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March 15, 1993 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-03-15

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1*

ARTS

Comedy Company's timing, delivery sputters

Life is Sweet
It's an unprecedented night of TV
for the Mike Leigh crowd: tonight at
8 p.m. on Bravo, it's a rare chance to
catch Leigh's "A Sense of History."
30 minutes long, it's nothing more
than Jim Broadbent ("The Crying
Game," "Life is Sweet") delivering a
monologue as the 23rd Earl ofLeete,
aportly man of about70 years. If you
don'thave Bravo, find someone who
does.
Ludwig Fix
Need a Ludwig fix? Associate
ProfessorofPianoDickran Atamian's
got just what you need. Tonight at 8
p.m. in Rackham he'll give an all-
Beethoven piano recital. The program
includes two of his greatest hits: the
sonata No. 8 ("Pathdtique") and the
sonata No.57 "Appassionata." Sona-
tas Nos. 28 and 31 will be thrown in
for good measure as well. Admission
is free; call 763-4726.

by Melissa Rose Bernardo
Since comedy is arguably the most
complex of all genres, and the most
difficult to perform, Comedy Company
did not have an easy task ahead of them
in "The Big Show." However, save a
PERFORMANCE REVIEW

Comedy Company
Mendelssohn Theatre
March 12, 1993

i .
few scatteredhumorous moments, rather
than a well-oiled comedy machine,
Comedy Company ambled around like
a sputtering tinker-toy robot.
There were a few golden moments
in which the cast exhibited flawless
timing and manipulation of the audi-
ence, and the result was irrepressible
laughter. In "A Restaurant Sketch," cast
members attended Merv's Place, and
ordered theirmeals in game-show style.
One couple played the Newlywed
Game, guessing each other's dessert
preferences-and (wouldn'tyou know
it) the man guessed incorrectly. A party

of four bid on a box of Kraft Macaroni
and Cheese (The Price is Right), taking
suggestions from yelling audience mem-
bers. And of course, the girl who won
jumped up and down and screamed like
abanshee. The couple's amusing banter
combined with the exaggerated behav-
ior of the four bidders was well-timed
and clearly delivered.
"Cheese Omelet" provided further
enjoyment. Two women (Debbie Keller
and Wilandrea Blair) fought over a guy
(Bob Gilliam) - an ordinary situation,
right? Well, their vocabulary consisted
of one phrase: cheese omelet. So the
three had to rely on acting ability alone
to convey the content of their conversa-
tion. Because of their impressive use of
repetition, inflection and body language,
the audience understood their exchange
completely..
However, timing and delivery was
not always so well-manipulated. In "A
Moving Experience," a dim-witted
farmer (Brian Letscher) tries to trick his
cows into going to the slaughter. While
the lines were amusing ("Holy People!"
one cow exclaimed), the sketch crawled

along due to poor timing. The cows
(Debbie Keller, Lauren Schwarz and
Brandon Whitesell), seemingly in an
attempt to be cow-like, drawled through
their lines dully, leaving huge gaps after
cue lines. This overly-prolonged sketch
finally ended with Fanner Bob going to
the slaughter, which was a mercy kill-
ing in my opinion.
Other poorly-timed and poorly-de-
livered sketches included "Century S ur-
real Estate" (a supposed spoof on sur-
real art) and "The Labor Day That Al-
most Wasn't." Mumbled lines and im-
mense gaps after lines made these skits
slow-moving and just plain boring.
Thankfully, the use of video, inter-
spersed with the sketches, provided
welcome diversion. "Fatal Connection"
was the most interesting combination
of video and live performance. Sarah
Masters played a young girl hounded by
a ruthless telephone solicitor from the
Ann Arbor News. The solicitor (Laura
Schneiderman) was pictured on a large
video screen in the upper right-hand
corner of the stage. "I'm a telephone
solicitor," Schneiderman snarled, "I

know everything." The caller appeared
on the screen the exact second the girl
picked up the phone. Also impressive
was the simultaneous representation of
the cast on video and on stage during the
curtain call.
Some video clips were, however,
obliterated by erratic volume control

and static. In "The Man Who Enunci-
ated Every Thought," I could not hear
any of his thoughts.
Comedy Company has in the past
proved themselves tobe laudable enter-
tainers. Regrettably, this time, cheesy
music and a few laugh-filled sketches
did not an evening of comedy make.

The Comedy Company had a few golden moments last Friday.

Toradze perfroms with flourish

by Jeremy Willians
Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto is not usually
thought of as "one of the greats," maybe because it does not
have an unforgettable melody that distinguishes it. That
didn't stop Alexander Toradze and the Ann Arbor Symphony
Orchestra from putting together a flourishing and remark-
" 1
Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra
Michigan Theater
March 13, 1993
ably precise performance this Saturday night.
The program started with a seldom-performed work,
Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments. The orches-
tra handled the complex rhythmic passages (reminiscent at
times of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring") well for the mostpart,
as well as the complicated harmonic structures. The clarinet
andbassoon solos alsoputforth lively interpretations. Unfor-
tunately, this piece is not Stravinsky's most spirited writing,
so the work was lacking somewhat in profundity and the
feeling of progress.
The AASO's string section showed why Tchaikovsky's
Serenade for Strings has always been a preferred work. It is
some of Tchaikovsky's finer writing, butit is often performed
with indifference. This was not the case on Saturday night, as

the orchestra deftly managed the transition between the lush
opening statement and the delicate passages which follow. A
careful balance was keptbetween the sections throughout the
work, but especially in the precarious Elegie. A playful
atmosphere accompanied the Waltz, and the Finale had a
vitality which endured throughout the movement.
It was obvious from the opening phrase of the
Rachmaninoff that Toradze is a superior player. The serene
opening (played with exaggerated effect as Toradze looked
skyward) rose swiftly in intensity as his attention shifted
back to the keyboard. Several powerful passages left much
of the audience in amazement, and others feeling sorry for the
keyboard. He has a sixth sense of exactly which moments
need additional drama, and these moments confirmed his
virtuosity.
One element of virtuosity is timing, and Toradze's every
note in the Adagio was placed so perfectly that there was
never a question of his outstanding ability. His capacity for
a tremendous breadth of emotion was well suited for this
concerto, which requires such a range. In the last movement,
the soloist's verve was so overwhelming that the AASO had
to work to keep up with Toradze's enthusiasm.
Neither the audience nor the conductor Samuel Wong
(who pulled out the piano bench at the curtain call) would let
him get away without an encore, so for the second time in two
years, Toradze has dazzled his listeners at the Michigan
Theater.

Legacy II: A Collection of
Singer Songwriters
High Street Records
Trying to milk some more life out of
the nearly dormant singer-songwriter
revival of about five years ago, "Legacy
II: A Collection of Singer Songwriters"
showcases several contemporary singer
songwriters. Windham Hill founder Will
Ackerman writes in the liner notes that
four artists from the first volume have
been signed to major labels, and there is
no doubt that visions of multi-album
record deals have danced through the
minds of each of the thirteen artists
featured here. The problem is, less than

half of them are ready to record an entire
album.
Most of the singer-songwriters on
"Legacy I1" are embarrassingly ear-
nest, spilling their hearts all over their
songs. In fact, the only theme linking
this surprisingly musically diverse col-
lection is an overwrought sensitivity.
Both squeamishly sickening high-
school poetry ("I believe in the good
little children / Hiding in the morning
air / If you see the good little children /
Tell them I lost something there," Nick
Berry's "The Good Little Children")
and oppressively verbose verse ("The
wind squawks at the river/ The laughter

of fish tingles through the current / A
mouth forms about a sound / But it's
only silence," Frank Tedesso's "What
Could I Add to That") are equally repre-
sentative of the self-conscious stabs at
sensitive self-exploration available here.
Theseattempts toprove the songwriter's
artistic worth pale next to the natural
lyrics of Patty Griffin's "I Write the
Book" and Tony Gilkyson's "Joey's
Car." Griffin and Gilkyson are also rela-
tively musically straightforward, just a
guitar and voice, and happen to be the
most successful music of the compila-
tion. Too often an artist's musical gifts
See RECORDS, Page 8

'A Macbeth' assaults audience

Anders sustains 'Lodging'

by Camilo Fontecilla
From the beginning, there is a non-
sensical note permeating this farce by
Allison Anders thatmakes it quite clear
it is treated on a highly satirical level.
She pulls out of the Forbidden Trunk of
Film every cliche about life in a South-
western town, and then combines it
Gas, Food, Lodging
Directed and adapted for the screen by
Allison Anders; with Brooke Adams,
Ione Skye, Fairuza Balk.
with a dysfunctional family situation of
the most melodramatic kind to achieve
a powerful but understated critique of
the lagging America The trouble is, she
often trips on her own intentions.
The movie revolves around three
women living alone, Nora (Brooke
Adams) and her two teenage daughters,
Shade (Fairuza Balk) and Trudi (lone
Skye). Shade's obsession with the mov-
ies of Mexican actress Elvia Rivero
(Nina Belanger) serves as a spring-
board and reference point for the devel-
opmentof the plot. Shade finds amater-
nal role model in Elvia, and interprets
her own mother's life through the stan-
dards set by her idol.
Nora has too much trouble keeping
her family together to worry about liv-
ing up to star status. She gets into con-
stant arguments with Trudi about the
latter's rather liberal lifestyle, which
results in a pregnancy by a young En-
glish mineralogist, Dank (Robert
Knepper). It all becomes complicated
by the return of the girls' father to town
(James Brolin). Shade begins to de-
* velopastrong tie withhim; she forgives

drawn. This gets to be terribly funny,
but sometimes it's just not clear enough
to tell it apart from actual melodrama.
To be able to fully appreciate this
movie, one has to be armed with the
sharp needle of cynicism. From the
father, a quasi-replica of the Marlboro
Man, to Hamlet Humphrey (David
Landsbury), Nora's found love in the
person ofa satellite T.V.installer, all the
characters follow a set of extremely
predictable behavioral patterns. They
are all taken through the most conven-
tional situations, in which they end up
actually demonstrating themselves to
be ... conventional.
Watching Hamlet sincerely ask
Nora's forgiveness for not satisfying
her during intercourse is but a taste of
what goes on in this film. And everyone
means what they say. There's big acting
here, but Anders keeps a tab on it, and so
anaturalistic style is maintained through-
out most of the movie. For the more
inattentive spectator, this could end up
seeming a very bad script coupled with
some decent actors that are trying very
hard to make the best of what they are
given. B utthe mood is a crucial element
to be aware of; trying to take this seri-
ously can only make one cringe.
Anders's film is
difficult, because it
requires the viewer's
undivided attention
during its full length...
Anders's film is difficult, because it
requires the viewer's undivided atten-
tion during its full length, as well as the
constant understanding that it's all a big
joke. Some things will remind one im-

audience will enjoy it thoroughly. The
film has much more going for it than
against it, and the more wicked mood
one is in, the better it will come off. All
the actors give impressive poker face
performances, trying to make as real as
possible all the bullshit they are speak-
ing. Not that this is a negative facet of
the film; on the contrary, it's what its
effectiveness rests on.
A little polishing of the script would
have smoothed out the quirks that make
the film sometimes bewildering. Al-
though Anders purposely blows up the
romanticaura of the Southwestern desert
in service of her goals, it's still beautiful
to watch and adds character toher movie.
But she saves her best stab for last: the
ending is a modern example of how to
wrap up a plot perfectly. Truly a lip-
curling "touch."
GAS, FOOD, LODGING is playing at
the Michigan Theater.

by Karen Lee
"A Macbeth" is not for those unac-
quainted with Shakespeare's Scottish
Play, nor for the faint of heart. Adapted
by Charles Marowitz, it is based on the
principles of Antonin Artaud, a mad-
man who had an enormous influence on
A Macbeth
Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
March 12, 1993
the world of drama with his "Theatre of
Cruelty."
This concept was created as, in short,
an assault on the senses of the audience
rather than on the intellect. Among other
things, it rejected the script as the pri-
mary method of expression, empha-
sized dream and fantasy, and focused on
those unconscious impulses that caused
divisions between people and led to
hatred, violence and disaster. Director
George Popovich, in the transference of
his vision from Henry Ford Commu-
nity College to Ann Arbor Civic
Theatre's Second Stage, created an
apocalyptic and nightmarish produc-
tion that remained faithful to Artaud's
principles.
The play started with a twelve-
minute "collage" that encapsulated the
main events, afterwhich they were again
recounted with more detail. In
Marowitz's script, scenes were acted in

a different order than in Shakespeare's
text, and lines normally associated with
certain characters were given to other
actors. Yet these innovations gave a
new dimension to the conventional
storyline, bringing previously untapped
possibilities to the fore. The Witches'
scenes, for instance, rather than being
shown only during the first and fourth
acts, as was originally written, were
interspersed throughout the play, some-
times as eerie flashbacks. Even more
intriguing was the famous "Tomorrow
and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech,
said notby Macbeth (Steve Memran) in
this version, but by a priest (Jason
Winslade) over the corpse of Lady
Macbeth (Carolyn Lee Kirby).
Popovich's direction took liberties
as well with the usual interpretation of
"Macbeth." There were eight Witches
rather than three, and they were on-
This concept was
created as, in short, an
assault on the senses of
the audience rather
than on the intellect.
stage almost continuously; they ap-
peared to serve not exactly as "witches,"
but as those "evil spirits that tend on
mortal thoughts" that Lady Macbeth
made reference to. For they propelled
the events of the play, sometimes actu-
ally giving to the characters the weap-

ons needed to act out the various mur-
ders. Macbeth even had his own evil
spirits, a Second and Third Macbeth
(Kevin Walsh and M.D. Petee), who, in
an arresting moment, crouched behind
Macbeth, whispering to him his "Is this
a dagger I see before me" soliloquy as
he repeated it after them.
Not only was the role of the Witches
expanded, but so were the violent lust
and the lustful violence that existed in
almost every character, for it seemed
that those two qualities, in the contextof
"A Macbeth," were intertwined. This
time Duncan's murder was committed
by both Macbeths who, staring into
each other's eyes as they simultaneously
gripped the dagger, made the act pro-
foundly sexual. Later on, during one of
his bloodiest speeches, Macbeth pro-
ceeded to "rape" his wife. There was, in
fact, nothing "pure" about the play until
ascene, near theend, when the Macbeths
lovingly comforted each other -and
then Lady Macbeth collapsed in her
husband's arns, dead.
Through walkways and platforms
constructed all over the theater, the au-
dience was given a view up close of the
depravity that constituted the produc-
tion; an assault on the senses was indeed
launched. This was not a play to be
liked, or even loved; rather, one was
horrified, sickened and fascinated all at
the same time. This reaction seemed to
be what "A Macbeth" was aiming for,
and in that sense, it succeeded.

0

- U * - . '

.. pO

LAUGHTRACK' S
Under 21 & Looking for
Fun? Come to the show on
March 17th wearing

ppp- I

I

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