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February 13, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-13

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2s ie Micnigan uanly Monday, teDruary 1, 199b

Drama debates until 'The End o

By Sheila Wisely
For the Daily
Wayne State University's produc-
tion of "The End of the Day" will
heighten your social and political con-
sciousness, but whether it will keep you
The End of
the Day
Wayne State University's
Studio Theatre
February 5, 1995
When: Today at 4:30 p.m.
Tickets: Free. Call (313) 577-2972
entertained is another question. In ris-
ing young playwright Jon Robin Baitz's
Michigan premiere, he challenges his
audiencewith somedifficult moral ques-

tions. Considering that the play is sup-
posed to be a sarcastic comedy, Baitz's
way of addressing the issues is a bit
heavy-handed. It turns out to be more a
play about issues than characters and
plot; the comedy part seems more like
an afterthought than an integral part of
the performance.
The story is about Graydon Massey
(Keir Cutler), a British ex-patriot who
moves to America to get away from his
upper-class family. Once here, he stud-
ies psychiatry and marries Helen (Sa-
rah Percy), the valley-girl-esque daugh-
ter of a California businessman. His
attraction to America stems from what
he describes as the opportunity it gives
toreinventoneself. However, after leav-
ing his bride to work at a state-funded
cancer clinic, he, realizes that reinven-
tion is difficult, if not impossible.
At the clinic, he encounters Jonathan

Toffler (Jonathan Ozias), a terminal
patient who has left his wealthy family,
swindled his friends, and is left to die
alone. Graydon feels sorry for the young
man and tries to be compassionate to-
wards him. At end of the day, however,
Graydon finds that he cannot escape his
selfish friends and family and must
make a decision to become like them or
continue his compassionate ways.
The problems in this production
are not with the cast, as there are
several very good performances, nor
are they with the director, Melissa
Wolff Gallant. Gallant, who is doing
this play as the thesis project for her
Master of Fine Arts Degree in Direct-
ing does an excellentjob, which some-
what saves the play.
Rather, the problems exist within
the script itself. The problems that Gal-
lant cannot control are that it's not that

f the Day'
funny, it moves too slowly and Bait,
does not quite achieve what he sets out
to do. There are a lot of unanswered
questions about Graydon. We do not
know if he is a good or bad person, why
he left his wife and psychiatry practice,
or what ultimately pushes him to make
his final decision. Although there is
probably meant to be some ambiguity
abouthis character, the play would have'
been more interesting if there were
something about him that made view-
ers identify with, or care about, him.
Despite these script flaws, there are
some good parts to the play. Although
the action starts out slowly, it does pick
up in the second act, including some
surprising and interesting twists at the
end, particularly Graydon's final choice.
But by the time "The End of The Day"
finally comes around, you may be just
as confused as when you started.

'Boys' shows a sappy side

By Sarah Rogacki
For the Daily
Girls, leave the boys at home for
this one. We're going on a cross-
country road trip to rewrite Kerouac
without sacrificing ourselves to the
Grand Canyon.
Akin to "Thelma and Louise,"
"Boys on the Side" resurrects the fe-
male buddy movie against the back-
drop of tolerance and diversity. In the
wake of personal and professional
problems in the East Village, Jane
DeLuca (Whoopi Goldberg) answers
a newspaper ad for a traveling com-
panion to Los Angeles. After meeting
Boys on
the Side
Directed by Herbert Ross
with Whoopi Goldberg and
Mary-Louise Parker
At Briarwood and Showcase.
uptight real estate agent Robin
Nickerson, Jane finds herself in a
mini-van headed west with "the whit-
est woman on earth." On a pit stop in
Pittsburgh, the two women rescue
Jane's old friend Holly (Drew
Barrymore) from her abusive boy-
friend. During a whirl-wind journey
of female bonding, the three settle
down as a family in an off-beat Ari-
zona community reminiscent of
"Northern Exposure."
"Boys on the Side" has the best
itentions. It's nice to see Hollywood
appealing to female audiences while

dealing with national issues such as
homophobia and domestic violence.
But, don't forget your tissues. Herbert
Ross, director.of "Steel Magnolias,"
pulls off another sentimental weepie
suitable for the women's flick hall of
fame. Quality dramatics by Goldberg{
and Parker barely save the film from
soap opera tragedy. Goldberg deliv-
ers hard-edged one-liners that make a
perfect compliment to Parker's anal
level-headedness. Even Barrymore
makes a tolerable performance as the
giddy glue that keeps this alternative
family unit together.
While the film deals with timely
issues, screenwriter Don Roos bites
off a bit more than he can chew.
Although the film tackles Holly's in-
volvement in a violent relationship, it
is only dealt with as a depthless plot
development. Jane's homosexuality
becomes an ambivalent detail, which
causes confusion to whether she ever
has a romantic interest at all. Robin's
illness deals the final blow to the
viewer's patience in this p.c. hodge-
podge of a movie.
"Boys on the Side" should change
its name to "Women on the Side."
With the exceptions of the soundtrack
and executive producer Patricia
Karlan, the whole creative project
comes from the imagination of men.
On Hollywood's plate of masculine
ventures, women's stories are little
more than a novelty side dish like
carrots. When will Goldberg direct?
Only when the talents of female di-
rectors and writers surface in the main-
stream to tell their own stories will
women's films make the transition to
women's cinema.I

Award-winning commercials show a path to video utopia

By Sarah Stewart
Daiiy Arts writer
In a utopian world, every TV adver-
tisement would be artistic, funny and at
least as imaginative as the program-
ming it's sandwiched between; the on-

WORLD'S BEST
COMMERCIALS
Where: Michigan Theater
When: Tonight

lage of commercials is its ability first
to make you forget that ads sell prod-
ucts and then to make you believe, at
least until the next time you turn on
the TV, that "commercial break" is
more than a euphemism for bathroom
break, snack break or nap break. In
"World's Best," there's no break, just
one commercial after the other, and
no warning as to what's coming next.
Actually, keeping viewers in the
dark has a lot to do with good commer-
cials; some of the best hide the product's
identity until the last possible moment,
leaving viewers with an ambiguous,
somewhat less-commercialized (if
that's possible) short film, punctuated
by a product-revealing punch-line. An
educational message to stay in school,
sponsored by New Zealand's Music
Channel, consists only of a young man
standing at a conveyor belt, drumming
his hands to the rhythm of his walkman

and picking up an occasional can that
has fallen on its side. It's the most
boring 90 seconds in the film, until the
last-second "stay in school" message
explains that it's supposed to be.
While the "stay in school" ad is
New Zealand's only winning entry, 29
out of the 81 comprising "World's Best"
hail from the United States. Watching
this filtered representation of the Ameri-
can ad industry is a reassuring reminder
that TV isn't all bad. It has its moments,
one of them being the Pepsi ad featuring
Shaquille O'Neil and the kid with nerve
enough to tell him, "Don't even think
about it." Even if you're not a basket-
ball fan, you'll be amazed at how big
Shaq looks next to this little boy, how
small the boy looks next to Shaq and
how you can't help but say, "yeah,
that's a good commercial."
The United States may have the
advantage of bigger-than-life stars,

but countries like Spain have the ad-
vantage of not enforcing strict regula-
tions that keep nudity off the screen.
An ad sponsored by the Spanish Can-
cer Prevention Campaign features
woman's breasts - the real things -
in an ad for the prevention of breast
cancer. Some people might consider
the nudity gratuitous, but its effec-
tiveness is undeniable.
Of course, it's more common for
commercials to take the humorous route,
often in the form of the bizarre, ridicu-
lous or clever, or better yet, a combina-
tion of all three. The California Milk
Processor ad features a man eating pea-
nut butter and listening to the radio. fe
knows the answer to the radio trivia
contest, but as luck would have it, he's
out of milk and all that comes out of his
mouth is "arwhe beh," in placeof Aaron
Burr. Milk-"it does a body good" -
and so do a few decent commercials.

going battle for the clicker would end
and the remote control industry itself
might even become obsolete. Unfortu-
nately, we are not blessed by utopia but
can sample a slice of it by watching
"The World's Best Commercials," a
compilation of the winners of the 1994
Cannes advertising festival.
The charm of this fast-paced col-

Roth's 'Goodnight' reunites playwright with actor Birkenhead

By Shane Michaels
For the Daily
Peter Birkenhead, who is currently
portraying Louis in the first national
tour of Tony Kushner's "Angels in
America," will be landing in Ann Arbor
tonight. Birkenhead, on a short break
from "Angels," is flying in to play the
central character in University profes-
sor Ari Roth's latest play, "Goodnight
Irene," which will be read tonight in the
Rackham Amphitheater. This is not the
first time that Birkenhead has been in-
volved withoneof Roth'splays.In fact,

the two have a longtime friendship that
began with Birkenhead's role as Josh in
Roth's "Oh, The Innocents" at the GeVa
Theatre in New.
York.
"(QOh,Thelnno-
cents') was seri-
ously the best expe-
rience I've ever had
in theatre," said
Birkenhead, before
adding, "well, I
guess running neck and neck now
with 'Angels.' But it really was this
sort of magical experience ... you
read plays that you fall in love with
and that are about things that you are
concerned with, but you don't often
read a play that has all-of that, and
sounds as if you were writing it as you

read it. It was in my own language,
which was really a sort of strange and
wonderful experience."
Birkenhead, a
GOODNIGHT nativeNew Yorker,
IRENE has had a remark-
able career thus far,
Where: Rackham playing Stanley in
Amphitheater the Broadway pro-
When: 7 p.m. duction of Neil
Tickets: Free Simon's "Brighton
Beach Memoirs"
and then going on to three more Simon
plays; two more were on Broadway,
including "Broadway Bound" with Ja-
son Alexander, Joan Rivers and
Jonathan Silverman. ("I was really afraid
I was becoming the Yul Brynner of the
Neil Simon trilogy," said Birkenhead.)
Throughout the development of both

of their careers, Birkenhead and play-
wright Roth have remained close
friends: "I think we're each other's
biggest fans - there's a lot of honest
scrutiny and support." Roth's previous
play, "Born Guilty," had successful pro-
ductions at the Arena Stage in Wash-
ington D.C., the American Jewish The-
ater in New York and the Red Orchid
Theater and the Famous Door Theater
in Chicago. Birkenhead, who has been
involved with two previous readings of
"Goodnight Irene," believes the play is
a fitting next step: "This is by far Ari's
most ambitious play and he's not over-
reaching at all; I think he's deserving of
that ambition.
"The play's just really thrilling to
me, because in life-- in the political,
the social, the economic, the-personal,
the race and gender relations - all
these things merge... You can have a
moment that on the surface is one
thing and one thing only, but is buzz-
ing around you in a thousand differ-
ent ways, and out of that sensation
you want to make art. So I think to
create a play like ('Goodnight Irene')
- and it's something that it shares
with 'Angels' -is to really go for the
big brass ring. It's to try to do the big
things that art can do, to try to articu-
late that complicated buzzing."

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