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March 20, 2000 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-20

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Can't get enough Daily Arts?
Go online to read Jim Schiff's review
of NMaestro Ali Akbar Khan's Friday
night performance.
michigandaily.com /arts


MARCH 20, 2000

8A .

a spirited
good time
By Chris Kula
aily Arts Editor

Voices o
recall hc
the Hol(
By Autumn Kelly
For the Daily
The fury of the Holocaust cannot
come through facts and abstract num-
bers. Rather, it reaches us in hearing
and reading about the experiences of
others. As a part of the University
Hillel's 21st annual Conference on the
Holocaust, authors Van Brock, Myra
Sklarew and Charles Fishman read
from their poetry yesterday at Borders.
Each brought a unique voice to the
reading: Quiet, narrative and scream-
Sklarew read from her prize-win-
ning poem "Lithuania," a poem that

Sometimes, as the saying goes, less can be
more. And the Friday night presentation of
"Godspell" at the Power Center just happened to
be one of those times.
Eschewing glitzy costumes and elaborate set
designs, the MUSKET production instead focused
on creative storytelling methods that emphasized
the collective talents of the 26 member cast. As a
result, "Godspell" was a show short on eye candy,
but long on spirit - and, for that matter, fun.
A rock musical based on the Bible's Gospel of
Matthew, "Godspell," originally written by John-
Michael Tebelak in the early '70s, was conceived
with the idea that each production would be dif-

ferent, depending
Power Center
March 17, 2000

on the director's interpretation
of the play. Taking advantage
of this inherent flexibility,.
the MUSKET presentation
indeed proved to be a fresh
perspective on the work
For instance, director
Charlie Jett chose to distrib-
ute the lines of the Jesus
character among the entire
cast, so that there would not
be a central Christ figure.
Done in this manner, the
messages of compassion and
love delivered seemed less
like Christian preachings
than simply wise advice

Photo courtesy of MUSKET
The 26 member cast of "Godspell" displayed an engaging group dynamic in Friday night's performance.

from a friend or loved one. Interpreting the word
of God is always like walking on thin ice, but'the
leadership team of Jett and producer Marc Kamler
did a fine job of keeping the show nice and dry.
Broken into a number of short episodes to
reflect the Bible as a collection of stories,
"Godspell" featured clever takes on some of the
more well-known Biblical tales, including those of
the prodigal son, the idea of an eye for an eye ver-
sus turning the other cheek and Judas' betrayal. In
each of these sketches, amidst the action onstage,
a different cast member would be positioned off to
the side, writing silently in a book, an act which
symbolized the fact that the Bible was indeed
compiled from the stories of many individual

Performing on a bare stage draped in black, the
actors used no significant props but their own
bodies. And, truth be told, that's all they needed.
From crawling on hands and knees to play the role
of Noah's animals to forming a human "altar"
(think a cheerleader's pyramid), the large ensem-
ble - which was, member for member, really
quite attractive - displayed impressive physical
acting skills and a great overall energy.
In the musical sequences that separated the
story scenes, the actors/singers were tastefully
supported by a four-piece-band positioned in the
middle-rear of the stage. Led by pianist/musical
director Karl Shymanovitz and featuring ever-
grooving bassist Mihail Chiaburu, guitarist Jeff
"Flurry of Technique" Enderton and drummer
Jordan Young, the combo deftly handled styles
ranging from uptempo soul and jazzy swing to
funk-lite and even startle-the-parents hard rock.
It was during these 17 musical numbers that the
cast members got the opportunity to show off their
vocal skills, as the company combined their voic-
es for a strong choral sound. Several actors even
sang special solo sections, the highlights of which
included Alyssa Atzeff's rousing "Day by Day,"
Dara Seitzman's sultrv rendition of "Turn Back, 0
Man" and Alison Breitman's stirring performance
of "By My Side." And Eric Blair deserves special
accolades for his ability to both perform "We

Beseech Thee" with a graceful flair and endure a
pair of trousers that made sorority girl wear seem
like MC Hammer pants.
Speaking of individual attention, it seemed that,
at least once in the show, every cast member was
given their own moment in the spotlight, be it
through vocal performance or a special skit role.
This feature allowed the various personalities of
the ensemble to shine, from Julie Rosier's natural
grasp of comedic posturing to Yohance Murray's
easy-going charisma. Overall, the cast achieved a
strong group dynamic that seemed to show a gen-
uine enjoyment for performing together.
Another unique and engaging feature of the
MUSKET production was its inclusion of vari-
ous pop culture references into a number of its
stories. The gags ranged from the silly (a spoof
of "South Park") and the clever (when a cast
member mentioned something about wealth,
spotlighted bassist Chiaburu played the opening
riff to Pink Floyd's "Money") to the absurd (a
tripped-out sequence based on Hunter S.
Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas").
Techniques like the referencing reflected both
the play's ability to culturally update itself and
the willingness on the part of the producer,
director and cast to fully express themselves
within the context of a creative, highly enjoy-
able production.

March 19, 2000

shows how she
has dealt with the
Holocaust her-
self. Her poetry
was narrative in
style, and drew
from diaries, per-
sonal interviews
and her own
imagination. As
part of her work
at the U.S.
H o1 o a ust
M e m o r i a l
M u s e u m,
Sklarew has had

the opportunity to interview survivors.
It was in her travels to Lithuania, where
her own relatives were murdered, that
she was inspired to write the poem
from which she read. She also traveled
to Lithuania to speak to survivors and
witnesses about their experiences.
Brock and Fishman agreed with
Sklarew about the importance of
remembering the truth about the
Holocaust. "It is important to have the
utmost respect for the truth. Every few
years there's a denial," Brock said.
Between reading his poems, Brock
explained how exploring the Holocaust
could be a dark experience. Speaking
of the "survivors, killers" and our-
selves he said that not everyone is able
to escape it. Of course, our own escape

~rror o
is much less physical than that of thf
others, he said,
Brock's idea of escape from dark-i
ness and ascent into the light was
recalled numerous times throughoi4
the reading. Sklarew shared the stoirm
of a Polish girl who hid with her fami'
ly in the sewers for two years, wher;d
they were fed by a sewer worker.Atr.
one point, the girl refused to eat; sho
had lost hope. The worker led her
through miles of pipes to the edge of.
town, where light shone through a
manhole. It was the dream of one day
playing with other children in that light
that kept her alive.
Fishman read from three poems, the
longest titled "The Silence," which was
based on a documentary of the
Holocaust. "The Silence" was all but
silent, drawing out images of babies
thrown into trailers and bodies laic
head to feet in ditches. Fishman's voice
rose throughout the reading. "There
was a time when the trees were full of
screams" he read, "and the screaming
burned into your mind."
On the cover of Van Brocks
"Unspeakable Strangers" is a piece of
art by Mauricio Lasansky from his
series of "Nazi Paintings." It is a draw-.
ing/painting of a human skeleton, wit
its hands held up to its head. The hor_
ror of the Holocaust came through in
the reading of the poetry of the
Holocaust, as strongly as is possible-
five decades later. In answer to the''
question of whether the fury of the
Holocaust lessens over the years,
Sklarew said, "The issue is how each-
generation deals with the Holocaust.
Each person has to come to terms with-
it in their own way.
These three authors have shapes
the way that the current generation
experiences the memory of the
Holocaust. It comes through in their
words, both spoken and written. The
reading stood out as recalling the.
murder of millions of people. It also,
fit well into the series of presenta-
tions that make up the Conference.

Little known film deserves 'Map' to


of acclaim

By Matthew Barrett
Daily Film Editor

"A Map of the
deserves to be seen
end of 1999 the
A Map of .
the World
Grade: A-
At the Michigan

World" is a film that
on the big screen. At the
movie (based on Jane
Hamilton's novel of the
same name) was
released on a very small
scale, for the purpose of
awards consideration,
but never really caught
on and, as a result, never
came to most theaters.
And considering some
of the films that crowd
today's multiplexes or
which are nominated for
the big awards, this is
downright shameful.
The story here is sharp
and daring and will con-

devotes her time to either working on her farm
or caring for her children. She seems happy
enough with her existence, although we get the
feeling that she could go for a little more help
with the children from her husband, Howard
(David Strathairn). The story lulls us into
Alice's existence by showing her daily routine
and the relief that she feels when school lets out
and her summer vacation arrives. This quickly
changes and through a series of tragic events
and accusations, Alice's life is turned upside
down. Other than this, the less you know going
into the movie, the better.
As a whole, the film is very well-acted,
from top to bottom. Weaver turns in a phe-
nomenal performance, letting her character
slowly evolve before our eyes in such a way
that even when she goes a little crazy, we see
where she's coming from. Although she
received a Golden Globe nod for the part,
Weaver was left behind when the Oscar nom-
inations were announced. Julianne Moore's
turn as Theresa, Alice's best friend, is just
another feather in her fine cap of praisewor-
thy performances over the course of the past
year (others include "Cookie's Fortune" and
"Magnolia"). Also appearing in the cast are

Louise Fletcher as Howard's mother and
Chloe Sevigny as a local mother out to get
First-time director Scott Elliott establishes
himself as one to watch and guides the action
with a confident and steady hand. Elliott grad-
ually peels awaiy layers of the characters as the
story progresses and never plays his hand early
when it comes to revealing the details of the
Also of note is the fact that the film's
screenplay was written by Polly Platt and
Peter Hedges. Platt, known to many as the
former wife of director Peter Bogdanovich
("The Last Picture Show") and considered
by some to have been very instrumental in
the success of his earlier films, proves her-
self capable of crafting a compelling story -
one leaps and bounds better than anything
that her ex has done in decades.
"A Map of the World" is a fine film, with
some interesting things to say. It takes an
extended and intelligent look at the down-
ward spiral of a woman in distress and does
it in a manner that avoids the usual cliches.
It is one of the better films of 1999, and is
not to be missed.

sistently surprise you with turns and revela-
tions until its very end. And when was the
last time you could say that about a movie?
The plot centers on Alice Goodwin
(Sigourney Weaver), a school nurse who

Photo courtesy of First Look Pictures
Sigourney Weaver and David Strathairn star in Scott Elliot's human spirit story, "A Map of the World.".

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