8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 21, 1996
AACT's'Rosencrantz' is dead.
Local production of Stoppard's play disappoints
"Oooh, Bill. You're soooo taill Will you be my valentine?"
GDeGeneres akes a Wrong'move
By Prashant Tamaskar
Daily Arts Writer
Ellen DeGeneres hasbeen gettingmost ofthe publicity forher
big screen debut in "Mr. Wrong." At the same time, nobody
seems to be paying much attention to Bill Pullman's role in the
film. With the exception of "While You Were Sleeping,"
Pullman has made a career out of playing the nice-guy-who-
doesn't-get-the-girl-in-the-end role. His characters have been,
essentially, too true to be good. But in directorNick Castle's new
REVIEW modifies his image
by playing a man
Mr. Wrong who is too good to
The film opens
Directed by Nick Castle when MarthaAlston
with Ellen DeGeneres (D e Ge e r e s),
decked out in a wed-
and Bill Pullman ding dress, is ques-
At Showcase tioned in a Mexican
police station. The
majority of the plot is Martha's account of this predicament.
Her troubles begin at her younger sister's wedding, where
single Martha starts to realize how lonely she really is. A few
weeks later, on Valentine's Day, she meets a handsome stranger
named Whitman Crawford (Pullman), who sweeps her off her
feet. For Martha it is love at first sight. Or so she thinks.
: After getting to know the wealthy, sophisticated bachelor,
Martha discovers Whitman's true colors. His ideas of fun are
stealing beer from a drug store and faxing pictures of his body
parts to Martha. However, in the short time that they have
known each other, Whitman has managed to captivate
Martha's family and friends, making her decision to dump
him even harder. But even more difficult than a break-up is
getting him out of her life for good. The obsessive Whitman
simply will not leave Martha alone.
Instead of being a fairly typical comedy, "Mr. Wrong"
turns out to be rather eccentric with satirical overtones. The
film pokes fun at cheesy romance films, stalker suspense
movies and even westerns. As a result, the humor is more
cerebral than laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, the unre-
fined satire doesn't always appear to be deliberate and
consequently lacks the punch that it potentially could have.
Ellen DeGeneres is slightly disappointing in her first motion
picture appearance. But this is more due to the inadequate
screenplay. Considering her experience as a stand-up comic, it
would have been nice to see DeGeneres' Martha deliver some
sharp one-liners. Instead, the only humor within her bland
character comes from her reactions to Whitman's absurd antics.
The film does feature some other notable actors and actresses
who play small parts. The best of the supporting roles include
veteran Joan Plowright as Whitman's overprotective mother
and Dean Stockwell as the detective who Martha hires. How-
ever, Joan Cusack as Whitman's jealous ex-lover and Ellen
Cleghome as Martha's best friend are atrocious.
The true strength of the film lies in Bill Pullman's comic
performance as the psychotic, but not necessarily evil Whitman.
Pullman makes an excellent transformation from Mr. Right to
Mr. Wrong. Even from the beginning, Pullman's enthusiasm for
his role is obvious; he owns the film's only comedic moments.
Although he also played a slimy significant other in "The
Last Seduction," Pullman hasn't had much experience as an
antagonist. However, it does appear that he is starting to
move away from his nice-guy roles. Yet, it really doesn't
matter what the nature of his character is; in the end, Bill
Pullman always seems to be Mr. Wrong.
By Mitchell Katz
For the Daily
The title characters of Tom
Stoppard's comedy, "Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are Dead," end the play in
a state of rigor mortis, hanging from
theirnecks. For the audience last Thurs-
day night at the Ann Arbor Civic The-
ater, even such a seemingly jarring fi-
nale could not awaken them from a near
stupor. "Rosencrantz and Guilden-
stern," as directed by Liz Foster, had
about as many belly laughs as an Ingmar
Bergman film; it was about as dull an
evening as one can find in Ann Arbor.
In "Hamlet," Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are peripheral to the main
action. Old school chums of Hamlet,
they are called to Elsinore by Claudius
and Gertrude to cheer up the melan-
choly prince. The two wind up infuriat-
ing everyone and are last seen escorting
their friend to England at the King's
command; unbeknownst to them,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have
been set up to be killed. In Shakespeare's
play, these two characters are com-
pletely expendable, existing only to keep
things moving. In this production, they
failed to do even that.
Stoppard's idea of looking at "Ham-
let" through the eyes of this pair of
pale, bewildered fall guys seems
promising. The two characters are as
peripheral to themselves as they are
to the Shakes-pearean text, victims of
circumstances they never comprehend
and thus are unable to escape. In other
hands this play could have actually
Rosencrantz (Steve Elliot) and
Guildenstern (Troy D. Sill) are first
seen by the side of a road, tossing coins.
Rosencrantz had tossed 85 heads in a
row - a portentous omen to the two
men and to the audience, as the scene
was charmless and protracted.
En route to Elsinore, they meet a
band of traveling actors and their
leader, the Player, portrayed in an
unengaging manner by Joseph
Radding. The players hit each other
and overacted, with Alfred (Sean
Vogt) providing the only element of
suspense as audience members tried
to figure out if this unfunny character
was male or female.
Once in Elsinore, Rosencrantz and
Ann Arbor Civic Theater
Feb. 15, 1996
Guildenstern move around the castle
vainly trying to figure out what is going
on. They are intended to recall a couple
of classic burlesque buffoons, but they
philosophize in a pretentious and bor-
ing manner. Talking above their sta-
tions in life, they chatter on and on
about life's probabilities and possibili-
ties. Unconvincing as high comedians,
and unfunny as low comedians,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are left
performing jokes that are academic if
In scenes directly incorporated from
Shakespeare, they meet the royals of
the court. Claudius (Timothy Henning)
and Gertrude (Aaron D. Shell) moved
around the stage flatly reciting the
Bard's original lines; even casting a
man as Gertrude added nothing note-
worthy tothese scenes. Worse was Mark
Lewis' Hamlet. Hehammed-uphispart
while dressed in an outfit that recalled a
hand-me-down from the Downward
was to be played by a different woman
every night, so perhaps one of the eight
other Ophelias would have done a bet-
ter job than the one I saw.
As the play continues, mock-philo-
sophical arguments bewildered audi-
ence members, as the lines of Stoppard's
language-giddy play were competently
recited by the likable but dull Elliot and
Sill. Words numb the eardrum's.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern drone
on and on. Ponderousness is added to
Nobody seemed to remember which
man is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Even they became confused. During
one of their many philosophical
rantings, one of them said, "Every
exit is an entry somewhere."VFor au-
dience members who ran for the exits
at the plays interminable end, the en-
try into the cold air was refreshing
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arre Dead" at the Ann Arbor Civic Theater.
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currently playing at the Michigan Theater, and your
attendance is desired. What do you have to do? Just stop by
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Publications Building, 420 Maynard St., today from noon to 6
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You will receive a free pass for two people to see any Monday *
through Thursday showing of this movie at the Michigan. But
hurry, supplies are limited.
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