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April 13, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-13

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TeMhgDay-ihaayc Friday, April 13, 2007 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Basement Arts
heads to Ireland

DailyArts Writer
The remote Aran Islands off the
coast of Western
Ireland are an
unlikely setting The Cripple
for a Hollywood of Inishmaan
film, so when the
culturally fam- Tonight and
ished residents Saturday
of Inishmaan at7 p.m.
hear that a Los Free
Angles film crew
has arrived at At theWaigreen
the neighboring Drama Center,
Island of Inish- Studio1
more to film a
movie, everyone
begins clamoring for a moment in
the spotlight.
Such is the premise of cel-
ebrated Irish playwright Martin
McDonagh's dark comedy "The
Cripple of Inishmaan" put on by
Basement Arts this weekend. The-
show is the valiant undertaking for
Music senior Rachel Brody, who
senior directing thesis. McDonagh,
who was awarded the London Crit-
ics' Circle Theatre Awards for Most
Promising Playwright in 1996, took
Broadway by strom in 2005 with
his thriller "The Pillowman."
The show opens in the general
store of Cripple Billy's "aunties,"
two quirky but loveable women
who raised him after the mysteri-
ous death of his parents. A trio of
two violins and a guitar provide
the necessary Celtic music, and the
rustic wooden set effectively trans-
ports the audience into the humor-
ously bleak world of Inishmaan.
The sad irony of the show comes
from McDonaugh's engaging pro-
tagonist, Cripple Billy. Despite
being physically disfigured and
publicly ridiculed, he is obviously
the sanest of the emotionally hand-
icapped bunch.
Auntie Kate spends her time talk-

ing to stones, while her uncannily
similar counterpart Auntie Eileen
eats gobs of"sweeties"to drownher
troubles. Of course, the small Irish
village would not be complete with-
out a town gossip. Self-proclaimed
"newsman" Johnnypeteenmike
fuels the playawih scraps of rumors
and minor scandals.
"The Cripple of Inishmaan"
takes place in the early 1930s, a
tidbit of information the audience
only gets with Johnnypeteenmike's
remarks about a nice young fella
with a funny mustache seems to be
risin' to power in Germany. "Good
luck to him!" Johnnypeteenmike
exclaims, happily throwing the
newspaper aside.
But the desperate boredom in
Inishman also lends itself to gratu-
itous cruelty, of which Cripple Billy
usually bears the brunt. One par-
ticularly horrible rumor has haunt-
ed Billy since childhood - that his
parents drowned themselves after
learning he was disfigured.
A reprieve from the hum-drum
of island life comes when Johnny-
peteenmike spreads the news that
the film crew has landed on the
neighboring island of Inishmore.
This storyline is actually based off
the filming of "Man of Aran," a his-
torical documentary filmed in the
1934 about life on the desolate Aran
The object of Cripple Billy's
subtle lust, Slippy Helen, and her
hilariously bizarre brother Bartly
secure a boat ride over to Inish-
more with an elder islander, and
Cripple Billy fenegles a way to tag.
along. When he doesn't return at
the end of the filming, rumors fly
about the L.A. film crew picking up
Cripple Billy to make him a movie
star in America.
But as in every McDonaugh play,
things aren't always as they seem,
and this dense and darkly complex
show takes many twists and turns
before the curtain falls.

can you
hear me?
DailyArts Writer
Before "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and
"Rent," there was Tommy.
The 1969 album by The
Who was the first of its kind The Who's
to fuse rock with theater, Tommy
spawning the play "The
Who's Tommy" and helped Tonight and
establish Rock Musical with Tomorrow at8
such memorable songs as p.m. and Sunday
"The Acid Queen," "Pin- at 2 p.m.
ball Wizard" and "Fiddle Students $9
About." This blend of media serts$
has been imitated for many Reserved
years, resulting in some of Seating $19
the most evocative produc- General Admis-
tions brought to the stage. sion $22
And this weekend's produc- Atlthe Power Center
tion serves as the culmi-
nating performance of the
Department of Musical Theater's main stage
"Tommy," with book and music written by

Yeah, dude. We can hear you.
Who mainstay Pete Townshend, follows the
life of its title character, a boy plagued by the
traumas of his childhood. While still a child,
he watches his father gun down his mother's
lover, and conjures himself as deaf, dumb and
blind shortly thereafter. He is abused. And he
discovers a gift for pinball that launches him
into celebrity-like stardom, just to be ultimate-
ly shunned by the same public who fostered his
Music School senior Alex Brumel plays the
role of Tommy during his young adult years. A
longtime Who fan, Brumel is excited about the
band's songs coming to life on stage.
"(The play) really is the whole The Who
record cover to cover," Brumel said. "It's an
incredible experience."
The aesthetics of the stage are equally
incredible, Brumel said. Adhering to the vision
of the original stage design, the set was mod-
eled after the cover of the Tommy record. The
image of the blue-lattice pattern, with black-
and-white images of the band's members peek-
ing out from underneath, serves as central
focus, and this loyalty to the original produc-
tion is a facet Brumel admires.
"Our production is deeply rooted in the
original," Brumel said. "People walk into the
theater and originally identify it as the cover,
which is important."
Still, this begs an obvious
question: How does you go
about tackling so weighty
a subject, especially to the
sounds of sharp guitar riffs
and raucous drum sequenc-
"It's a dramatic challenge,
but rock music almost makes it
/ work," Brumel said. "It lets us

'ourtesy of the Department of Musical Theater
present everything. We can squeeze what we
need into the music-if it's a celebratory mood,
the music becomes more celebratory."
School of Music senior Dave Hull, who
served as assistant choreographer along with
Choreographer-Director Linda Goodrich,
echoes Brumel's assertion that the theatrical
should reflect the thematic. The fickle relation-
ship between Tommy and the society around
him becomes demonstrated through the
show's many dance routines, which combine
nuances of jazz, modern and even hip hop.
"The (dance) numbers are so involved," Bru-
mel said. "When Tommy is an outcast, he's left
out of them, when he is embraced by the public
the numbers envelope him."
Hull also plays the role of Cousin Kevin, a
character which he describes as "a teenager in
every sense of the word" - and who uses the
pinball-prodigy's success for his own personal
Cousin Kevin may be an adolescent, but he
seems all too reminiscent of a merciless and
exploitative agent, and that characterization is
part of the reason that Brumel believes Town-
shend rendered Tommy as an exploration of
how one deals with stardom.
"Townsend had the idea that people expect-
ed something beyond human out of him," Bru-
mel said. "Toward the end of the show, people
are asking Tommy, 'how can I be like you?' But
the message is that there's no secret, if you
think that (someone) has everything, maybe
it's because their eyes are open, and (they) can
see, feel and hear everything."
Brumel picked his words carefully. The
album's arguably most famous lyrics, "See me
/ Feel me / Touch me / Heal me," run through
several songs, and "Tommy" is a musical which
begs just that.

For more photos of this weekend's shows,
go to michigandaily.com.
For more events, go to our blog, The Filter.

Xiu Xiu to take
Blind Pig
Xiu Xiu
Tonight at 7 p.m.
At the Blind Pig
$12 cover, all ages
Somewhere outside of Montre-
al, a man is sitting on a bus, lazily
talking on the phone. He casually
riffs about his friends, his plans for
the not-so-distant future and an
obscure 1998 Chinese film about
a teenage prostitute. While this
might sound like the makings for
some sort of surreal, independent
film, it's nothing out of the ordinary
for Jamie Stewart, mastermind and
soft-spoken frontman of the indie
troupe Xiu Xiu.
FOKUS block
party on Diag
Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.
On the Diag

"We just say 'shoe shoe.' That's
how we pronounce it, but it's not
an English word. And in different
dialects it's probably pronounced
differently," Stewart said oft the
oft-debated pronunciation of the
Californian trio.
Asked how they came to use the
name, Stewartreferred to the afore-
mentioned film: "There were paral-
lels between the main character of
the movie's life and the decisions
she was making, and my life. Not
specific things, but just sort of the
way she was dealing with the prob-
lems in her life."
Stewart and his fellow band-
mates Ches Smith and Caralee
McElroy are landing at The Blind
Pig tonight - and the amount of
times he's answered the above ques-
tions is palpable in his nonchalance
toward them.
"It's unfortunate that most tours

aren't thatinteresting," he said. "It's
cool to play every night but basical-
ly, we play, sleep and play again. The
interesting part is playing."
Understanding the history
behind the group's name makes
it easy to presume the sort of top-
ics they approach on their albums
- primarily the deep-seeded ugli-
ness they find in the world around
"It's just about real things that
are going on in our lives and our
families," Stewart said of their
first full-legnth, The Air Force. "It's
just real, and not in a metaphorical
sense, I mean literally real."
With such vitriolic topics, Xiu
Xiu has found a few detractors, but
he said the band just wants to mae
music that's important to it. Tonight
at The Blind Pig, you can decide for

whom will be performing Saturday. same this year. In addition to music
From start to finish, the compila- acts ranging from gospel to rap, Uni-
tion sounds great, and it's an eclectic versity dance groups like Climax and
track list: New York rapper Gist, local Dance2XS will be performing. The
rapid-fire MC Bufflandgospel singer dance groups as well as the poets
(and University student) Brandon will be holding workshops, which,
Littlejohn. Other scheduled perform- along with the food and games, will
ers include local acts like Belikosa be free.
and The Macpodz, a jazz quintet. Aside from showcasing talent, the
If the stellar mixtape is any indica- purpose of Vanguards is to bring the
tion of the live show, fans are in for University's student body together.
a treat. Last year's spectators were Yes, it will probably be chilly, but at
treated to a diverse group of poets, least for a few hours, a diverse group
dancers and other talented perform- of performers will be heating up the
ers, including rap duo Slum Village, afternoon.
and students can expect more of the ANDREWKAHN

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