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March 14, 2003 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-14

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Frday
March 14, 2003
michigandaily.com
mae@michigandaity.com

t[ctt~ut nnitg
ARTS

5

Refried 'Beene' not a tasty meal
By Christian Smith
Daily Arts Writer

When watching "Oliver Beene," it's hard not to get the feel-
ing that you've seen this before. And it isn't just the deliberate
'60s-era nostalgia that the show aims to generate. With its
youthful sentimentality and family premise, not to mention
the voice-over narration by a grown-up Oliver (David Cross,
"Mr. Show"), the show has already been labeled as a far less
schmaltzy variation of "The Wonder Years." Furthermore, the
abundance of fantasy sequences bears it a strong resemblance
to stylistically-similar shows like "Andy Richter Controls the
Universe" and "Scrubs."
Despite these similarities, all three aforementioned shows
are far superior to "Oliver Beene." In the new comedy, Grant
Rosenmeyer - better known as Ari Tenenbaum in "The
Royal Tenenbaums" - stars as the titular Beene, a smart but
awkward 11-year-old trying desperately to fit in during a
time when JFK is president, the space race is heating up and
the country is embroiled in the Cold War. While this may
sound eerily similar to the premise of NBC's "American
Dreams," "Oliver Beene" takes a much more comical tone,
irreverently lampooning various cultural
habits of the times.a
However, the effectiveness of this comedic
remembrance varies drastically. Set in Rego i
Park, Queens, "Oliver Beene" does best when OLIVER
dealing with characterizations of stereotypes,
like the parts of last week's pilot that intro- Sundays a
duced Oliver's eccentric family. F
There's his womanizing, older brother Ted,
played by what we can only hope is the last of the
Lawrence brothers, Andrew; his social-climbing Jackie
Kennedy-wannabe mother Charlotte (Wendy Makkena,

Courtesy of

Please let me catch it this time.

You don't understand, I am not crazy, I just have to sing.
By Christine Lasek
Daily Arts Writer

It is Aug. 15, 1947: midnight - the exact moment of
India's independence. The large sectional screen cover-
ing the back wall of the stage is aglow with historical
footage of India and is the only light on stage. Down-
stage from the screen are two beds, where two women
are giving birth at the same time. The sound of the news
footage is punctuated by the screams of the women. This
is only the beginning. The play becomes more involved
from here on out.
"Midnight's Children" is told by Saleem Sinai, one of
the 1,001 children born in the hour of
India's independence, all of whom are
endowed with special gifts. Saleem's story
precedes him, as he narrates the struggle
of his grandparents, parents and finally MIDN
himself, all attempting to find love and
raise a family against the backdrop of CHIL
political uproar. "Midnight's Children" is Today-Su
also the story of that uproar, recounting p.m. and
the struggle of twentieth century India, At the Po
Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Yet, just when it seems that this play might be too grand
for comprehension, it is drenched in all the details that
comprise everyday humanity. The characters of "Mid-
night's Children" are all human beings, who lust and hate
and make love to one another (when they can). They bare
children and question God, show moments of unbeliev-
able strength and also pitiful weakness. Saleem believes
himself to be at the center of history, willing historical
events to happen. He is also a boy, self consc Ius about
the size of his nose and his own sexual awareness.
Twenty actors comprise the cast of this play, portraying
over seventy roles. Zubin Varla as Saleem is astounding.

I
7
rw

One moment he narrates the events of his life to the audi-
ence, the next he takes part in the action on stage, then he
steps out of his life again to converse with the woman he
recounts his story to, Padma. Costume changes happen on
stage, and help to show differences in time and place.
The set of "Midnight's Children" is never stationary
for long. The only permanent, and the most elaborate,
set piece is the sectional screen on the back wall of the
stage, which could also be split or joined to suggest a
doorway or curtain. There are many scene changes, and
often a new place or time period is suggested by various
moveable set pieces and drapery that fly in from the ceil-
ing. Lighting effects are also very important. They por-
tray everything from scene changes to
civilian massacres. This type of staging
keeps the play moving without any long
** black outs for transitions (important in a
GHT'S three and a half hour show!) and it also
allowes the footage on the screen to take
)REN primary focus as it is playing.
day, 1:30 The screen plays a very important role.
:30 p.m. The story of "Midnight's Children" is too
er Center big to be told through one medium alone.
With the historical footage, the screen helps
to ground the audience in a time and place, or create an
interesting juxtaposition between historical events and the
events in Saleem's life. The screen is also how the mid-
night's children converse, representing the interior work-
ings of Saleem's head, as he is the only midnight's child
who can hear all the others as part of his gift.
"Midnight's Children" is a show that defies all attempts
at explanation. It is totally self contained; it is not neces-
sary to read the novel in order to comprehend the play.
Phenomenal actors, breath-taking costumes and impres-
sive staging all come together to bring the timeless words
of Salman Rushdie to life.

R.
at !
"O

Wanderlust' travels unfunny terrntory

By Daniel Yowell
Daily Arts Writer

To state the obvious, it seems like
shows on a network called Comedy
Central should be funny. Not just
"According to Jim"
funny either, but excep-
tionally funny. Since its
inception, Comedy Cen-
tral has been a second WAND
home to landmark come- S
dies like "Saturday Night aturdays
Live" and "The Kids in Comed
the Hall." The network}
has also brought a new generation of
classic shows like "South Park" and
"The Daily Show" to the small screen.
Enter "Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust"
- a travel show parody that follows the
not-so-illustrious tradition of "Battle-
bots" and "Let's Bowl." In the same

)E
at
y

"Sister Act"); and his tightfisted dentist father, Jerry (Grant
Shaud, "Murphy Brown").
But too much of the show focuses on uninspired subplots,
like this Sunday's first-time-without-a-babysitter storyline.
The one highlight is the introduction of Oliver's gay-
beyond-his-years friend.
More often than not, though, this offering
from veteran sitcom producers Howard Ger-
witz and Steven Levitan ("The Larry Sanders
BEENE Show," "Just Shoot Me") resorts to the unnec-
essary and unfunny crass humor that pads the
8:30 p.m. majority of today's lifeless sitcoms.
X On the other hand, an upcoming episode
dealing with the integration of a black student
in Oliver's all-white school is sidesplittingly funny, and
reminds us why FOX wedged it between "The Simpsons" and
"Malcolm in the Middle" in the first place.

way that "Battlebots" was too much
competition and not enough comedy,
"Wanderlust" is too much travel show
and not enough parody.
Gerhard Reinke (Josh Gardner) is an
intrepid German travel writer and
endearing buffoon who
has appeared as a corre-
spondent on "Jimmy
Kimmel Live" and, for
RLUST what it's worth, is bear-
able and pretty funny in
11:30 p.m. small dosages. On the
Central contrary, a half-hour of
his Mike Myers'
"Sprockets"-meets-Balki-from-"Perfect
Strangers" schtick can be too much to
handle. "Wanderlust" feels like an
overseas "Insomniac with Dave Attell,"
but lacks Attell's easygoing attitude and
wry humor.
Gerhard travels to Thailand in the

first episode, where he tries out Thai
boxing, checks out the strip club scene
and learns about Buddhism. The
episode has a weak beginning, with lit-
erally nothing funny happening until
nearly five-minutes in.
At the episode's conclusion, Ger-
hard recalls his adventure by singing
over a terrible techno beat, which is
funny in a Tom Green's "Bum Bum
Song" kind of way
Unfortunately, getting to these worth-
while laughs requires suffering through
some painfully dull and juvenile scenes,
like when Gerhard - in a thong - is
chased by a jellyfish or when he out-
farts an elephant.
Although flawed, "Wanderlust" is
still pretty fiuny ... for a travel show.
And that's the main problem. For the
show to work on Comedy Central, it
should be funny before anything else.

U _.

CONGRATULATIONS!

T~

The following students will be among those recognized during the Honors Convocation program on Sunday, March 16, 2003.
These individuals have demonstrated the highest level of undergraduate academic success by achieving seven or more consecutive
terms of all A's and earning the designation of Angell Scholar. The University of Michigan congratulates these students on their
superior scholastic achievement and wishes them continued success.

EIGHT TERM ANGELL SCHOLARS

Jennifer M. Bess
Matthew Alan Bright.*
Kevin Patrick Egan *
Jeffrey Earl Harrington *
Jennifer A. Hobbs *
Gregory Alan Messinger *
Mark Edmund Outslay *
David Michael Roth *

College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
College of Engineering
College of Engineering
College of Engineering
School of Business Administration
College of Engineering
College of Engineering
School of Music

SEVEN TERM ANGELL SCHOLARS

Daniel Honig
Julie Elizabeth Humphries
Gaurav Kumar Jashnani
Heather Leigh Jensen
Christopher Kramer
Sara Lynn Kuperstein *
Paul Kuttner
Matthew Miles Leach
Molly Bree McCord
Brian David Netter *
Dalia Nechama Oppenheimer
Amy Prakash Patel
Todd B. Patterson
Nathan R. Platte
Martha Faye Richard *
Stevan Rafi Rosenberg *
Kara Renee Rumsey
Jamie Nicole Schey
Abigail Virginia Sebaly
Eric Y. Shieh
Benjamin J. Stafford *

Residential College
School of Nursing
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Residential College
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Residential College
College of Engineering
Residential College
College of Engineering
Residential College
College of Pharmacy
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
School of Music
School of Nursing
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Residential College
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
School of Music
School of Music
College of Engineering

Paul Stephen Albertus
Alexandra Grace Anderson
Gwendolyn Bree Arnold
Robert Joseph Bartz *
Laurence Adam Benenson
Mark Buckles
Wei Mun Chan
Elise Nicole Erickson
Holly Lynn Graves
Sarah Jane Grekin

College of Engineering
Residential College
Residential College
College of Engineering
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
School of Music
College of Engineering
School of Nursing
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

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