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February 01, 1995 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-01

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Lost plays ton h on at the Michigan T t at 7 pj .; j 3 essential W p e s
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viewig fo anyjazzfan4February 1, 1995
A 'Higher Dimension' of trash

1y Kirk Miller
Daily Books Editor
Remember that completely unin-
telligible trilogy of Guns 'N' Roses
Highlander 3:
Higher Dimension
Directed by Andy Morahan
with Christopher Lambert
and Mario Van Peebles
At Showcase
videos with the flying dolphins, vari-
ous supermodels dying and Axl Rose
losing his tennis shoe? Ever wonder
what happened to director Andy
Morahan (or Guns 'N' Roses, for that

matter?)
Morahan has traded in his pen-
chant for visually stimulating non-
sense for the visual malaise of "High-
lander 3," the most pointless sequel
made since "The Two Jakes." After
the "Highlander 2" debacle of only
being able to afford Sean Connery for
one day of filming, I guess somebody
was trying to make it up to disap-
pointed sci-fi fans and prove there
was life after the cult success of the
original.
Guess again.
Yeah, I haven't seen the first or
the second movie, watched the TV
series, or bought the Queen
soundtrack, but the plot seemed simple
enough; MacLeod (Chris Lambert) is
an Immortal, who is pretty handy with

a sword, hangs out in Scotland and
seems to spend way too much time
having flashbacks to previous points
in his life.
But uh-oh! Kane (Mario Van
Peebles) is another Immortal on the
"There can be only
one,f MacLeod
SAYS again in the
end.
Unfortunately,
they weren't
talking about
sequelse
loose and wants to kill MacLeod, ab-
sorbing all of his energy and becom-
ing the last Immortal.
"There can be only one," he re-
minds us with a tongue-waving growl,
sounding like he's in dire need of a
Cloret.
MacLeod starts out in Japan, learn-
ing about the evil Kane from another
Immortal. In the most bizarre concept
of the film MacLeod goes on a "Karate
Kid" style learning with his Immortal
master, played by a bad cue-card read-
ing Mako. "Fight with your spirit, and
your sword will follow" is Mako's Mr.
Myogi-style advice, proving that all
you need is a catch phrase and rewards
will be bestowed upon you.

Mario Van Peebles feels the pain of starring In "Highlander 3." But he's an Immortal, y'know, so It can't kill him.

Anyway, there's a love interest, a
move to New York, and several te-
dious recountings of the MacLeod
family tree. Another unintentionally
hilarious sequence has MacLeod trav-
eling to his Scotland home to forge a
new replacement sword; his love in-
terest shows up just hours later, find-
ing him after a 3000-mile unplanned
flight and walking through a vast high-
land area with no address. Talk about
luck!
This would all be forgivable if

there was anything resembling sus-
pense or good sword fighting. In-
stead, we're treated to Van Peebles
and Lambert swinging from trapezes
and waving their swords about ran-
domly, each of them yelling out ac-
tion movie clichds in their various
bizarre accents.
Apparently making a pointless
movie wasn't enough, because there
are some uncomfortable parallels to
"Terminator 2," including a parent-
son fighting team named Connor

(MacLeod's first name) and John,
morphing by the bad guys, a final
fight in an industrial zone and the
Guns 'N' Roses connection with
director Morahan (rumor has it that
Axl Rose played a villain here in a
cameo role, but I didn't see it). If
you're going to rip-off a movie, at
least do it creatively (like Brian De
Palma).
"There can be only one," MacLeod
says again in the end. Unfortunately,
they weren't talking about sequels.

Aw, yeah ...-the Highlander shoots and scores!

Local playwright finds a 'Better Way'

'Extremeties' offers no easy questions or answers

By Robert Yoon
Daily Arts Writer
Contrary to what the title suggests,
"A Better Way to Die" is not the name
of the latest action-adventure flick from
thickly-accented Belgian wonderJean-
Claude Van Damme. So, barring any
ugly brawls at the concession stand,
you won't see any high-spirited kicks
or flying fists o' doom.
Instead, local playwright Jay

younger. I'm getting older, so certain
questions arise about aging, death,
and bereavement. I expect that people
will seethemselves inthe play.They'll
ask themselves, 'How am I going to
deal with these things?"'
Director Nada Rakic asked her-
self a similar question, not about death
and aging, but about how to present
the play, which rests almost entirely
on the interaction between two char-
acters. The play offers itself to many
styles of interpretation, but the
Sarejevo native felt the best approach
was to keep it simple.
"The play is very modern," she
said. "It deals with relations, feelings,
and delicate but radical changes in-
side the characters." The characters'
emotions and feelings are so critical
to the drama that Rakic focuses on
them by de-emphasizing the surround-
ings. "I chose minimalism in acting,
set design, lighting ... I wanted it very
simple and very clear," she said.
The play focuses on the changing
relationship between Will, a retired
sportswriter, and his younger wife
Meg, a local drama critic. The two are
forced to confront their attitudes to-
wards dying upon learning of the ter-
minal illness of a mutual friend.
"Everything is the same among
the characters at the end of the play,
except that they have one more expe-
rience," Rakic continued. "There is
no big action (in the play) like you
might find in traditional plot. That is
also acharacteristic of amodern play."

"Events happen in the play, but
the real action is the psychological
change in Meg," said Tracy Lee
Komarmy, who portrays Meg. "The
presence of impending death affects
everyone. So much of what we're
exploring is that effect."
Because of the depth and range of
emotions involved, "A Better Way to
Die" is a challenge for actors to per-
form. "Meg is sophisticated, educated,
and above all, in control," Rakic said.
"But she eventually loses that control
of her husband and herself. For her
it's very painful. She is, in the end, a
woman who is broken to pieces, and
that's difficult to act."
Komarmy agrees that the role is
difficult - but not impossible - to
bring to life. "I understand Meg in
certain ways. As actors, we can't avoid
bringing ourselves into the characters
we play. Meg is not ready to face the
same issues that her husband is, and I
can relate to that," she said.
As challenging as the role may be,
Rakic has absolute confidence in
Komarmy's ability. "Tracy has a mod-
ern, artistic sensibility. She could per-
form on any stage in the world. She's an
artist, and that will be visible."
Stielstra wrote "A Better Way to
Die," his sixth play, on his own, but
he is quick to pass the credit to others.
"I feel very fortunate to have Nada
directing. The writer just plants the
seed, but it's others who nurture it
into what it is. It was very exciting to
see the play the way she saw it."

By Jenn McKee
For the Daily
Sometimes a play stays with you
long after you leave the theater. This is
most definitely the case with William
Mastrosimone's play "Extremities," in
which an attempted rape occurs, and
the victim gains the upper hand.
There are only four characters in
the play: Marjorie (the victim), her
two roommates and Raul (the rapist).
With the exception of occasional ex-
aggeration, strong performances were
given by all; but the most memorable
was Scott Grant's performance as the
rapist. Despite some awkwardness in
Grant's first scene in which he enters
the victim's home - it seemed to
take him a few moments to warm up
to being on stage - he delivered a
varied and intriguing portrayal of a
man who is incomprehensible, mad-
dening, yet provokes a certain amount
of sympathy.
This feeling of sympathy that
Grant's rapist sometimes stirs in the
audience is also what causes
Marjorie's roommates to feel badly
for him. Mastrosimone's play ma-
nipulates the audience as the rapist
does the roommates; it's hard to imag-
ine feeling sorry for a rapist, but that's
the effect the character has. He ma-
nipulates the roommates by using in-
formation he knows about them and
by making up new lies every five
minutes about what really happened.
There were no witnesses to the vio-
lence; Marjorie (Leigh-Ann Danner)
feels trapped by the lack of evidence.

She has sustained no bruises or inju-
ries, and she knows he would go free
if she calls the police. For this reason,
she takes justice into her own hands
and keeps him a bound prisoner, tor-
turing him to some extent.
Both roommates want to get the
police, but Marjorie essentially takes
them hostage as well, presiding with a
hammer and not allowing them to leave
the house. She is unsure how to resolve
' ' : Extremities
Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
January 27, 1995
Where: Through February 11 at the
Ann Arbor Civic Theatre (2275 Platt.)
Tickets: $8.
When: Thursday through Saturday at
8 p.m. Call 971-AACT.
the situation, but she is not going to let
him be out on the street again. The
roommates seem doubtful about the
whole thing, until Raul finally admits
that he came to the house that day to
rape all three of them. This confession
is enough to convict him, so Marjorie
finally lets the roommates go for help.
This very intenseplay startedpain-
fully slowly, however, as Marjorie
walks around the effectively schemed
house in pajamas and a robe, getting
stung by a wasp outside the front
door. The scene is necessary in order
to create the "average day" kind of

backdrop, but it seemed too long,
slow and deliberate. Also, it took
Leigh-Ann Danner a few moments
also to hit her stride on stage. Other-
wise, her performance was outstand-
ing, making me wonder if I would act
the same way as Marjorie.
More important than any tangible
issues concerning the play are the
implicit issues. Marjorie committed
several crimes herself, and only the
first few acts (spraying bug repellent
in Raul's eyes, tying him up) would
be considered self-defense. But if she
hadn't performed these other tortur-
ous acts, he may never have con-
fessed, and he would probably have
been out on the street raping others
and stalking Marjorie, as he threat-
ened to do. As it was, Marjorie would
probably be serving time for jabbing
him with a poker, dousing him with
bleach and starving him, among other
things. You can't simply say that two
wrongs don't make a right; the situa-
tion is much too complex for such
pithy axioms.
.There are no easy answers in "Ex-
tremities," and that what makes it an
incredible, though difficult and
wrenching, piece. The issue of rape is
a timely one. Just think of the situa-
tion that Marjorie was in; she loses
either way.
But because she did what she did,
she saved it from happening to other
women, showing that what's right in
terms of our society and what's right as
concerns the greater good seem to sel-
dom be in harmony.

Stielstra's latest work, which pre-
mieres tomorrow night at the Perfor-
mance Network, offers a powerful
and unflinching look at aging and
death. Quite a departure from "North
Country Opera," "Tittabawassee
Jane" and the other folk musicals that
Stielstra has produced. In fact, "A
Better Way to Die" is the songwriter-
turned-playwright's first foray into
pure drama. But why tackle such
weighty subject matter?
Stielstra explained, "As a person
gets older, certain things occur to you
that don't hannen when you're

Various Artists
Beat the Retreat
Capitol
Tribute albums are rarely all they
could be. They always seem like agood
idea and almost always fall flat. Artists
either come to the material with little
idea what to do or reproduce the origi-
nalsongs in a sterile, note-for-note style.
"Beat the Retreat" is the second of two
albums featuring songs by Richard
Thompson, one of the world's best gui-
tarists and songwriters. For 25 years
now, Thompson has chronicled the lives
of lovers, losers, drunks and dreamers,
producing an amazing body of work
just waiting to be discovered by another
generation. Like all tributes, this one
has its ups and downs. But it connects
0 far more than most, utilizing artists
ranging from Bob Mould and Bonnie
Raitt to X and Los Lobos.
The good here is outstanding. X
adds female harmony to "Shoot Outthe
Lights," a song destined for immortal-

ity. Dinosaur Jr. transforms "I Misun-
derstood" from a sparse ballad into a
frenzied, inspired guitar storm. The Five
BlindBoysofAlabamaturn "Dimming
of the Day" into gospel and Los Lobos
add an accordion and guitar effects to
"Down Where the Drunkards Roll."
Unfortunately, there is mediocrity
here as well and while there is nothing
completely uninteresting, Bonnie

Raitt's version of "When the Spell is
Broken" feels too calculated and exact
and Graham Parker's "The Madness of
Love" fails to produce the sparks of
which he is capable. "Beat the Retreat"
is a better tribute album than most but
like other tribute albums, it has its short-
comings. It leaves one aching, at times,
for Thompson's originals.
- Dirk Schulze

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