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February 15, 1993 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-15

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Page 8 -The Michigan Daily - Monday , February 15, 1993

'Our Town'is like no other

by Laura Alantas
When thered-haired StageManager
(CeCe Grinwald) made her entrance
wearing a black leather bikerjacket and
black combat boots while riding a gleam-
ing motorcycle, I then knew that the
University's Department of Theatre and
Drama's production of "Our Town"
would be like no other.
IERFOR MANCE REVIEW

Our Town
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
February 11, 1993

"-m-"

Stage Manager. In her natural, conver-
sational manner, Grinwald graciously
shared Wilder's message of recogniz-
ing the value of a day. Whether sitting
center stage on a high stool or leaning
against the proscenium, Grinwald mas-
terfully directed the action of the play.
The action itself primarily revolved
around the development of the young
lives of Emily Webb and George Gibbs.
Johns' Emily, while solid during the
first two acts, triumphantly closed the
show with a remarkable performance in
the third act. Particularly poignant was
her visit back to earth, back to life,
where she realized the profound signifi-
cance of a common day.
Stapleton's performance, though,
eclipsed all others. The contrast be-
tween Stapleton's hulking frame and
George's trusting personality rendered
George extraordinarily awkward dur-
ing his teenage years and convincingly
mature during his adult years. With the
combination of Stapleton's precious

facial expressions and hisprecise physi-
cal marinerisms, George was
unresistable.
Perhaps the finest feature of Kerr's
"Our Town" was its emphasis on the
humor that Wilder included in his de-
lightful script. A less experienced pro-
duction would have taken Wilder's
words at face value. All of the actors,
however, freely maneuvered within the
boundaries of the text, which added a
touch of humor to the show while main-
taining the text's significance.
The staging, costumes, music and
lighting all enhanced Kerr's tender vi-
sion. The final scene, however, best
employed these devices. While singing
"Amazing Grace" a cappella in silhou-
ette against a tranquil blue background,
the cast gathered randomly on stage,
one by one for their "curtain call." With-
out calling attention to one individual
character oranother, however, they were
all equally noble, equally respected and
equally significant to "Our Town."

Can you believe that Andie MacDowell let Bill Murray actually kiss her in this movie?

It's a wonderful 'Groundhog Day'

by Chris Lepley
Did you ever see "Scrooged," the comedy based on
Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and starring Bill
Murray as an evil man who learns to love humanity? Okay,
did you ever see "It's AWonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart
(colorized or un-colorized) where a man learns that his life
has some meaning? If you've seen either of these films,
Groundhog Day
Directed by Harold Ramis; written by Danny Rubin and
Harold Ramis; with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.
you've pretty much seen "Groundhog Day" already. But,
despite its similarity to every feel-good movie ever made,
"Groundhog Day" is still one slightly surreal, vaguely heart-
warming, gosh darn funny movie.
Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, aTV weatherman from
Pittsburgh, PA who gets sent to Punxsutawney, PA for
Groundhog Day. In case any of you live under a rock (or just
in Michigan, where we read the daily weather forecast like
we read our horoscope - with a little amusement, but not
much real faith), Punxsutawney is the home town of the
official groundhog of Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil.
The residents of Punxsutawney (Punxie, for short) get
pretty excited about Groundhog Day. Not that Punxsie, in
actuality, is a hick town, because it isn't - although you'd
never know that from watching this movie. The people who
make movies for a living seem to think that any town whose
name isn't initialized must be full of crackers, buck-toothed
buxom women and bowling alleys.
Phil Connors is your typical jerk in need of a little lesson
in how to play nice with others. le's rude to his dork of a
cameraman, played by Chris Elliot (who seems doomed to
forever repeat the third grade at the Urkel School of Making

Nerds Likable), and he's a typical horny sleaze around his
producer, played by Andie MacDowell. He hates
Punxsutawney at first sight and thinks Groundhog Day is the
most moronic holiday ever invented. Unfortunately for him,
by some cosmic twist of fate, he keeps reliving that day.
Every morning when the alarm clock hits 6 a.m., that
classic Sonny & Cher tune "I Got You Babe" wakes Phil
gently from his slumber and lets him know that it's February
2nd all over again. As he repeats day after day, neverreaching
February 3rd, Phil remembers everything that he does each
day, but everyone else in town forgets it all.
After Phil becomes resigned to the fact that he'll be living
and re-living Groundhog Day for the rest of his natural life,
which should be eternity if he never ages (although the
filmmakers are not too clear on that), he devotes his unlim-
ited time to learning things, bettering himself and helping
others. Thatdoesn't sound funny, but that's the bestpartof the
film.
No, on second thought, the end is the best part. Actually,
the whole rest of the movie is the best part, because as
rehashed as the idea behind "Groundhog Day" is, it's really
not "It's A Wonderful Life II: Electric Boogaloo," it's a very
funny, touching, holiday film in the classic tradition, even if
Groundhog Day is a pretty lame holiday.
I can't end the review without saying something about
Andie MacDowell's career. Why does she have to be in films
with ugly guys all the time? She attractive, she's a pretty-
good actor. Why does she have tobend and twist to getaround
Gerard Depardieu's nose and close her eyes so she can't see
Bill Murray's face in all these films? Oh, sure, James Spader
is cute, but then she did that film with John "my face is longer
than a summer's day" Malkovich. Where's Andie's agent
when she needs him/her?
GROUNDHOG DAY is playing at Showcase.

Director Philip Kerr and his mature
cast succeeded in the difficult task of
engaging their modern audience in this
story of life and death in the early 1900s
by removing all of the barriers that
traditionally separate actors and audi-
ence. While the audience took their
seats in the theater, a chaotic scene
unfolded with modern-day actors, jani-
tors, stage managers and costumers liv-
ing a typical life in today's theater world.
The message was clear: this was a mod-
ern-day company performing a classic
American play.
The leveling of barriers continued
throughout the show, since there were
no wings hiding the recesses of the
theater. The audience could see all the
action happening not only on stage, but
also in what is usually off stage. The
actors themselves even broke through
the "fourth wall" of the stage by making
entrances and exits through the audi-
ence. The most notable of these being
Emily Webb (Jennifer Johns) and
The leveling of barriers
continued throughout
the show, since there
were no wings hiding
the recesses of the
theater.
George Gibbs's (Chris Stapleton) exit
through the aisles after exchanging their
wedding vows. All of these subtle
touches compelled the audience to par-
take in this wondrous experience of life,
as depicted by the playwright Thornton
Wilder.
Life in the town of Grover's Cor-
ners, New Hampshire evolved under
the capable guidance of Grinwald's

Jennifer Johns looks soulful in the production of "Our Town."

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