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February 10, 1999 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-10

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 10, 1999 - 9
'Our Country 's Good' takes audience Down Under

By Jeff Druchniak
Daily Arts Writer
Timberlake Wertenbaker's "Our Country 's
Good," the play that University Productions will
present this weekend, tells an enthralling story
with a diverse cast of characters, which need not
alify the play as a singular phenomenon.
If, however, the four performances pack the
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater, the cast and crew
can be grateful that their material was distin-
guished by an extra shot in the arm, perhaps

Our Country's
Good
Mendelssohn
Theater
Tomorrow through
Sunday

more commonplace in
feature films and best-
selling books. The sure-
fire appeal of the five
simple words "based on a
true story."
"Our Country's Good"
is based on a novel, "The
Playmaker," written by
Thomas Kenneally, the
bestselling and critically
acclaimed author of
"Schindler's List." This
earlier work by Kenneally,
since it became a play and
not a movie, has not

Lieutenant Ralph Clark, part of the original
British military government in Australia.
A real-life soldier, portrayed in this show by
Music junior Andrew Bielski, Clark was also
the director of a cast, drawn from the first com-
plement of convicts the British empire shipped
to Australia, in the theatrical performance of
George Farquhar's early Augustan farce "The
Recruiting-Officer."
This is the bare skeleton of the play's subject
matter. But as the play's director, theater and
drama Prof. Darryl Jones, explained, the play is
also about a myriad of other matters. These
include the class structure and penal conven-
tions of the bygone British empire, the effects
of colonization on the world's largest island, the
abuse of women, and the redemptive powers of
art and shared human endeavor.
"These convicts' spirits reawaken through
the process" of working on their play, Jones
points out. "As they are no longer treated like
animals but like human beings, their humanity
is rekindled."
Jones first saw the play performed when it
was still quite new, and he has incorporated
some of the ideas he had at that first viewing.
"We've tried to go one better in terms of
depicting the violent nature of the society these
people lived in'" Jones continued. "The penal
code was such ... (that these) convicts were
only sent to Australia because they literally
could not hang them fast enough" in Britain."
The production posed logistical as well as
conceptual challenges to the company. With a
very large number of characters, including

many soldiers and inmates, Jones resorted tow
extensive doubling, with most cast members
playing more than one part.
Only a handful of key portrayals, including
Bielski, Music students Dominique Morrisseau ,
as Liz Morden, and Brendan McMahon as
Harry Brewer, were not doubled. Many of the
other actors had to master multiple speech pat-
terns to play characters with different social
class, backgrounds and accents.
But Jones strove to create provocative juxta-
positions in the pair of roles a single actor
might play. In that way, the audience will be
encouraged to recognize an actor in multiple
incarnations.
Because of the unique subject matter and
experiential subtext of the play, which suggests
that the theatre has a bona fide and invaluable
part to play in society, Jones attempted to direct
with a style more collaborative than despotic.<{
But he promises that all challenges, as they
have arisen, have been met head-on.
"Every ship needs a Captain, and here that's
me," Jones says, possibly alluding to "Captain
Philip;' the socially conscious and controver-
sial governor of the British expedition and gov-
ernment. "But (I'm) a benevolent one,' he h
laughed.
"Our Country~ Good" p lays Thursday
through Saturday at 8p.m. and Sunday at 2
p.m. Tickets are $14-$18 with $7 student tick-
ets available at the League Ticket Office. A
limit of two tickets are placed on every student -
ID, which must be shown at time of purchase. Courtesy of David Smith Photography
Call 764-0450 for more information. Dominque Morisseau and Nick Gabriel portray settlers of the first convict colony in Austrailla.

tattained "Schindler"'s widespread recognition,
1~t it shares the technique of mining a lesser-
'iown chapter in history for both contemporary
insight and broader human understanding.
The same goes for the dramatization by
Wertenbaker, a contemporary British play-
wright who found unique inspiration in
Kenneally's 18th-century story of Second

'Dawson' tries to shock in sweeps

y Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.
That, for the uninitiated, is the sweet sound of
the network broom as February sweeps arrive.
Bigger episodes! Meatier plotlines!
Heartstopping character reve-
lations!
Or so they'd have us think.
Not so on the little creek that
Dawson's could. "Dawson's Creek"
Creek makes an ill-fated attempt at
** surprise and fails to keep
interest as it breaks out the
The WB wholly utilitarian (read: bor-
8 p.m. ing) sweeps story that calls
Jack "Monty Clift" McPhee's
(Kerr Smith) sexuality into
question.
The ubiquitous mean, nasty
old English teacher shifts his
venomous gaze from perenni-
al " academic loser-turned-
achiever Pacey (Joshua Jackson) to the quietly
flunking Jack, forcing him to read a poetry
assignment aloud. When it becomes apparent that
his poem is about a man, Jack is overcome with
emotion and runs out of the classroom crying

while all Capeside High is atwitter with "Jack is
gay!" gossip.
Naturally, everyone from his speed-freak sister
Andie (Meredith Monroe) to girlfriend Joey
(Katie Holmes) to the great man Dawson himself
(James Van Der Beek) give credence to the
rumors and confront Jack. The suspense is almost
too much to bear, especially when Joey asks Jack
not once but twice if he's gay. The safe money is
on Joey being unable to cope with the rumor-mill
about Jack, causing the destruction of their rela-
tionship next week.
Meanwhile, Pacey takes his own stand and
blames his own refusal to fall into the teacher's
get-your-goat trap for Jack's downfall. He defends
himself and Jack in class the next day and launch-
es an award-worthy loogey the size of Texas
directly in the teacher's face, providing just about
the only entertainment of the hour.
Jen restrains herself from following Pacey's
example with her new would-be boyfriend when
she discovers that he's a very persistent Bible-
thumper, thus depriving that particular storyline
of any value.
Current guest star Rachel Leigh Cook is
nowhere to be found in this episode. The shift
away from Dawson's self-indulgent, over-budget
film and its surrogate-Joey star isn't exactly

unwelcome, but it's going to make returning to
the egotistical fantasy world of Dawson Leery a
bit difficult. It's hard to imagine an easy way to
transition from the overblown "Jack likes boys"
plot back into what in Capeside translates to nor-
mality.
Next week's episode is the conclusion to this
two-parter, although what bombshells remain to
be dropped that haven't already been hinted at are
certainly a mystery. Since Jack has unequivocally
stated that he is heterosexual, just about the only
thing that could add a little spice to next week's
soapfest would be the reversal of that declaration.
It doesn't bode well for "Dawson's Creek" that
the writers seem to be going the cliched "we need
a gay character, stat!" route with the show. Not
that there's anything wrong with that, of course -
it's just that in doing this, the show starts veering
away from pure flight of fancy fun and into dread-
ed movie-of-the-week "90210" territory.
"Dawson's" has never been about satisfying a
quota or dealing with topical issues. Why start
now?
It's too bad Dawson doesn't erupt into an "Ah
don't want yer lahf!" fit of rage. At the very least,
it would have made for a lot more laughs. But
Creekers take heart - there's still the glory other-
wise known as May sweeps to save face.

* 6 weeks, 6 credits, about $2,700 (based on typical costs of
tuition, room & board, books, and airfare)
Term 1: May 24-July 2." Term 2: July 6-August 13
www.outreach.hawall.edu * toil-free 1 (800) 862-6628

sega to read tomorrow

VEGA
Continued from Page 8
her size in the future. In spite of this, she
"did not want to be trampled by life,"
says Vega, which is why this battle is
present in many of her lyrics and poems.
Another prevalent theme running
throughout Vega's book is the compari-
son of herself to a queen, which is relat-
to the feeling of being small. Since
e did not feel herself to have much
power as a child and, furthermore, did
not feel that she could look up to any
women in the United States besides
teachers or relatives, she looked up to the
image of a queen. This series of poems,
then, is not about fairy tales, but about,
as Vega explains, "women's power and
lack of power."
Vega's concern with women does not
p with power, though, for her short
story "Hunger Strike" about a female's
desire to starve herself because of the
loss of a man, has been "touching
nerves;' Vega says, probably because
"women must feel that way. They must
go through periods when their hunger
for food symbolizes their hunger for
affection and human connection.'
Besides having a strong grasp on her
own feelings and those of women

around her, Vega perceives the world
around her with remarkable clarity, as
she does in her well-known song, "Tom's
Diner." These types of poems and lyrics
concentrating on simple observations
tying to greater themes are greatly influ-
enced, amongst other things, by New
York City, Vega's birthplace and home.
"Tom's Diner" for example, is about
Tom's Restaurant on the corner of 112th
Street and Broadway, where she explains
that she frequented in college.
Vega's perceptions of her emotions
and her surroundings are expressed with
fluidity and sensitivity in her lyrics,
poetry and prose. There are additions,
though, that do not fall under these cate-
gories that add little to her otherwise
insightful words. The 34 pages dedicated
to an interview of Vega with Leonard
Cohen, for example, could have been
better used if they were filled with more
of Vega's own words.
Suzanne Vega's words and music are
"inspired by herself instead of being
influenced by other artists and writers,"
which is the way she feels she should be
at this stage in her career. With Vega's
complexity of thought, keen perception
and crystal clear voice, herself is quite
enough to emulate.
- Gina Hamadey

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