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October 04, 1999 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-04

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Tomorrow in Daily Arts:
B Check out the latest edition of Breaking Records, featuring
a review of David Bowie's new album.
Monday
October 4, 1999 9

A

I

Hoch's one-man show
gave thoughiul hilant
By Nick Falzone
For the Daily
Gazing out at the audience of his
one-man show, performer Danny
Hoch noted something different
about the age of the crowd's mem-
bers. Unlike most of his shows, Hoch
saw himself staring into the eyes of
an audience that was almost com-
pletely under the age of 30. Yet Hoch
had nothing to worry about while
glancing among the rows of the sold-
out theatre; this is the age group his -
work appeals to best and he did not
fail to impress his youthful crowd
with a performance that filled the
room with boisterous laughter.
Hoch, however, did not always
provoke his young audience to burst
into comedic approval. At times, his F
performance, which allowed the 1

Danny
Hoch
Mendelssohn Theatre
Oct. 1, 1999
L-

crowd to peek
into 10-minute
segments of
eight black,
Latino and white
males from
around the
nation and
Puerto Rico,
also evoked a
pensive mood
from the audi-
ence. In accor-
dance with
Hoch's theatrical
goal - to make
the crowd laugh,

Courtesy of Caseroc Productiops
Masked in many unique characters, Danny Hoch develops multi-faceted theatre.

n search of "Beauty," newcomer Wes Bentley joins the usually Innocent Mena Suvari and Thora Birch.
" 0
We tyidentifis realty
withityonestr

It's been a while since there has
een a film that actually takes its
cenagers seriously rather than send-
ng them off hand-in-hand to the
rom with condoms in their pockets.
'American Beauty" gives its adoles-
ents the royal treatment, so to speak,
vith believable dialogue and actions
hat ring true. This isn't Kevin
amson.
'I don't know anyone who actually
cts like that in real life, but I know
eople who act like these kids in the
ovie," said "American Beauty"
ctress Thora Birch, stopping one
'tep short of admitting that she acts
ike these kids, too. Birch plays Jane
mrnham, a disenfranchised daughter
n~a house full of thinly veiled hate
ho finds self-confidence and love
h the boy next door just as her
S r, Lester (Kevin Spacey), is
iding himself.
Wes Bentley plays that boy next
oor, Ricky Fitts. "American Beauty"
narks his first starring role and he
ouldn't have asked for a better
pportunity.
"At the time of my life that I got
he script, I identified with it a lot. I
ead it at the perfect time. It spoke to
it relaxed me. And I did cry,
sy as it sounds. It moved me. It
ade me feel comfortable enough to
ry on a plane in front of 15 other
eople who thought I was just losing
't: I jest connected to it right away,"
ntley said. "The story itself was
nbelievably - I would say well-
ritten but it's beyond that - it's
unbelievably understood."
Bentley was waiting for the right
role to present itself to him after
s ding some time studying at
Jliard. "Especially recently with
the teensploitation boom, it's been
hard to find anything good because
eyerybody wants to write a high
school sex comedy," he said.
Making the transition from high
school sex comedy to high school
slut is former "American Pie" choir
priss Mena Suvari. Doing an acting
180, she plays Angela Hayes, Jane's
*atious friend who catches Lester's
eye and imagination.
Want to

"When I read the script, I was very
passionate about it. I thought that it
was true to life. Angela had such a
range to her and that's something
that's rare in a script, to have so many
layers to you," Suvari said.
"I always tend to be seen as so
sweet and innocent because of
'American Pie,' so it was really great
to be given the opportunity to show a
completely different side to me, to be
so outgoing and flamboyant and
strong and sexy and dramatic,"
Suvari said, running out of breath and
adjectives. "I just had a lot of fun
with the role."
Birch shares her co-stars' views
about the brilliance of writer Alan
Ball's script. "The casting director
sent it to me. It was the only script
that I got at that time. I felt that I was
extremely, extremely lucky to get the
script. I immediately fell in love with
it. It was so original, I could remem-
ber ever seeing anything, reading
anything like it. It was so clear, it was
the type of script that you could see,"
she said.
Both girls were interested only in
their respective roles. When asked if
she had considered auditioning for
the role of Angela, Birch responded,
"I wanted no part of Angela, no way."
Suvari was equally focused on
winning her role. "I identified with
Angela more than with Jane just
because I really thought she was
hilarious in some ways and yet also
pathetic," she said.
As the lone teenaged male charac-
ter, Ricky often seems umbilically
attached to his video camera. He has
a particular obsession with taping
dead things, or animated inanimate
objects. Director Sam Mendes actual-
ly taped most of the video footage,
Bentley said.
"I had a few shots. Sometimes I
was taping, sometimes I wasn't
because the sound of the camera was
too loud and you would hear that over
my voice. But I always had a camera
right by Sam. He did most of that you
see, he had a steadier hand than I did.
I would sit right beside him and shoot
the same thing he would just for a
character thing. Sometimes I'd get
better footage."
Bentley sees Ricky's need to put a

screen and a viewfinder in between
himself and reality as both a strength
and a weakness.
"I think it's both. The strength
being that he wants to see, he's not
afraid to look. The weakness being
that he doesn't trust himself to
remember. As strong as he seems at
times, he's very weak. Like with his
dad, if he was stronger he would have
left a long time ago and maybe not
lost it on that kid he almost beat to
death," Bentley said, delving into the
film's plot details.
If Lester is the soul of "American
Beauty," then Ricky provides the
film's spirit. As such, he spouts solil-
oquys about the everyday beauty we
often don't notice.
"The moment that felt the
strongest, when I felt that Ricky was
at his fullest, was the speech about
the plastic bag that he sees flying
around. I think he was able to be as
honest as he ever could be at that
moment, to speak the language that
he speaks," Bentley said. "That was
as Ricky as you could get."
While Bentley bared his soul for
the film, the two young actresses
ended up baring a little bit more. This
led to the discarding of certain inhi-
bitions on their part.
"It's really ironic because I always
said I wouldn't do nudity," Suvari
said. "But I was so honored to be
given that chance. With my work and
just life in general I really try to give
everything my all."
"I look for a challenge in a script."
Featured in the past in films geared
towards younger audiences, Birch
quickly got over her initial anxiety
about the "American Beauty" nude
scenes. She saw the scenes as a cru-
cial turning point for her character. "I
think for Jane, her growth and devel-
opment was accepting herself more,
Birch said.
"American Beauty" continues to
connect with audiences of all ages
thanks to its attention to authenticity
and characters in various stages of
their lives. According to Bentley, "It's
a very ambigious film. The market-
ing is very ambigious. It doesn't
associate to one, it associates to all."
"I think it has something to say for
just about everybody."

yet feel uncomfortable at the same
time - the audience's laughter was
often separated by periods of sorrow
or sympathy.
With his incredible variety of char-
acters - from a black rapper to a
white corrections officer - Hoch
presented the audience with person-
alities that were refreshingly compli-
cated and three-dimensional. While
he breathed comedy and poignancy
into the different men he portrayed
during his 90-minute performance,
Hoch also took great care to add
depth to each personality. By reveal-
ing dimensions of the characters'
lives that complicated the audience's
perceptions of their personalities,
Hoch made it difficult for the crowd

to pigeonhole the men into a stereo-
typical mold.
Due to Hoch's method of disclos-
ing additional sides of a character
throughout each personality's 10-
minute appearance in the show, it
was easy for the audience to compar-
timentalize the character initially.
For example, the fourth person Hoch
portrayed was a mentally retarded
Yankees fan, a 19-year boy who
clearly had both physical and psy-
chological difficulties in his every-
day life.
Since this was all the information
he provided at the beginning of the
segment, it was tempting to believe
that Hoch was simply using the boy's
disabilities as a way to get a cheap
laugh from the audience. Yet as the
Yankees fan explained that he was
mentally disabled because his moth-
er had smoked cocaine while she was
pregnant, the crowd became sudden-

ly quiet. And unlike a television
crowd, which might have guffawed at
the thought of a "crack whore," none
of the audience members even snick-
ered under their breath.
Not all of Hoch's characters had
experiences that were as traumatic as
those of the Yankees fan. Yet all of
his personalities forced the crowd to
reflect upon their own lives, often
obligating them to look at how they
classified or treated people of other
social groups. And although the
members of the audience frequently
burst out into laughter, few of them
left the theatre without experiencing,
at some point in the performance, a
sense of discomfort or awkwardness.
And that, according to Hoch's the-
atrical goal, means he accomplished
exactly what he set out to do in the
first place: bring an unconventional,
multi-faceted theatre experience to
the world.

Freaks' assails with fun laughs

By Tina Lee
For the Daily

It begins, oddly enough, with football
practice. The viewer is slightly per-
plexed as the scene unfolds: the sensi-
tive jock with his cheerleader girlfriend
talking about the
need for commu-
~ nication., Uh-oh.
Have I stumbled
Freaks across some kind
of cheery night-
and Geeks mare, or worse
**** yet, a "Varsity
NBC Blues" knock-off?
Saturdays at 8 p.m. But wait, the guy
has not started
. , speaking in poly-
syllabic words
yet, and redemp-
tion starts from
thereon.

NBC's "Freaks and Geeks" is set in
high school circa 1980. The show cen-
ters on two siblings and their respective
struggles to emerge from school alive.
Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) is at
an impasse. After witnessing her grand-
mother's death, she questions her status
as a resident brain and like so many
good kids before her, crosses over to the
dark side. Specifically, she mingles
with the freaks, a gang of nonchalant
teens led by Daniel (James Franco),
whose every glance is designed to make
the hall monitors quiver.
Lindsay's honor-roll associates find
the change less than desirable. But they
can only muster enough indignation at
this snub to snipe at Lindsay's younger
brother Sam (John Daley). Despite the
pressure from her parents and guidance
counselor, Lindsay follows her own
agenda, however lost it may be. The

resulting honesty lends credence to the
show, and Lindsay proves there is more
to life than being a champion mathlete.
Armed with his two best friends, sci-
fi loving Neal (Samm Levine) and Bill
(Martin Starr), complete with the per-
functory geeky glasses, Sam sets out to
conquer his unattainable lust object.
When Sam ponders his chances with the
paragon of loveliness, the delightful and
witty Neal points out, "She's a cheer-
leader. You've seen Star Wars 27 times.
Do the math."
"Freaks and Geeks" is an amazing
new show replete with clever dialogue
and rapport amongst the characters. The
drama of finding your identity in a dog-
eat-dog environment combined with
comic overtones is plays out well. So
while Lindsay and Sam are not at the top
of the totem pole in high school, they
are surely acing the tests of television.

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