chopin was not without insights, and
his desire to cleanse these well-known
pieces of common interpretive excesses
is admirable. The forcefulness and surety
of Volkov's musical personality could
not be overlooked, even when his inter-
pretations were wayward. He is a rare
musician with the courage to confront,
challenge, and inspire audiences.

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