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October 04, 1996 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-04

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10-The Michigan Daily- Friday, October 4, 1996

Moving 'Carousel' triumphs

'Politics' turns ordinary
into eXtraordinary

By Tyler Patterson
Daily Theater Editor
On the face of American musicals, there is no part-
nership that has had a greater effect than Richard
Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein 11. With the ground-
breaking and hugely successful "Oklahoma!,"
Rodgers and Hammerstein, who began their collabo-
rative efforts in the '40s, wrote musicals in a way that
has since often been copied and has rarely, if ever,
been eclipsed. Of their vast repertoire, which includes
such classics as "The Sound of Music," "The King
and I" and "South Pacific," perhaps no other musical
approaches its story with the
incredible darkness and serious-
ness as "Carouser. RE
It is this darkness, something
that the general perception of
musicals as cheery and happy-
go-lucky fundamentally contra-
dicts, that makes a production of
"Carousel" so difficult. How do
you tactfully.deal with the issues of violent love, self-
incrimination and ultimately repression in a genre that
is whole-heartedly rewarded for cream-puff storylines
and catchy, but painfully simple tunes? How do you
inspire sympathy for a main character that beats his
wife, lives with disrespect for the law and has trouble
learning from hismistakes?
These questions are answered by the Royal National
Theater's production of "Carousel,"now playing at the
newly renovated Detroit Opera House. This produc-
tion answers, simply, with passion.
Patrick Wilson, who plays the enigmatic Billy
Bigelow, delivers his role with such brilliant honesty,
without glossing over the rather ugly aspects to his
personality, that it is difficult to see him as anything
other than a complex and very human character. So we
forgive the play for the presence of his faults, even if

we do not agree with Billy's outbursts.
This point is difficult to underscore without some
knowledge of the American musical. While often-
times resented, complex characters are the exception,
not the rule. Wilson's performance, as it must be, is
powerful, but it only serves to draw out the genius that
is this musical.
Nothing illustrates this more than the ballet
sequence that occurs after Billy returns from heaven to
witness the life of his daughter, Louise (Dana
Stackpole). The point of this scene is to underscore the
fact that Billy's legacy has doomed Louise to a life


Detroit Opera
Sept. 26, 1996

similar to the wife he left behind,
abused and miserable. Without
dialogue, what follows is a
sequence where Louise's only
friends (a decidedly rough
crowd) grope her, get chased off
by a dark and dangerous stranger
who in turn woos Louise, only to

leave her, bitter and defeated.
Stackpole so gracefully led this sequence that the
tragedy of her experience came across clearly, further
illustrating the tragic demeanor of this play.
The role of Julie Jordan, as played by Sarah Uriarte,
at times could be seen as submissive, which nowadays
would be controversial. She frequently defended her
husband, who beat her, and his character, even after he
is killed during an attempted robbery. Her patience
and devotion, however, were meant to be, even in the
face of controversy, virtues. These virtues also added
poignancy to Julie, reassuring her daughter that it was
not possible to be hit hard by someone and not feel
The complexity of "Carousel" and its utter dark
edges give it a particularly contemporary feel. Yet,
despite our ability to handle such material, this matu-
rity for a musical still represents quite a bit of risk.

By Stephanie Glickman
For the Daily
Alchemist. Archeologist. Historian.
Storyteller. Meredith Monk transcends
the title of artist.
Without distinctions between disci-
plines, Monk's pieces, fusing move-
ment, music, voice, film and theater,
flesh out human
issues, connect - PR
different layers of 'f
reality and give
meaning to the
With a body of
more than 100
works from film projects to albums to
full length operas and site-specific
works, Monk's projects, revealing the
micro and macro realms of existence,
take on significance beyond time con-
straints and cultural boundaries.
"All times and places can exist at one
moment," Monk claims. Take, for
example, her film "Book of Days,"
(1989) in which a medieval plague is
linked to the AIDS epidemic or a child's
feverish fit "Quarry: an opera" (1976)
which escalates into a rally reminiscent
of Nazi activity, with performers
marching and shouting around the rest-
less child's bed.
Monk joins chunks of history and


"It's a bird, it's a plane, no, It's the audience."
Shrugging off the dangers, director Nicholas Hytner
handled the tremendous difficulties of "Carousel" and
delivered a rousing and extremely moving production.
Much like the final picturesque scene where Billy
ascends to heaven, this production ascends itself to a
realm reserved only for higher art.

1 ".fl

s 0

humanity, creating art that exists in
every place and time.
"In a sense I think of myself as
vocal archeologist, trying to dig 4pw.
to the most fundamental human utter-
ances, the most elemental forms,"
Monk described. She works with
sounds more than words, allowing
audiences tolfor-
mulate theirwn
"VIEW images from
The Po iCS pieces that range
of QOW t from solos like
"Our Lady of
Oct. 4 & 5 at 8 p.m. Late" (1972) i4
At Power Center which she
a c c o m p an i e d
herself with a wineglass that changed
pitch as she sipped from it between
musical sections, to full-length nIlti-
media operas like "Atlas" (1991):
Through her extended vocal tech-
nique, Monk explores musically What
she calls the "voice of the oracle; the
voice of memory." She restores th fo
gotten and offers utopian visions ofW
The dance historian, Sally Banes,
writes, "Her works are like historical
novels of the future and science fiction
of the past."
Monk's newest piece, "The Politics
of Quiet," which had its world prciere
this summer at Copenhagen's Cultural
Capital of Europe Festival, explores
human roots and ancestry in an age in
which even fax machines are too slo
How do we still speak and sharevit
each other? How do we still respect the
distinctiveness of different cultures?
And can we do all this within our tech-
nological world?
Monk describes the work as bing
"about community and how we'p in
danger of losing it. It's about slowing
down enough to experience : the
moment. It's about shadow and coekist-
Monk uses images of beekeeping as
a primordial technology that has iran-
scended time. The complex system of
the beehive has lasted for centuries and
continues to within our computer dri-
ven world. Beeswax also is a preserva-
In "The Politics of Quiet," ordinary
objects, like a hairdryer, are dipped in
beeswax and water and put on a shrine.
Things normally taken for granted a
turned into archeological finds, all:pa
of the cycle of the past informing the
Monk emphasizes thinking about the
commonplace. What may seem banal
actually signifies the distinctne of
humans and cultural traditions, without
which we are rootless. Monk questions
what archeologists will make of these
relics in 200 years.
Buddhist texts, meditations on tec
nology and the approaching millnm-
um are themes thread through "The
Politics of Quiet," which becomes as
much a ritual as an opera, dance o the-
atrical work. With 10 singers / daners,
two instrumentalists and two Ann Arbor
children, the 90-minute work has: dis-
tinct sections and moods, from bpti-
mism about the 20th century td the
acknowledgment of pain and dark-ides
of community.


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Merideth Monk performs in "The t
Politics of Quiet," the author's latest
work, which will be performed at The
Power Center Friday and Saturday,:

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