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February 11, 1994 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-02-11

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A 'Major' sensation
U Players overcome difficulties of "Major Barbara"

By MELISSA ROSE BERNARDO
The biggest obstacle to a masterful performance of
George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara" is the language.
Invariably, it will stop any less-than-amazing acting troupe
dead in its tracks, and send them plummeting into a sea of
misunderstanding and blubbering. Fortunately, the Uni-
versity Players
overcame that po-
Major Barbara tentially fatal ob-
stacle, resulting in
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre an intellectually
February 10, 1994 stimulating and
emotionally en-
gaging performance.
While the basic premise of the "Major Barbara" is
poverty, numerous plot lines run throughout. Lady
Britomart (Cecilia T. Grinwald) wants more money from
Andrew Undershaft (John Neville-Andrews), her hus-
band and father of her children. Barbara (Erin Dilly) and
her sister Sarah (Julie Suzanne Miller) both have special
fellows, so they're going to need money to get started.
But when Barbara discovers that her father is making
his money in a munitions factory, how can she accept any
of his money? Things get even more complicated when
Adolphus Cusins (Clinton Bond, Jr.), her fiance, becomes
interested in her father's munitions business.
Since the conflicts which fuel the drama are created,
illustrated and eventually solved through Shaw's lan-
guage, the virtuosity with which the actors conveyed that
language made this production a stellar one.
From the opening scene with Lady Brit and her son
Steven's (Matthew Bower) banter, the cast shows a con-
fident mastery of the language. Dilly and Grinwald are
especially adept with keeping their characterizations from
interfering with the dialogue.
The conflict between Barbara and her father is the
most intriguing, and is played with vigor and intensity by
Dilly and Neville-Andrews. Undershaft's 5000-pound
donation to the Salvation Army is merely a tactic to "buy
Barbara." Just as it is Barbara's quest to save her father's
soul, it is his quest to make her preach his religion. "I am
a millionaire. That is my religion," he unashamedly pro-
claims. And the two things upon which that religion is
based are money and gunpowder.
Barbara is unrelenting in her pursuit to save souls, and
so is Dilly playing Barbara. Just when it appears that she

seemingly out of nowhere. Her Barbara is especially,
poignant in the end of Act Two, when she pleads to her
coworkers to recognize the filthy money the Army is so
willingly accepting.
Her direct opposition with Undershaft is the theme of
the show. That conflict culminates in Act Three, when
Barbara sees the munitions factory, and must face that
which is trying to buy her soul. For every impassioned
plea Barbara makes to her father, Undershaft matches it
with his equally driven rationale. She may abhor his
money, yet it was his money that fed her and clothed her
as a child. "I saved your soul from the crime of poverty!"
he counters. And Dilly is glorious at the end of the show,
with her eyes and her spirit lit up by Barbara's revelation,
and the concurrent rebirth of her courage.
As Cusins, Bond gets his chance to shine in Act Three
When he is offered the Undershaft business, he gives in-
but not without retaining his balance of Dionysian passion
suppressed by Euripidean sensibility, and not without the
realization of the moral of the play. "You cannot have
power for good without having power for evil."
Many noteworthy performances drove the show. As
the wonderfully over-the-top Lady Brit, Cecilia Grinwald
was perfectly hilarious. Eric Black has a disturbing, but
touching, scene as the outwardly violent but inwardly
miserable soul-to-be-saved Bill Walker.
Jennifer Snoeynik's sets are wonderful recreations of-
the ornate craftsmanship and the excess of turn-of-the-
century England. The library of Lady Britomart
Undershaft's house was especially impressive with its
carved wooden shelves, lush draperies, fringed table-
cloths and rich fabrics. The breakfast room was equally
well-crafted. Snoeyik paid impeccable attention to detail,
as did the bourgeoisie who enjoyed such living quarters.
As is always a danger in performing Shaw, the mood
of the audience is a critical factor. People have to be in the
mood to listen and to listen closely. Shaw may have been
criticized for using characters as mouthpieces for his
political rhetoric, but when his characters are so well-
crafted, it's no wonder an audience wants to listen to them.
And when those words are as well-delivered as they are
here, an audience - this critic in particular - welcomes
Shaw's ideas, and holds them in the light of the present.
MAJOR BARBARA plays tonight and Saturday at 8
p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Lydia Mendelssohn
Theatre. Tickets are $14, $10 ($6 students). Call 764-
0450 for information.

0
0

Erin Dilly, Clinton Bond, Jr. and John Neville Andrews give captivating performances in "Major Barbara."

has nothing more to give, she pulls a

breath of energy

McGuane takes Montana over '80s

Sy RONA KOBELL
Welcome to the world of the Wild,
Wild West, where men were men,
women left mer and men drowned
their sorrows in a trout stream.
Well, it's not exactly that simple.
At least, not in Thomas McGuane's
"Nothing But Blue Skies," a novel
which synthesizes the narcissism and
greed of the '80s with the fresh air
images of the western terrain. It is a
novel about what happens when ev-
rything fails and the only lingering
hope is the hope itself.
McGuane's main character, Frank
:openhaver, was a once successful,
happily married entrepreneur. Then
his wife Gracie leaves him, his father
banishes him from the family busi-
ness, his college-age daughter begins
dating a 54-year-old attorney, and his
wife's best friend Lucy thinks he's
aer sexual automaton. He bounces
from bed to bed, getting close enough
for physical contact but holding his
female partners at arm's length emo-
'ionally.

If all Montana boys end up fol-
lowing the labyrinth of poor choices
Frank pursues, then maybe mammas
should take heed not to let their babies
grow up to be cowboys.
McGuane explained that Frank's
poor judgment is a sign of the times
rather than a stereotype of western
life. "In the '80s, a lot of people were
encouraged to hurl themselves into
greed culture with the implicit prom-
ise that, if they did, they would be
happy," he said. "(Frank) can't un-
derstand why he can't get anything
right and why the promises his cul-
ture has made to him now seem hol-
low."
Frank entangles himself in one
mess after another as he runs with a
mixed-bag crowd of devoted friends,
aristocratic doctors, promiscuous
women and hard-core cowboys. He
even spent a night in jail after a bar-
room brawl and received a citation
for inciting to riot. But through it all,
Frank is a family man, devoted to his
daughter and jilting wife.

McGuane, who is married with
three daughters and a son, is also very
much a family man. However, he
claims that Frank's character is not
autobiographical. "One of the plea-
sures of writing novels is that you try
to give voice to all these characters
and let them not be you," McGuane
commented.
One trait McGuane and his char-
acter do share is their love for the
great outdoors. On a fishing outing,
Frank confesses to his friend Phil, "I
really stop thinking about everything
else when I fish. I think about how to
catch a fish, period." As an avid con-
servationist and director of American
Rivers and the Craighead Wildlife-
Wildlands Institute, McGuane con-
siders the outdoors a "religion" to
which he is forever faithful.
He claims that both human beings
and his fictional characters can find
respite from daily pressures in the
serenity of outdoor scenery. "People
are entitled to some harmless and
even mindless peace in their lives;

they don't have to have their shit
detectors dialed up to 19 day and
night," McGuane stated. "They look
to the natural world for some kind of
spiritual solace that they might not be
able to find at K-Mart."
McGuane, who often goes fishing
with actor Michael Keaton, is a native
of Michigan and attended both the
University and Michigan State. After
receiving a fellowship at Stanford,
the young author drifted West and
"woke up one day to find (himself)
living in Montana."
Like the first wave of frontiers-
men, McGuane harbored romantic
dreams of an existence rife with simple
pleasures and breathtaking scenery.
And unlike most of Frank's romances,
McGuane's love affair with the Mon-
tana and the open-air west has proved
resilient throughout his 25 years there.
He believes that young people, no
longer burdened with the greed cul-
ture of the '80s, should follow their
hearts. "I think that when you're
young, you should be driven by ro-
mantic notions. If you don't you're
missing out on something and you
can't get it back."
THOMAS McGUANE will be
reading from "Nothing But Blue
Skies" tonight at 7:30 at Borders.

'Gunmen' shoots
plenty of empty duds
By CHRIS LEPLEY
"Gunmen" tries so hard to be cool. It fails so miserably that it's difficult to
watch. The essential elements of a good action film are there -cool bad guys,
stubble-sporting anti-hero good guys, lots of guns, a few explosions - but
they don't add up to much more than
a bad "Lethal Weapon" imitation.
Gunmen As if the rain forest weren't being
Written by Stephen Sommers; depleted quickly enough, South
directed by Deran Sarafian; starring American drug lords and their grizzled
Christopher Lambert, Mario Van mercenary lackeys are blowing huge
Peebles, Denis Leary and Patrick chunks of it up in search of a boat.Note
Stewart just any boat, but a boat upon which-
one of the aforementioned drug lords
(Patrick Stewart) has hidden all of his money. Not just some of his money, but
all $400 million of it. What ever happened to Swiss bank accounts?
That much money ain't easy to pass up, so one of those henchmen gets an
itch and scratches it by killing his friends and stealing the boat. Enter Denis
Leary as Auburn, the perfect kick-ass ranting mercenary leader, sent to find the
boat. Along with the requisite sexy woman with a gun, Auburn has hordes of
bazooka-toting thugs to back up his threats. But even they can't stand against
the might of the dreaded buddy team-up.
Y'see, the guy who stole the boat had a brother named Danny (Christopher
Lambert) who knows where the boat is. Danny gets rescued from a South
American prison by a bounty-hunter from New York City named Cole (Mario
Van Peebles). Cole knows the name of the boat, but not where it is. And Danny
knows where it is, but not the name. This ludicrous situation keeps the pair
together long enough to develop a true comic rapport,'and a deep-seated,
heterosexual affection for each other (in fact in one truly touching moment, the
pair almost shares a lip-lock).
Auburn chases Cole and Danny from South America to Puerto Vallerta,
after stopping off to kill dear Patrick Stewart and take over the drug empire.
Now sporting even more underlings, Auburn is set for the end of the film,
which includes all the necessary boat chases, shootings and explosions, and a
spectacular death for all the villains. The End.
In case you're wondering where all the other names from the advertise-
ments for this film went (among those actors billed are Big Daddy Kane,
Kadeem Hardison, Eric Band Rakim, Dr. Dre and Ed Lover), they're all sitting-
in a South American bar rapping their little hearts out. And that's it (with the
exception of Hardison who plays Izzy, a loud-mouthed pilot) for those people.
Leary is the true star of the film (as usual), proving that just because he did
little more than duplicate his MTV commercials and "No Cure For Cancer"
schtick in some other films this year doesn't mean that he isn't a great actor.
Judging by the past year's films, in fact, Leary could be one of the best true
action hero villains to come along since Alan Rickman.
One warning: "Gunmen" is not for the faint of heart. Patrick Stewart says
the word 'fuck' twice, and the word 'shit' once, in addition to forgetting all the
words to "The Lord's Prayer." Leave your plastic Spock ears at home.
GUNMEN is now playing at Showcase.
f -- Aloha Entertainment's On State at Liberty
S ateTheatre Adults $5.00; Students w $3.00
24 hr INFO UNE -994-4024 I

01

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