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February 28, 1996 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-02-28

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So, what's next?
"Things to Come" Is a classic film that takes a strange and horrific look
at life after WWII. Made in 1936, this movie features bleak scenes of
plague, rebellion and technology gone awry. It is showing tonight at the
Michigan Theater at 7 o'clock., Student admission is $5.

.

Wednesday
February 28, 1996

gyp.

Mamet's 'GIygoes for the jugular

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By Melissa Rose Bemardo
Daily Theater Editor
David Mamet's plays are not for the immature
actor. His language is deceptively complex, his char-
acters intricately layered, and his text rigidly crafted.
Yet young actors crave Mamet. Witness this year's
Basement Arts season, which includes last term's
"American Buffalo," the forthcoming "Sexual Per-
versity in Chicago," and last weekend's "Glengarry
Glen Ross." Rarely if ever do young actors have the
stamina and
RE E depth of ex-
EV EW perience to
Glengarry back up
their desire
Glen Ross to produce
Arena Theater Mame t;
rarely is a
Feb. 23, 1996 Mamet play
so master-
fully performed and directed as was "Glengarry Glen
Ross."
What actors love about Mamet are the elements that
made this "Glengarry" so brilliant. Mamet represents
all of our primal instincts: He's physical, he's rough,
he's dog-eat-dog; he's unexpectedly sexual, disarm-
ingly verbal, and simultaneously overt and mysteri-
ous. Director Brandon Epland and his ensemble dug
into this piece with teeth and nails; they emerged
bloodied yet with heads unbowed.
Mamet's battle scars should be proudly worn, how-
ever. He is unrelentingly tough on his actors-as well
as his audience. Friday evening's crowd was alto-
gether shocked, amused, aroused, upset, aghast, dis-
enchanted and energized. Such emotions are not nec-
essarily indicative of good Mamet, but' neverthe-
less always ascribed to superior Mamet.
Epland and his cast grabbed our attention with the
first light cue, summoned with a snap by the slick-
haired man named Blake (Matt Clifford). This was
Mamet's own inspired addition to the film version, an

emissary from the big bosses who gives the characters
(or the audience, in this case) a pep-talk. "Reach into
your pants and find your balls," he snarls. Epland
incorporated some clever slide-show visuals into this
scene to punctuate Blake's lengthy diatribe, peppered
with colorful expletives though it was.
A generic gray office serves as home base for
"Glengarry"'s men, a group of real estate salesmen
with the collective morality ofa vulture. Shelly Levene
(Matt Schicker) has been around the longest: In his
glory days he earned the title "The Machine"; now
he's barely earning a living. Ricky Roma (Greg Zola)
is the up-and-comer, the high-hitter of the moment.
Dave Moss (Epland) is the prodigal salesman, whose
plan for advancement runs on the wrong side of the
law; George Aaronow (Jonathan Berry) is his weak-
willed accessory. John Williamson (Adam Greenfield)
presides over this brood, taking orders from above
and trying to pass them along without getting his hand
bitten.
We see these men talk, backbite, antagonize, scream,
and talk some more in their quest to be "on the board."
First prize is a Cadillac; second prize is a set of steak
knives; third prize - you're fired. Blake's presence
establishes the scenario; a neighborhood Chinese
restaurant is the setting for the first act, where we see
these men engaging in various underhanded tactics.
They're involved in bribery, conspiracy, attempted
robbery, lying and a few other despicable techniques.
Yet we are totally entranced by them.
Mamet's characters are built entirely on their lan-
guage; it is both their foundation and their structure.
Many a theater historian has drawn the link between
Mamet and modern drama forefather Anton Chekhov,
whose characters are, similarly, creatures ofdialogue.
The speech patterns - the pauses, sentence frag-
ments, interrupted words, profanity - are positively
true-to-life; that makes Mamet's characters so star-
tling and so bewitching.
Three straight scenes of two men sitting in a booth
talking have never been so riveting - in particular,

the final scene between Roma and James Lingk, a
prospective buyer (subtly rendered by Mark Alhadeff).
We get to see Roma's sales pitch; in the hands of
Epland and a smooth-as-silk Greg Zola, however, we
are witnessing something of a seduction scene: Roma
is wining and dining Lingk, ordering him drinks,
getting him to loosen up by talking grandiose philoso-
phy and not-so-memorable orgasms. Calculatedly, he
inches closer and closer, leaning in, pulling back so as
not to come on too strong; he lowers his voice to a
whisper, leaning back in, and eventually closes his
arm around Lingk's shoulder as he unfurls the real
estate brochure. Zola's portrayal transformed this
scene into a work of art.
Roma is the guy you take to bed; Shelly, by con-
trast, is the guy you take to dinner. In Act 2, Shelly
recounts a great sale he made; he brims with pride and
valor like a soldier recounting a heroic act or an actor
recalling his career-making turn as Hamlet. Played to
perfection by the consistently on-target Matt Schicker,
Shelly is the older, wiser, more secure foil to Zola's
dark and dangerous Roma. He's the kind of guy who
eats your store-bought crumb cake and chokes it
down as if it were homemade. And shell of a man
though he may be, Schicker endows him with enough
compassion to make us mourn his final-scene fall.
The multi-talented Brandon Epland, whose previ-
ous memorable acting turns at the University have
been in high comic roles ("Three Sisters," "The Merry
Wives of Windsor"), made an impression as the
manipulative Moss; Jonathan Berry was a fine match
as the on-the-edge Aaronow. Adam Greenfield, who
also assistant directed, rounded out the fine ensemble
as the haggard Williamson.
Epland and his cast also maintained a terrific steady
pace throughout the evening. Uneven timing or poorly
measured dialogue can deliver a fatal blow to a
Mamet play, and it is easily the biggest mistake of
overeager young actors attempting Mamet. Fortu-
nately, no mistakes were made by this mature en-
semble.

The salesmen of Basement Arts' production of Mamet's "Glengarry Glen"Ross."

1.1 U 1

A bit of Oz in Ann Arbor

A perfect 'Marriage:

.

By Dean Bakopoulos
Daily Books Editor
Jennifer Egan is unique in the sense
that often when you come across fiction
by ayoungauthorwho lives in New York
City, it's a good idea to drop it and run.
Not so with the latest offering from Jen-
nifer Egan, who reads tonight at Borders.
Egan will read from her latest collec-
tion, "Emerald City" (Doubleday, 1996,
$23), a series of stories bolstered by rich

the prose, run undercurrents of fierce
emotion and rich meaning. From a fash-
ion photo shoot in thejungle, to China, to
San Francisco, and yes, to New York
City, Egan, whose first published work
was a novel called "The Invisible Circus"
(Doubleday, 1995), presents very vivid
worlds. They are inhabited by very real
characters who are subtly consumed by
very real feelings.
The diversity of the worlds that Egan
writes about underscore the common
thread that runs through the stories in
"Emerald City." The characters in the
collection are all longing for some-
thing, some kind ofreplacement to their
reality, whether it's fame or religion or
friendship or a new environment. She
described her characters as "people who
for any reason, reach for that possibility
and promise despite strange circum-
stances and against all odds."
As to why she utilizes such a wide
array of settings in the collection, Egan
.said she's fascinated by the "very real,
very human idea, that people are on a
quest, a journey, forthis glittering place
that often turns out to be, guess what,
kind of a sham once you get there."
Yes, and that's why the title of this
work comes from the mythical place in
the movie "The Wizard of Oz." Egan
said she's amazed at how archetypal
that film can be. It's rich with a sense of

andinviting worlds. Perhaps Egan's abil-
ity to create such true and marvelous
worlds in her work stems from her visits
to a number of "different worlds" in her
own life. Born in the Midwest, raised in
San Francisco, off to college in Pennsyl-
vania and finally overseas to study at
Cambridge, Egan also spent time in the
Soviet Union and in China. So to call her
a "New York writer" would be wrong;
she's an "outsider" there, she said, "New
York is full of outsiders like me."
But readers of "Emerald City" won't
feel like strangers as they are drawn into
Egan's work. Stylistically, her prose is
sharp, fine-tuned, restrained; underneath

By Tyler Patterson
For the Daily
In the realm of playwriting, the Uni-
versity has had its share of notable
alums, Arthur Miller being the most
famous. With the Basement Arts prp-
gram, the University not only has the
capacity to foster aspiring actors and
directors, but budding playwrights as
well. "The Marriage Dance," written
by Toby Leah Bochan, in its first full
production, gets its chance to join the
ranks of previous University originals
that gained national recognition.
Bochan, who spent all last semester
working with Roxy Font, an LSA se-
nior making her directorial debut, is
finally getting the chance to see her
play in a full production. Font and
Bochan worked through several drafts
and staged readings to get to this point.
Font, who admires the language and
dialogue in Bochan's writing, said that
the play is about the ramifications of a
woman's desire in a relationship. "It's
the story of a woman who really wants
a baby. The play is about how this want
affects her present relationship."
Thrown into this mix is the relationship
of another couple that parallels the main
couple.
Ingenuity of the plot is apparent
through certain twists created by
Bochan. The main character, Isabel, is
a psychiatrist and some of the scenes
take place in a psychiatric ward during
seemingly humorous situations. One of
the talents displayed by Bochan, though,
is making a serious moment through
humor. One of the characters, Gerald, is

a lawyer, though interestingly enough,
he aspires to be a cab driver. Obviously
not your everyday dramatic situation.
"It's a trial for him," Font explained.
"It's really hard, but if you were to tell
someone that, they'd laugh.".
"It's funny," Font went on. "But I
think the way it gets across, its dramatic
impact is through the humor, because
Toby has a great flair for language.
first time I read it through, I was laut-
ing. But then, that's why it hits you so
hard."
On a deeper level, the play explores
the search forthe love and the prospects
of finding someone. A dominant image
the play uses to express its pint is the
circle. The circle is used to show.how
relationships can overlap and how your
position in a circle can determine some-
one else's effect on you.
Appropriately, the play will be I
formed in the round, meaning that the
audience will sit on all sides of the
actors. Another challenge of the pro-
duction is that live musicians will be
performing to enhance the show.-
The heart of this production is that it
is entirely original. For the first time in
See MARRIAGE 'Page 9

I at

Jennifer Egan shares the magic of the "Emerald City" in Ann Arbor tonight.

U I

"openness and possibility," and indeed
the stories in "Emerald City" run deep
with those emotions. Whether it's a
young girl on her first acid trip in San
Francisco or a failing model in New
York City or a dispossessed American
businessman traveling with his family
through China, Egan's characters re-
sound with a pleading hope that just
around the corner, over the next hill and
past the next wall, things will get better.
"Basically, Iguess there are two halves

of experience, the chaos that surrounds
us, and the world we imagine," she said.
"And though they seem to have very little
in common, there's a lot that we do to try
and bridge the gap between them."
Egan's stories capture the confusion
that can accompany the attempt to try to
bridge that gap, and she manages to
capture the deep emotional chaos that is
inherent in that attempt. Most impres-
sive, is that in doing this, she rarely fails
to maintain a clear and poetic voice.

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