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November 18, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-18

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'Lion' debuts at U

"The proof of a strong society is
when you can maintain tradition while
still learning from the new," said
Charles Jackson, director of the Uni-
versity presentation ofNigerian play-
wright Wole Soyinka's"The Lion and
theJewel" which goes upon Thursday
night. "At the heart of this play there is
aclashbetween oldandnew, between
what is genuine tradition and what is
half-baked or false."
The play is a classic Nigerian folk
tale resplendent with ritual song, dance,
mummery and music. The lines them-
selves are "poetic irony,"thatpresenta
world where "dance is away of life and
language isrhythm."
The story is a simple struggle of
young versus old, and tradition versus
newideals.Onavery basiclevel, it'sa
V struggle between two men and "who
gets the girl." It pits the young, Euro-
against an elder in the tribe (Baroka).
"Here, Lakunle representshollow west-
enization, a shallow imitation of the
European white male," Jackson ex-
Jackson hopes that the audience
will strive to see more in the play than
0 just what is presented to them, rather
than blindly taking the story purely at
face value. "Some may get the play,"
he said, "andsomemaynot. Some may
just see it as a clever old man who
seduced a young woman rather than a
piece thatpays homage to African heri-
tage and ancestry.
Soyinka takes his audiences on a
culturally significant ride, familiariz-
ing everyone with theNigerian way of
* lifethroughthispeekintothedaysand

nights of the Ilunjinle people and the
"Soyinkaexplores the rituals ofthe
community, acquainting us with some
of the most familiar, intimate and es-
sential elements of traditional Nigerian
culture: the continuing of the blood-
line, the proper roles for men and
women, the customs oftheBride-Price
and other delightful and insightful re-
The production was also fortunate,
have secured the assistance" of re-
nownedAfrican culture expert Dr. Pearl
The story is a simple
struggle of young
versus old, and
tradition versus new
Ideals. On a very basic
level, it's a struggle
between two men and
'who gets the girl.'
Primus, who this year will celebrate
50 years of public efforts as alecturer,
anthropologist, choreographerandAf-
rican-American dancer.
Primus made great additions to the
feel andaccuracy of the piece through
encouraging the actors to alter their
way of thinking from idealized west-
ern thought to traditional tribal thought.
She helped introduce the spirituality of
the people that is very key to the play.
"We discussed how the images of
ourselves (as Black people) became
distorted when we were brought over
here from Africa," Jackson said. "We

Charles Jackson directs his fifth University production with "The Lion and the Jewel," which opens tonight at Mendelssohn Theatre in the League.

began to worship something other
than ourselves."
This is Jackson's fifth time direct-
ing aperformance at theUniversity. He
is also an associate professor in the
Theatre Department as well as the Co-
ordinator of Black Theatre Studies.

He is offering a class in Black theater
(Acting and the Black Experience)
for winter term, which he thinks will
be an interesting study in Black actors
in black productions. He asserts that
the class is not for Black actors only;
he's hoping to get a diverse sampling

of backgrounds. He is interested in
teaching "Black from a Black per-
"I think that this class is a very
successful way to bring African-
American students into the theater
program, but by no means should it be

labeled a 'Black class'."
beperformedNovember 18-20at 8
p.m. andNovember21 at2 p.m. at
the LydiaMendelssohn Theatre.
Tickets are $14 and $10 ($6
students). Call 764-0450.

'70s throw back hits Detroit's State Theatre

Ryu Murakami
(translated by Ralph F.
"69" is the story of a Japanese
high school boy's adventures in the
summer of 1969. This novel shows
how similar Japanese teenagers are to
Americans, dispels the myth that all
Japanese are power-hungry technol-
ogy buffs and illustrates the universal
appreciation ofrock 'n' roll. It is also
a book that is simply great fun to read.
Ken Yazaki, the novel's 17-year-
old protagonist and narrator, refuses
to conform to the norms of Japanese
life. While moststudents are intenton
doing well in high school and study-
ing for college entrance exams, Ken
joins his friends to produce a rock
music festival, the first event of this
kind in his hometown.
In spite of living in a small town in
a remote area of Japan, Ken and his
friends listen to the Beatles, the Doors
and Simon & Garfunkel. They are
political activists and idealistic revo-
lutionaries, musicians and poets. They
also know the writings of Camus,
Genet and Sartre.
Well, Ken atleastpretends toknow
them. He drops the names of writers
and film makers with ease. "'The
Complete Sartre,' Proust's 'Remem-
brance of Things Past,' Joyce's
* 'Ulysses' ... Iknew the titles of all of
these books by heart," Ken confides.
Unbeknownst to his friends, Ken pre-
fers comic books.
As a prelude to the festival, Ken
and his friends break into their high
school to barricade the roof and de-
face the building. This scene comi-
cally parallels protests in late-'60s
America. The boys paint "revolution-

ary" slogans allover the school walls,
like "To Arms, Comrades," "Run-
ning Dogs of the Power Structure"
and "Smash the National Athletic
Meet." This last slogan is Ken's con-
tribution. In the midst of politically
obsessed teenagers, Ken shows him-
self as amore down-to-earth teen. He
does not want to have to run the long-
distance race in the annual athletic
meet, and so he incorporates this into
his "political" action.
Ken attacks the school and plans
the festival to impress the "angel" of
his dreams, Kazuko Matsui. Through-
out the narrative, Ken refers to Kazuko
as "My little Bambi." Ken's descrip-
tions of his feelings for Kazuko and
their romance succeed in the story
because Murakami has a solid sense
of how teenagers feel and act when
they are in love. The story is loosely
based on the author's life, and this
works in Murakami's favor as Ken's
character is drawn realistically, with
all the foibles of a typical teenager.
However, the reason Murakami's
story is so enjoyable is not just Ken,
but all the characters brought to life
here. In the spirit of Charles Dickens,
Murakami invests a sense of round-
ness and originality in even his minor
characters that makes them memo-
rable. Murakami breathes life into
characters like Fuku Chan, the band's
lead singer who sings "Don'tcha
know, don'tcha know" over and over
because he does not know the words
to American rock songs.
Through these highly believable
characters and situations, Murakami
takes you back-whether to the'60s
or to your high school days - and
makes you remember as he remem-
bers. And that is what makes Ryu
Murakami such a great storyteller.
-Matthew Thorburn
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SAVE $2.00 $10.99/CD

To transcend a name like Meat
Loaf and be called great is truly an
astounding feat. He did it once in
1977, with his "Bat Out of Hell" al-
bum, which went on to sell 25 million
copies. Today, 16 years later, Meat
Loaf seeks to re-establish his great-
ness with "Bat Out of Hell II: Back
Into Hell," and does so with a dra-
matic flair and music of epic propor-

niennsn ncanrur





nGVVnv ncrIGii


Meat Loaf
Bat Out of Hell II:
Back Into Hell

then, Meat Loaf isn't the type for
half-baked attempts. In fact, this isn't
just an album - it's a theatrical pro-
duction. The songs average at seven
minutes long, the choruses repeat in-
cessantly and background vocalists
that sound more like full choirs echo
Meat Loaf's lavish exclamations.
A concept album in terms of sound
and mood, "Bat Out of Hell II" runs
the gamut of emotions but always is
extreme. "Life is a Lemon and I Want
My Money Back," featuring a Quiet
Riot-like chorus (and background
singing, quite fittingly, by the always-
entertaining Nelson twins), isan eight-
minute critique of everything from
love to God to childhood. Meat Loaf,
the former Broadway star, is just as
melodramatic in "Rock and Roll
Dreams Come Through": the repeated
lyrics "The beat is yours forever..."
could just as easily be found on the
"Grease" soundtrack. The album, er,
theatrical production, continues in the
same fashion, with only "Wasted
Youth," an eerie two-minute mono-
logue spoken by album writer/pro-
ducer Jim Steinman, offering some
sort of relief, albeit weird.
The album ends with "Back Into
Hell," all-instrumental haunted house
music that pays homage to the origi-
nal "Bat Out of Hell" album, and
"Lost Boys and Golden Girls," a
shorter, more subdued song packed
full of sentimental high school year-
book quotes and plenty of background

"oohs" and "aahs"
Whether all of this makes Meat
Loaf brilliant, or just plain ridiculous,
may forever remain a mvsterv.

Meat Loaf will perform Thursday
night at 7:30 p.m. at the State
Theatre in Detroit. Tickets are
$22. 50

Like the Great Meat Loaf, this
album is full of paradoxes. Lyrics
walk that fine line between total stu-
pidity and utter profundity; for ex-
ample, "Objects in the Rear View
MirrorMay Appear Closer Than They
Are" includes the line "If life is just a
highway, then the soul is just a car."
Equally paradoxical is the elaborate
way in which Meat Loaf delivers the
simplest of messages; in the operatic
opus "I'd Do Anything ForLove (But
I Won'tDo That)," the only decipher-
able idea seems to be that he won't
everleave the woman he loves. Maybe
I'm missing something, but 11 min-
utes and 58 seconds seems a bit of a
longwinded way of saying this. But

Seventies relic, Meatloaf, performs tonight at the State Theater inDetroit.

qjge Lion an! the Jewef
by 'Wok Soyin&.a


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