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March 23, 1994 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-03-23

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 23, 1994

Acting ruins low-budget 'Moon'

By JOHANNA FLIES
I really wanted to love "Harvest Moon." Maybe that
feeling sprang from an embarrassing sense of loyalty to
writer/director/producer Geoffrey L. Breedon, a recent
graduate from the illustrious University. Or it could have
been out of respect for anyone who could make a feature
film with a $9000
budget.
Harvest Moon The plot was
even intriguing:
Written and directed by Geoffrey L. two couples (Jean
Breedon; with Geoffrey L. Breedon, and Gabe, Sara
Ian Stines, Amy Siler and Nadine and Nick) quit
Bernard their jobs in the
city and moveout
to Gabe's recently inherited farm to get away from hustle
and bustle and to "find themselves." The country air or
possibly the excitement of having their own septic tank
jangles the nerves of these youngsters. They get caught up
in a love tangle with everyone wanting to have sex with
everyone else, gender not barring these lustful inclinations.
Unfortunately, though there are definitely things to like
about this film, there are also things that are impossible to
love.
Being accustomed to the very deliberate, polished
movies that studios produce, it is hard to get used to the
video-like quality of this film. (It didn't help that the TV
picture kept jumping and flashing like that Wang-Chung
video, nearly sending me reeling into epileptic seizures.)
Breedon's use of continuous shots, done to save film
and money, are sometimes unsteady and shaky and distract
from the action. There are also a few scenes that, acting-
wise, probably would have been reshot if not for the
financial limitations. In fact, the rushed feeling that is
generated in many scenes, with the story moving too fast
to be believable, can most likely be attributed to Breedon's
budget and the need for a condensed, shorter plot.
Money issues aside, however, there are still some
aspects of "Harvest Moon" that weaken its potency, most
notably the acting. Amy Siler as Jean, a former ad-

woman-turned-novice photographer. plays every scene
with an enormously pissed-off attitude, even when she is
coming on to a guy. Her intense sulkiness and perpetual
snottiness make the character unlikable and her role in the
group relationship unbelievable. It is understood that Jean
is not meant to be the most cuddly of women but no one
could be that constipated all the time.
Given that none of these actors have ever won an
Oscar, it is not surprising that some of the film's stronger
moments are not those with dialogue but rather the
interactive collection of scenes overlaid with music that
work to illustrate the foursome's conflicts and group
dynamics.
The monologues spaced throughout the movie are also
very effective in developing characters' personalities and
plot as well as being the most personal and humorous
scenes. Many ofthe actors featured from the film's subplots,
such as Jean's grandmother, are more realistic and
interesting than the main characters. Breedon's talent is
most readily visible in the film's seemingly less pivotal
scenes.
The four main characters are never developed enough
to allow understanding of their problems or behavior and
after a certain point, the niggling and somewhat retarded
question of why they don't all just leave the farm won't go
away. Though Breedon as Gabe is likable (perhaps because
of Breedon's familiarity with the character), it is hard to
relate to the other three characters, making their actions
sometimes very annoying. Granted, there is briefdiscussion
about individual freedom, the importance of love and sex
and other such weighty matters, but it is hard to get to all
that while wondering how these people ever became
friends in the first place.
Breedon certainly deserves an endless supply of Fun
Dip for creating a respectful first film under such
constraints, but it is hard not to forget that this is his first
film. But, what the heck, the guy did manage to get the U
to lend him his equipment for free. There's got to be
something to love in that.
HARVEST MOON is showing at the Michigan Theater.

SARAH WHITINGlDaity
This weekend MUSKET presents "Fiddler on the Roof," an intimate and touching look at a small Jewish community.
'Fiddler' plays to people
MUSK-ET portrays peasants without pyrotechnics

By KAREN LEE
"The theater is meant to touch
people," said Carrie Barnhardt. "The
technical aspects are always made out
to be the most important part of a
show, but theater is really about
changing people's lives and letting
them live vicariously through the
characters."
Barnhardt chose the right show to
direct. "Fiddler on the Roof,"
MUSKET's latest production, is most
definitely a people-oriented musical.
Rather than concentrating on the
pyrotechnics that essentially are so
many Broadway shows today,
"Fiddler"'s authors, compoer Jerry
Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick,
adapted stories by Shalom Aleichem
about Anatevka, a tiny peasant
community in Czarist Russia.
Against a background of pogroms

and anti-Semitism, the dairyman
Tevye is torn between his desire to
uphold the religious and moral
traditions of his Jewish ancestors and
his hope for the happiness of his three
eldest daughters, who have gone
against custom and married without
the services of the town matchmaker.
Finally, with relations between the
Jewish and Christian populations
strained by Czarist acts of violence,
the people of Anatevka leave home,
setting out to find new lives in other
lands.
One might have expected the
religious nature of "Fiddler," in which
two of the musical numbers ar.. a
Sabbath and a wedding ritual, to be a
prickly issue, but according to
Barnhardt, this was not the case.
"'Fiddler' was a neat learning
experience for everyone, including

me," she says. "I read up on the stories
of Shalom Aleichem and we learned
about the old Jewish customs." Plus
Barnhardt and crew consulted a rabbi
on some of the numbers in order to
make them as authentic as possible.
But although MUSKET's
production has its basis in the
Broadway show, Barnhardt has added
her own ideas as well. For instance,
the famous "dream scene," which is
supposed to take place at a wedding,
now- involves, among other things,
traps, ghosts, tombstones and a bed
that spins around - definitely a
departure from the original.
Barnhardt, however, has been
working with a cast that is more than
up to the job. "They've been a very
good cast to work with," she declares.
"They have a lot of energy and they're
adaptable. This has been one of the
most organized shows MUSKET has
put together.
"This is my first time directing
such a big musical. It was a challenge
but it was also, I believe, a great
accomplishment."
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF will be
performed Thursday through
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2
p.m. at the Power Center. Tickets.,
are $8 reserved seating, $7 students
(limit 2 per ID) and are available at
the Michigan League Ticket Office.
Call 764-0450.

Freedy Johnston can fly into success

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By DIRK SCHULZE
Freedy Johnston is that rarest of
today's musicians: a singer-
songwriter who is not only quite good
at what he does but also, being not
ashamed of the fact, does not try to
hide what he is. "I'm a white guy from
Kansas with an acoustic guitar," he
said in a recent phone interview. "It is
impossible for me to get around the
singer-songwriter thing so I just
embrace it."
Neither, however, is Johnston or
his music as cheesy or soft as the likes
of James Taylor or Carole King. Elvis
Costello comes to mind, but the author
of "Lip Service" is a little too bitter to
truly be used as a reference point for
Johnston. Randy Newman of "12
Songs" might be closer but Johnston
has a greater ear for hooks, placing
his intelligent wordplay on top of
incredibly catchy pop melodies.
The 33-year-old New York
resident is starting the rock 'n' roll
game a bit later than most of his
contemporaries. Though his
discography includes the incredible
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slice o' pop "Can You Fly," with only
two albums and an EP to his name and
a third LP on the way he is a bit behind
the average count for most over-30
musicians. "I think that actually gives
me a bit of perspective that a 23-year-
old does not have. At least I know I
was an asshole at 23," Johnston said.
"I certainly don't bow down to youth.
I don't worry about that at all."
Unlike many other musicians,
Johnston did not grow up always sure
that he would wind up on stage singing
his own songs. "I always had the
naive idea that everything would work
out and I would be a musician. Of
course, I never had any reason to
believe it would happen," he said.
This lack of confidence belies the
strength of his songs. Evocative
numbers like "Responsible" and
"Tearing Down This Place" are not
afraid to be sincere. "Can You Fly"
opens with "Trying to Tell You I
Don't Know," which begins "Well I
sold the dirt to feed the band," a
reference, perhaps, to the fact that
Johnston raised the last $10,000 for
that record by selling the Kansas farm
he inherited from his stepfather.
After moving to New York in his
early 20s, Johnston worked a number
of jobs while honing his songwriting
skills. "I had a real job, in an office,
that I actually enjoyed quite a bit," he
said. After some respected friends
back in Kansas responded positively
to a tape of his own songs he sent
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them, Johnston began shopping for a
record deal, resulting in 1990's "The
Trouble Tree."
With Butch Vig handling the
production chores, Johnston's third
full-length album is set for a mid-
June release. "It's definitely a step
forward," he said. "Sonically, it's
more happening and vocally it's much
better, too. My voice is much more
confident. It is a record with two more
years experience and it definitely
sounds like it."
While Johnston did not write any
of the material with the radio in mind,
he concedes that some tracks are more
single-friendly than others.
"Unfortunately and despite itself,
there are a couple of songs that are
single-ly. But I'm not ashamed of
that. I honestly love pop music and I
would like nothing more than to be a
part of the pop continuom. I like deep,
arty lyrics and music, but if you -the
listener-can't sing the song, what's
the point?"
Though he usually presents his
songs live with a full band, he is
performing on this tour with only
Mark Spencer of the Blood Oranges
accompanying him on guitar. Whether
or not his concise and intelligent lyrics
will keep him in the spotlight of only
the critics despite his catchy melodies
remains to be seen.
Regardless, Johnston seems to
know where he is headed. Though he
may sing "There really is atown called
hopeless / On a faded map circled in
blue," his aims are clear and they do
not include lounging forever in pure
artistic obscurity.
"I never wanted to be an indie-
artist," Johnston said. "To me, that
simply means low-budget."
FREEDY JOHNSTON opens for the
Cowboy Junkies Thursday, March
24 at the Michigan Theater. The
show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are
$17.50 in advance.

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Dance for Mother Earth

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ACCOUNT
REPRESENTATIVES

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Greetings fromĀ°.
Att.a the Bun!

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1,000 champion dancers and Pow Wow Info: 763-9044 or 995-7281
singers from across North
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The countrvy finest Native

Michigan
Collegiate
Job Fair
Friday
March 25th
9am - 3pm

Say Hello to Teledial and say hello to a
challenging future at one of the top 100
fastest growing companies in Michigan with
13 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio and
Indiana.
On Friday, March 25th, we will be exhibiting
at the Michigan Collegiate Job Fair from
9am-3pm. We invite you to stop by and
visit with us. Our Company Representa-
tives will be on hand to answer your
questions about Teledial.
At Teledial, we recognize and reward high
achievers for their contributions. If you are
stimulated by challenging situations and are
ready to utilize your persuasive leadership
skills, we would like to meet with you,
regardless ofyourmajor!
Our continued growth and promote-from-
within policy provides many opportunities
for motivated go-getters in the highly

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Soris for Ester, s'irthisys, Mother's Psy,
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