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October 11, 1999 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-11

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To the Lighthouse
Bella Bathurst reads from "The Lighthouse Stevensons." This
account of Robert Louis Stevenson's family examines the early
problems of lighthouse construction. Shaman Drum, 8 p.m.

tIjeTivditu 1&Iq

Tomorrow in Daily Arts:
Check out a review of Sunday's Tricky show at Clutch
Cargo's.

0'

8A

Monday
October 11, 1999

Energetic
'Escape'
charms
Trueblood
By Michelle Brown
For the Daily
From the first charmingly ludi-
crous exchange between mother
Nora and daughter Gail as Gail's
husband lies moaning in a pool of
blood, George F. Walker's "Escape
from Happiness" lives up to its
description as an emotional roller
coaster, a deliriously paced drawing-
room "Pulp Fiction."
Those unprepared for the furious,

Beautiful'Life So Far' portray?
Scottish childhood innocence

By Joshua Pederson
Daily Arts Witer
The Scottish are a beautiful people. They have a beautiful
country with beautiful landscapes. They have beautiful rivers,
beautiful lakes and beautiful lochs. They have beautiful win-
ters and beautiful summers. They make beautiful music and
beautiful women. They have beautiful children. And they
make beautiful films.
Okay, so maybe Scotland isn't quite as perfect as this. But
heck, any country that can produce Sean Connery is a-okay
in my book. Okay, and maybe all Scottish films aren't all that
great. But "My Life So Far" is a beautiful film, and it is a

Escape
From
Happiness
Trueblood Theater
Oct. 7-10, 1417

almost demoni-
c a l ly
Shakespearean
rhythms of
Walker's script
may at first be
overwhelmed,
but the skill and
energy of the
University's the-
atre department
soon absorbs the
audience.
"Escape from
Happiness" is, at
its most basic

r~,
" _ I'

beautiful film that
M y Life
So Far
***I
At the Michigan
Theater

consolidates all the beautiful things that
Scotland has to offer. It manages to pull
together a great number of idealistical-
ly wonderful images of life in this coun-
try.
Before launching into the main body
of this review, a prefatory sidenote must
be made. "My Life So Far" is the film
version of Sir Denis Forman's novel,
"Son of Adam." Director Hugh
Hudson, or whoever made the decision
to do so, made a horrible mistake in
renaming this film. Forman's title is
much more poetic, while resonating
with many of the clever biblical refer-
ences that will be scattered throughout
the film. "My Life So Far," the title, is

a scatterbrained but lovable inventor with a passion for sphag-
num moss. His mother, Moira, played by Mary Elizabeth
Mastrantonio, is the embodiment of maternally unconditional
love, fertile and compassionate. His siblings are well adjuste
displaying just the correct amount of precocious revolt. 6
This film family seems near ideal. However, unlike other
contemporary film families whose outward perfection sig-
nals only a scarred underbelly hidden from public view,
Fraser's family is actually as close to ideal as outward appear-
ances would imply.
"My Life So Far" is, heaven forbid, a film which deals with
familial relationships optimistically. It has an unabashedly
happy ending. The viewer, jaded with the cynical landscape
of contemporary film, may continually expect Fraser's fami-
ly to fall apart under the relatively minor stresses placed upe
it. But it never does. The film's storyline champions strotk
marital relationships, preserves youthful innocence, and lets
love survive as the prevalent force.
And don't worry, it does have conflict. "My Life So Far'
has a plot. The catalytic character comes in the form of
Heloise (played by the radiant Irene Jacob), Fraser's uncle's
bride-to-be. She innocently places a strain on the marriage of
Fraser's parents by acting as unknowing temptress to Edward.
Furthermore, there is some question as to whether or not
Edward will be willed the family estate after the death of his
mother. Fraser narrates these plotlines by way of voiceover,
but also lends the film a clever comedy through his owO
naive sexual awakening.
Some critics, I'm sure, would condemn the film as the
product of an unrealistically blind idealism. Some would say
that director Hugh Hudson created a nice fairy tale, but one
so far removed from the strife of contemporary life as to ren-
der it saccharin and implausible. However, these criticisms
only reveal the pessimism of modern society. "My Life So
Far" is a welcome respite from the sardonic worlds of vio-
lence, abuse, and despair, common fare in today's cinema. It
may be mildly implausible, but frankly, there are still stabl
families out there, even happy ones. "My Life So Far" maW
indeed be a fairy tale, but fairy tales haven't outlived their
usefulness quite yet.

Courtesy of OavcI Smith Photography
From Happiness."'

Charlie Jett takes aim at Anthony von Halle in "Escape

level, the story of chaotic events in a
family already coming apart at the
seams. Matriarch Nora Dawson
(Dara Seitzman, in a tour-de-force
performance) governs unflappably
over her three daughters and hus-
band, all of whom suffer from some
level of neuroses. The Dawsons lead
a relatively normal life, their sanity
hinged mostly upon gleeful nuggets
of ruling wisdom from Nora and a
strict code of silence between father
Tom (Charlie Jetty and the rest of the
family.
There's Elizabeth (Krista Braun), a
high-powered lawyer who clashes
with the police and sleeps with "men,
women, anyone who's nice and sexy."
Self-effacing Mary Anne (Julia
Siple), who is perpetually on the
therapist's couch, contemplates
whether being great must involve
being a lesbian, while rebellious Gail
(Aimee Penfield Clark) struggles to
bridge the distance with her father..
As they all weave their tangled
web under the watchful eyes of
Nora, the audience is struck not by
the improbability of their motivation

but the curious ease with which they
reflect the human condition.
When Gail's husband Junior
(Markiwitia Jackson) is beaten by
unknown assailants, the assault
sparks a chain of events that involve
battling police officers (Angela
Lewis and Anthony Von Halle),
small-time criminals (Steve Best and
James Frounfelter), and a bag of
illicit drugs.
Beyond the hysteria of the charac-
ter's interactions, hovever, lies the
theme that allows us to see the
Dawsons as more than amusing cari-
catures: the struggle of a family who,
in Tom's words, "doesn't think they
deserve happiness."
Walker's dexterity as a playwright
lies in persuading the viewer to gen-
uinely care for the most unseemly of
characters, allowing their bizarre
motives to latch on to the audience
and absorb them until the final
scene. His other talent is in the
unusual richness of dialogue, seem-
ingly trite phrases which he weaves
into sonnet-like creations.
Here the talent of the University's
theatre department is highlighted,

for the furious pace of the script
requires unflagging energy from the
ensemble. Dara Seitzman and Julia
Siple stand out in particular, manip-
ulating endless strings of dialogue
into characters that are vulnerable,
maddening and yet ultimately lov-
able, much like any real-life mother
or sister.
The play's few inconsistencies, as
well as a slight lag in the ending and
less-than-stellar performances from
the policemen, can be attributed to a
tight rehearsal schedule, not to men-
tion the difficulty in introducing
some of Walker's more sentimental
family subjects following scene
after scene of conflict.
"Escape from H appiness" stands
out as a showcase of one of Canada's
leading playwrights, whose lack of
popularity thus far in the United
States remains a mystery. Director
John Neville-Andrews' production
more than justifies an exposure of
his work to the University, and the
exemplary performances among
much of the cast bring highlight his
anything-but-ordinary tale of sur-
vival in a family.

trite at best. If I hear one more movie title with the word
"life" in it, ("Life Is Beautiful," "Life," "My Life," etc.),;I will
vomit. I truly hope that the "life" fad dies sometime soon.
Move on, people. But enough with this particular aside.
"My Life So Far" is essentially a story about the innocence
of childhood. Its narrator is a young Scottish boy by the
name of Fraser (Robert Norman). Fraser is a member of an
affluent Scottish family who manages the country estate of
Kiloran, in Argyll, Scotland, in the 1920s.
Fraser's family effuses happiness throughout the film's
opening scenes. His father, Edward, played by Colin Firth, is

Six Feet Under visits Haro'5

By Adlin Rosli
Daily Arts Writer
Chris Barnes, former singer of
Cannibal Corpse, brought his new band,
Six Feet Under (is there a pattern here?),

t S i x F e e td-1
Under
Harpo's
Oct. 9,.1999
'

to town this past
Saturday in sup-
port of the group's
latest disc,
"M a x i m u m
Violence." The
group was actual-
ly the night's
opening band for
Manowar. Being
as Manowar is a
punch line just in
existing (the
group is famous
for cheesy stage

endless stream of forgettable local open-
ing bands. Thanks to the flood of local
talent, Six Feet Under did not get on
stage until much later this evening.
With a confident nod to the crowd and
his band mates, the dreadlocked Barnes
and company took the stage. The group
played a good mix of new and old mate-
rial from it's catalog of work and did a
good job at keeping the audience
enthralled with its stage antics.
Headbanging, rock signs and flailing
dreads were all generously performed
for the audience's entertainment.
Barnes proved this past Saturday that
his Death Metal vocals still remain a
solid cornerstone in this genre. Often
imitated but never duplicated, his guttur-
al bark sounds like the embodiment of
all that is evil and was a key factor in
helping Cannibal Corpse gain popularity
in the underground music scene. You
could say he's to Death Metal what
Pavarotti is to the Opera.
Despite the energetic performance

however, there was one aspect to the
show that Six Feet Under had no control
of improving on stage. All of their son4
start the same way, go through similar
changes and never break out of a distinct
mold of structure. This ultimately hurts
the group as it makes the experience of
listening to the group much too pre-
dictable and uninteresting. And what a
shame this is as Chris Barnes is an indi-
vidual with enormous talent for this
genre of music.
To say that Six Feet Under is merely a
Chris Barnes vehicle would not be doin@.
the band justice. Guitarist Steve
Swanson, bassist Terry Butler and drum-
mer Greg Gall are all established musi-
cians within this genre. It is thus an
immense shame to see Barnes and com-
pany not really expanding themselves
musically and artistically.
Six Feet Under's Saturday perfor-
mance at Harpo's was one with plenty of
terrific stage moves. Now if only the
could do something about the songs.

1

antics as well as
songs about dragons, medieval quests
and scantily clad females), the only band
worth mentioning was Six Feet Under.
As usual for Harpo's, there were an

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