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November 22, 1993 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-22

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 22, 1993 - 7

No Safety jostle and joke at the Performance Network this evening. You would be well-advised to partake in the merriment.
'No safety nets required wit this group

'Baltimore Waltz'
holds true to spirit
In 1986, playwright Paula Vogel was invited by her brother, Carl, to travel
through Europe with him. Because she was pressed for time and money, Vogel
turned him down, not realizing that he was HIV positive. Carl died in 1988.
Vogel's 1990 play, "The Baltimore Waltz," which is now playing at the
Performance Network, is her surreal-
istic tribute to Carl. Here, the brother
The Baltimore Waltz and sister do take their trip to Europe;
Performance Network however, Anna is the one who is sick.
She is dying from a rare illness called
November 20, 1993 Acquired Toilet Disease, or ATD,
which she has caught from a toilet
seat at the elementary school where she works. Carl, in the meantime, has been
fired from his job as children's librarian at the San Francisco Public Library
because he is homosexual.
As they tour the continent, Anna, eager to "make up for lost time," seduces
almost every man she meets; Carl, in between his jaunts to various museums,
is caught up in a "Third Man"-esque intrigue involving a friend named Harry
Lime, Carl's stuffed bunny and a shady character that trails brother,,sister and
bunny throughout Europe. At the end, however, the audience realies with a
jolt that ... well, I really can't give away the surprise. Suffice it to say that
(sorry, I don't mean to be trite) things are not what they seem. Until then, Vogel
Instead of being a diatribe against the ignorance
and inattention given to the disease, though, or
even making AIDS the foremost issue, "Waltz"
focuses on loss in general, and the Network's
production retains that spirit.
takes us on a trip that is by turns wild, funny, poignant and frightening, on the
one hand lampooning attitudes toward AIDS and homosexuality, and on the
other showing the anguish of irrevocable loss.
The Performance Network's production, as directed by University profes-
sor Philip Kerr and acted by three talented performers, stayed faithful to
Vogel's script and gave us the kind of risky, thought-provoking theater that we
really need to see more of. Using only a futon, a curtain, two hospital carts and
two suitcases, Kerr and company managed to convincingly evoke, among
other localities, doctors' offices, European streets and hotel rooms, virtually
guiding us through Europe without ever leaving the theater. Nothing was
In fact, efficiency was a key trait of the production, and that extended to the
acting. Not one action or emotion was expended unnecessarily. Jonathan
Smeenge, who played Carl, nicely portrayed a man attempting to deal with the
loss of one of the most (if not the most) important elements in his life, and his
love and desperation is all too apparent.
University student Joanna Hershon, in the highly complex role of Anna,
gave an authoritative and deeply shaded performance that evoked another kihd
of desperation - that of trying, as Vogel writes in the play, to fight her illness
with the health of her body. One particularly arresting sequence showed the six
stages of the terminal patient during the course of an illness: denial, anger,
bargaining, depression, acceptance and hope. Hershon made each stage very
distinct and profoundly affecting; she was marvelous.
But it was Malcolm Tulip who stole the show. He played every other role
in the play, some eleven or twelve of them. Each character was so different that
I found it hard to remember that the same actor was portraying all of them. I
cannot think of another actor in the area with Tulip's physical and vocal
virtuosity. Not only that, his various accents were excellent.
"The Baltimore Waltz" is said to be part of a relatively new generation of
what are known as AIDS plays. Instead of being a diatribe against the
ignorance and inattention given to the disease, though, or even making AIDS
the foremost issue, "Waltz" focuses on loss in general, and the Network's
production retains that spirit. It is a credit to both director and cast that they did
not turn this into your conventional AIDS play, thus making it one of the most
gripping pieces of theater I've seen in a while.

In the final throes of the 20th cen-
tury, New York's Downtown has
rved as an off-center locus for mu-
Ucally exploring the uncertainty of
post-modern, pre-God-knows-what
urbana. Saving us all from existential
angst, the five-member amalgamation
No Safety is one of our most adept
guides, navigating the panic and won-
der of contemporary living.
Composed of,weathered compos-
ing improvisers, the quintet focuses
their divergent musical perspectives
*n avant-rock of ages. No Safety's
fast paced coalescence of diverse
musical sounds comes off like a post-
modern shoot-out, with the instiga-
tors slinging all genres of music. If
Continued from page 5
"You'll Be Leaving Me" contains
We soon-to-be-immortal lines "Just
when I've learned to believe in you,
you'll be leaving me." Kate Long's
"Who Will Watch the Home Place" is
a wonderful slow song with amazing
vocal support from her studio com-
panions. Her fiddle is never over-
played on these 13 songs. Always
present, it gently guides each song
home instead of forcing its way into
&e role of the all powerful, all-domi-
ating instrument. Lewis knows her
bluegrass well, but she is not afraid to
try new approaches to the age-old
style and that is ultimately what makes
"True Stories" shine. It is traditional
without being redundant, and experi-
mental without letting go of its roots.
- Dirk Schulze
Willie and Lobo
'ypsy Boogaloo
Mesa/ Blue Moon
While most "world music" is a
bland synthesis of styles that actually
removes the ethnic charm and diver-
sity from the music it sets out to
tribute, Willie and Lobo's "Gypsy
Boogaloo" is a pleasant anomaly, full
of ethnic tradition as well as modern
stylings thatresult in a timeless, seam-
*ss blend of new and old.
"Gypsy Boogaloo" is an apt de-
scription of Willie and Lobo's sound:
an intense mix of flamenco, pop and
jazz. Songs such as "Amsterdam,"
"Pipe Song," "Turkish Dessert" and
"Salsa Verde" are based on elaborate,
churning Spanish guitar rhythms
decorated with flutes, strings, trum-
pets and maracas. "Dance With You"
adds subtle vocals to this mix and
4rhe Sultan's Dream" has a Moroc-
can flavor. All the tracks are winners;
they keep the listener's attention with
music so passionate and intense it
could be classified as a marital aid.
Gypsy boogaloo indeed.
- Heather Phares

V wmmb

George Clinton and Karlheinz
Stockhausen got locked in a closet
together, their musical and ideologi-
cal slug-fest might sound strangely
akin No Safety.
Having prettied themselves dur-
ing their studio recordings on "Spill,"
No Safety uncages their brash beauty
on their latest Houston mess around,
"Live at the Knitting Factory."
ZeenaParkins has graced the pres-
ence of new music tricksters Elliott
Sharp, Fred Frith and John Zorn. In
No Safety, Zeena's trademark elec-
tric harp alternately emits ska licks
and random noises. On less flamboy-
ant keyboard and eggs, Zeena
scrambles up quirky melodies.
Chris Cochrane, the other co-

germinator of the band, injects most
of the politics and emotion into the
troupe. His vocals alternate between
balladry ("Lonely") and jagged
melody scoured by the harsh reality
of being gay in The City. His vocals
assume the surreptitiousness of No
Safety's music, unwilling to be pinned
down through their teasing opacity.
Just when you think you're catch-
ing on to No Safety, they pervert the
familiar melody,jump into something
entirely new, or stop altogether. But,
despite their jack-in-the-box compo-
sition style, a few of the members
always provide a groove, even if its
crannies are a bit jagged.
Sure the music is danceable, but
only at your own risk. Take the gut-

wrenching transition from Cochrane's
expressive vocals on "Submerge" to
the Zeena's brief burst of torrid harp
raving ("Angry") - these changes
can strip your gears.
The diverse backgrounds and di-
rections of the quintet give No Safety
the semblance of talking out of five
mouths at once; yet, somehow they
create an intelligible polyphony.-No
Safety is not just about self-explor-
atory improv - they want to enter-
tain you. Their vaudeville jests may
inspire you to jump right into their
post-modern mosh pit.
No Safety jars The Performance
Network (408 West Washington)
tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, $8
for students. Dial 663-0696 for info.


The leader of Big Head Todd and the Monsters sings during their concert at the Michigan Theater Saturday night.

KathrnnP. O'Brien


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