'Exit to Eden
disarmingly poor excuse for
erotica, probably a worse film 0
By KIRK MILLER
It's been an embarrassing couple of years for Anne Rice. First they cast Tom
Cruise as Lestat in the long-awaited film version of her bestseller,"Interview with
the Vampire," disproving the notion that Scientologists can't be vampires. Then
she buys two full pages in the New York Times slobbering over the same casting
choice she disowned months before.
And now she has to watch Rosie
O'Donnell and Dan Ackroyd in S&M
gear turn her cult classic "Exit to Eden'
Exit to Eden into a tepid sex-farce. What did the
pitch for this sound like?
Anne Rice Exec. #1: We lost the rights for
Dell "Interview." What do we do?
Exec.#2: Well, she also wrote some
porn about a mysterious island devoted
to S&M ...
Exec. #1: Ilove it! Instead of a porn, we'll turn it into a zany romantic comedy
with Rosie O'Donnell! It's "Fantasy Island" with an edge.
As painter Georges Seurat's great-grandson, Christopher French leads the company of "Sunday in the Park with George" in the song "Putting it Together."
'Sunday'serves 5curat, Sondhei mwell
By MELISSA ROSE BERNARDO
Except for a poor excuse of a tour-
ing company that plagued Ann Arbor
last fall, "Sunday in the Park with
George" has never been performed in
Sunday in the
Park with George
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
October 13, 1994
the Michigan area. The reason being
that the Stephen Sondheim-James
Lapine collaboration is conceivably the
most difficult show in the American
musical theater. It is also one of the
most picturesque and moving.
The Musical Theatre Program
(MTP) has presented a wonderful "Sun-
day," surpassing most of those diffi-
culties, and bringing out the beauty
relatively effortlessly. Playing at the
Mendelssohn through Sunday, this pro-
duction highlights the aesthetics of the
design and mostof the intricacies of the
The difficulties of the show are
built into the plot. The first act -
which runs an hour and 20 minutes -
charts 1884to 1886, theperiodin which
pointilist painter Georges Seurat
(played by Adam Hunter) painted his
masterpiece "A Sunday Afternoon on
the Island of La Grande Jatte." The
authors have used the painting as a
reference point for an exploration of
Seurat's life, primarily his relationship
with his model/mistress Dot (Whitney
The second act - which runs less
than an hour - begins with Seurat's
untimely death, and abruptly shifts to
1984. An artist named George (Chris-
topher French) is presenting his latest
invention at a museum. Assisting is his
98-year-old grandmother Marie (Zadda
Bazzy, though she looks nowhere near
98), who is Dot's daughter. This makes
George the great-grandson of the mas-
ter Seurat. George's frustration leads
him to the island of La Grande Jatte, to
search for inspiration.
The vast difference in periods and
aesthetics isjarring, and adifficulttran-
sition for a viewer to make. In the
original Broadway production (and in
all other subsequent), Mandy Patinkin
played both Seurat in the first act and
George in the second act; Bernadette
Peters played Dot in the first act and
Marie in the second. In the MTP's
production, director Brent Wagner has
strayed from that casting precedent,
casting the four roles with four separate
Presumably such a split would de-
stroy what little continuity bridges the
two acts originally; the first act is like a
musical in itself, and the second seems
almost an afterthought. However,
Wagner's choice displays merit in the
end, when all four actors join in a
breathtaking "Move On." Wagner suc-
ceeds in reconciling the love between
George and Dot, and also in giving
George the inspiration he seeks.
This production moves relatively
steadily throughout. "Relatively" be-
cause musical director Jerry DePuit
has made the unfortunate choice of
slowing the tempo of most of the num-
bers, "We Do Not Belong Together"
and "Putting it Together" being the
most intrusive errors. While the per-
formers compensate with consistent
energy, the tempo shift saps much of
the score's force. And since there is no
orchestra (just a piano and percussion),
much of its drive is missing already.
Adam Hunter plays Seurat a little
happier than most; while some may
argue that Seurat needs to be obses-
sively introspective, Hunter's choice
endears himself to Dot'and to the audi-
ence much more successfully. His well-
developed tenor - dark, yet not heavy
-reflects a maturity beyond his years.
Whitney Allen's Dot is lovely and re-
fined, and a delight to watch.
Christopher French plays the strug-
gling artist to perfection, and muddles
through a chaotic "Putting itTogether"
admirably well. ZaddaBazzy is aheart-
All of the other performances are
passable, and the chorus sings a lovely
"Sunday." Deserving mention areRonit
Mitzner (Louise), Ryan Bailer (the
Boatman) and Christopher Pearce
(Franz), all performances in the first
act. And as Jules, a rival of Seurat, John
Halmi finally has a role which shows
off his acting skill as well as his excep-
tional voice. A few actors seem out of
place, mainly CressidaSuttles as Harriet
(Act Two) and Ashley Leadbetter as
the Old Lady (Act One).
Greta Fisher has once again de-
signed some beautiful lighting, which
melds perfectly with the pointilist set.
Eric Renschler's set design serves its
purpose, and his buildings in Act Two
are right on-target, just as out-of-per-
spective as Seurat's painting.
Barring a few stumbling points,
once again the MTP has handled a
difficult show with aplomb. The show
pays homage to a great artist's work,
and their treatment is a remarkable
testimony to "Sunday" and all art.
SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH
GEORGE plays tonight and Saturday
at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Tickets
are $16 and $12 ($6 students) at the
League Ticket Office. Call 764-0450.
Exec. #2: Or
meets "Body of
the book, give me
the wacky part-
T&A, and let's
campaign in the
movie! Just to be
U n fort u -
ably had read the
made the changes.
(the book) is bad.
erotica it should
for being coher-
ing the word "pe-
it turns into the
tered, boring, an-
ever written. It's
read where you
of the lovers dies
is erotica) devel-
form of impo-
ing. Elliott is a
As erotica ('Exit to
Eden') should Just
score points for being
coherent and not
renaming the word
'penis' as 80 million
metaphors, but it
doesn't even have the
balls to consider itself
through it turns into
the most self-centered,
boring, annoying love
story ever written.
"Lord ofthe Flies'0
Dan Ackroyd as
ner, throw in some
create the worst ad
last 20 years for a
nately, they prob-
book when they
"Exit to Eden"
Really bad. A
just score points
ent and notrenam-
nis" as 80 million
metaphors, but it
the balls to con-
noying love story
actually hope one
of cancer, or (as *
ops an incurable
tographer looking for the next thrill. Lisa is the dominatrix with a heart of gold,
playing a kinky version of Ricardo Montelban. She heads an island S&M
paradise known as The Club. The participants sign up to be slaves on the island
for two years, which might include one-on-one service for the island guests,
performing in Greek-style stadiums nude, being tortured, humiliated, raped and
strapped up in provocative leather attire. So there is potential for wacky hi-jinx0
But Rice (writing under a pseudonym, I wonder why?) telegraphs her story a
mile away. The point-of-view is split between Elliott and Lisa, suggesting the
inevitable hook-up. We know Lisa is not supposed to fall in love with the guests.
We know Elliott is reckless after spending too much time in war-torn countries;
"All I was worried about was shaking this eerie sense that I ought to be dead" is
one of the several hundred times we are told that Elliott has a death wish. And we
know she'll fall in love, he'll find what he's always been looking for, and there
will be lots of great sex.
Surprise! Except for a few moments of nude wrestling and a two-head dildo
usage, the sex is tame. Which is fine, but it commits the greatest sin of all for an
See EDEN, Page 10
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