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January 14, 1993 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-01-14

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - January 14, 1993- Page 3

'For Colored Girls' for everyone
Playwright Npozake Shange powerfully confronts neglected women's issues in theater

Kenneth Branagh, once dubbed the new Olivier, turns to the bottle.
Ken's genuinely
hilarious Frien

by Camilo Fontecilla
Movies about enduring friendships
ate a perennial Hollywood favorite, but
one would expect this formula to be
permanently exhausted. In principle,
"Peter's Friends" doesn't really have
anything new to say. Drawing from a
stock of greatly divergent and appar-
etly incompatible characters who re-
join after several years of disconnected
Peter's Friends
Directed by Kenneth Branagh; written
by Rita Rudner and Martin Bergman;
with Kenneth Branagh, Alphonsia
Emmanuel, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie,
Rita Rudner, Tony Slattery, Imelda
Staunton, Emma Thompson
lives, the theme of Rita Rudner and
Martin Bergman's script is hardly origi-
aal. So what is it that makes "Peter's
Friends" such a danmn good movie?
Though originally written for an
American cast, Kenneth Branagh
snatched the rights to the film and flew
it across the Atlantic. The export to
England certainly didn'tstuntthe script;
an the contrary, the mythical British
sobriety and the solemnity of an En-
glish country manor only enhanced the
contrast between its confined owner,
Peter (Stephen Fry), and his urbanized
friends. Adding to this the comic virtu-
osity of Rudner and Bergman's writing,
the result is a production that deserv-
edly claims its own ground within the
"Peter's Friends" boasts a genuine
understanding about the dynamics of
Friendship. It's a healthy movie in that
it unpretentiously proves that life, when
viewed objectively, is downright funny.
Most of the humor in the film isn't a
product of the characters' intentional
jokes, but simply a reflection of how
they behave and interrelate with each
other (although Rita Rudner's crack at
Mother Theresa's look is priceless).
The movie explores all the manner-
isms and personalities of the rich char-
acters. Emma Thompson finds one of
her most complex roles yet in the person
of Maggie, a latent erotomaniac who
leads her life according to-the mandates
of self-help books. Despite her apparent
superficiality, she is an immediately
likable and very down-to-earth person.
* Sarah (Alphonsia Emmanuel), on the
otherhand, has a hyperactive libido and

boasts a secure outlook on life. Ironi-
cally, their roles are slowly reversed as
the plot evolves.
Andrew (Kenneth Branagh) is a
smooth, Americanized producer whose
favorite conversation topic is his
screwed-up life. Roger (Hugh Laurie)
has been wearied by life and become
drab, a puppet to his wife Mary's
(Imelda Staunton) obsession with the
care of their surviving infant, twin to a
brother recently deceased. Peter, the
host, is a sobering presence, an aristo-
cratic remnant of his mansion's better
days, but also an internally tortured
The introduction of outsiders plays
an enormous part. Unfortunately, no
friendships can be restored with the
intrusion of a third party; inhibition is
bound to bloom. And neither of the
two intruders portrayed here are very
conducive to comfort. Carol (Rita
Rudner), Andrew's wife, is the Ameri-
can Jane Fonda type, ahealth freak and
victim of the glamour of her status as
TV star, and Brian (Tony Slattery),
Sarah's latest flame, a tactless and
'Peter's Friends'
boasts a genuine
understanding about
the dynamics of
Friendship. It's a
healthy movie in that
it unpretentiously
proves that life, when
viewed objectively, is
downright funny.
vociferous hormone.
With an excellent ensemble perfor-
mance, "Peter's Friends" rises above
its small tics. It's a wonderful lesson on
the brittleness of friendships, and the
way it interweaves tension and uncon-
trollable humor is simply astounding.
No other movie in a long time has been
this seriously hilarious (contradiction
intended). Kenneth Branaghonce again
proves his versatility and scope as both
actor and director as he mines Rudner
and Bergman's laugh-crammed script
to the core. A kick in the butt to the
Christmas competition.
PETER'S FRIENDS starts Friday
at Ann Arbor 1 & 2.

by Melissa Rose Bernardo
As a woman, looking at the Ameri-
can theater, I cannot help but feel
disappointed at the remarkable lack of
accurate representation of relevant is-
sues which confront today's women.
No one wants to talk about the un-
pleasant issues like rape, abortion, or
abuse - let alone write about or per-
form them (David Mamet excepted,
and he does it from a man's point of
view). However, poet/playwright
Npozake Shange had the courage to
turn these issues into a powerful pro-
duction for the stage: "for colored
girls who have considered suicide /
when the rainbow is enuf."
The production was born out of
Shange's experiences with other
women. A group of them would take
dance classes together, perform to-
gether, andwould gooutafterwards to
talk about their lives. It was apparent
that these women (and all women)
had interesting stories, problems and
The Jacksons:
An American Dream
TV Soundtrack
There's a television mini-series about
the Jackson family, of musical fame, and
Motown has a soundtrack album to ac-
company it. What this amounts to is
about fifty percent fluff (two weak tracks
by Jermaine, the second most talented
Jackson brother; two even weaker tracks
by Jason Weaver, the young singer who
portrays Michael as a child in the mini-
series; and a pointless remake of "In the
Still of the Night" by Boyz II Men). The
other half is absolutely glorious.
The Jackson 5 are present here in
studio recordings -"Dancing Machine,"
"Never Can Say Goodbye," and "I'll Be
There," all of which are greatmoments in
pop history, perfectly typical of the
Motown sound's last great days. But
even more thrilling are live recording of
several of their greatest hits, captured in
the Jackson 5's glory days of the early
seventies. Not only do these reveal
Michael's remarkable gifts as a show-
man even in his earliest performances
(his introduction to "Who's Loving You"
involves a hilarious story of love lost in
the sandbox, and his voice is incredible
throughout) but they also allow his broth-
ers Jermaine and Tito to showcase their
generally unrecognized instrumental
abilities; although Motown staff musi-
cians played on the records, Jermaine
and Tito recreated the thrilling bass and
guitars parts while singing and dancing
on stage.
The Jackson 5 were musical greats
for a few years, and their music has
always been a pleasure. Had it not boxed
in their contributions with other shoddy
material, "An American Dream" would
be the best Jacksons product since
"Rhythm Nation."
--Steven Knowlton
The Devil Dogs
We Three Kings
"Come on kids! Everybody ready?
We're going down to ROCK CITY!!!"
The opening shouts of "Rock City
U.S.A." define The Devil Dogs' music,
just as "Kick out the jams,

motherfuckers!" did for the MC5.
The Devil Dogs play a brand of loud,
fast rock and roll that derives much of its
energy from the Ramones but retains the
boogie fundamentals ofbluesbands. "We
Three Kings" features eight songs writ-
ten by the band members and one cover,
which is the best of the lot: "I'm So
Young," thedoo-wop classic remade with
heavy guitars; Fabulous Andy G.'s New
York accent lends a touch of nostalgia for
the Schoolboys.
The rest of the songs are similarly

experiences, so Shange turned them
into poems, songs and monologues.
They began performing in front of 20
people in a small studio on the lower
east side of New York City.
Shange considered the production
a "choreopoem," poetry being per-
formed by a group of people. It pre-
miered in California in 1974, and then
moved to the Public Theater in New
York City in 1976, where the late great
Joseph Papp took it under his wing.
Under Papp's direction, the produc-
tion earned an Obie award, the off-
Broadway equivalent of the Tony
What Shange had created, de-
scribed director Evelyn Collins, was
simply a showcase for women and
their colorful experiences. "It's not
structured like your traditional drama
or comedy, with a beginning, middle,
and end ... it's more of a collection of
poetry and prose." Seven women of
color of all ages, "come out (on stage)

and tell their story." They do not have
names; rather, they are classified by
different colors. "This symbolizes the
various moods that women feel,"
Collins explained.
Collins gave the gist of the plot:
"It's women sharing ... women talk-
ing with other women. There are some
things that women can talk about that
only other women can understand -
you know what I'm saying?"
There is no set, no props, and no
flashycostumes.Collinsexplained that
the minimalism was a conscious deci-
sion on her part. "It forces the audi-
ence to listen to what is being said;
nothing takes their attention away from
what the women are attempting to
communicate." Lighting is the only
technical device used, Collins ex-
plained, and that is used in modera-
tion, only to accentuate the mood of
the piece.
The play was selected and is being
produced by Sigma Gamma Rho So-

thrilling. The band plays with fervor and
skill (Crazy Stevie Bass' bass work is
outstanding) and sings with abandon
(pitching in on some cool stretched-out
harmonies, just like the Long Ryders),
making every song into a high-impact

rave up. The lyrics are unintelligible
(that's not as bad as it sounds, because
the song titles are vaguely threatening)
but it doesn't matter when there's this
much fun happening. The enthusiasm
the Devil Dogs have for simply playing

together translates onto the vinyl into
danceable, listenable thrills.
There's lots of energy and excite-
ment on "We Three Kings"; they're
probably even better live.
-Steven Knowlton
See RECORDS, Page 8

rority, the main sponsor of this pro-
duction, and proceeds go to their
George Washington Carver scholar-
ship fund. Collins believed that the
play was chosen for its style. "It's so
hard-hitting, so very direct, so pointed;
it's to motivate people to come to-
gether and talk about the issues ... it's
what theater should be - people talk-
ing to each other."
Women talking to each other ...
about real, relevant issues. Fancy that.
Catch this production while you can;
who knows how long you might have
to wait for another one.
presented January 14-17 at 8 p.m. at
The Mendelssohn Theatre. General
admission tickets are $6, $5for stu-
dents, and are available at the door,
Union Ticket Office, the Women'sStud-
ies Department, and most minority
councils in residence halls.


The Jacksons, just one big happy family. No accusations of incest, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, corruption.
needs Arts writers, News writers,
Opinion writers, Photographers, and
Sports writers. The Daily needs you.




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