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October 30, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-10-30

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, October 30, 2009 - 5

Basement Arts' new musical features Dick and a lot of Pussies.

A boy and his penis

'Me and My Dick' explores
the relationship between
man and his real best friend
By DAVID RIVA
Daily FineArts Editor
The stage has always been a place to pres-
ent and magnify some of life's most difficult
moments. A boy's struggle to understand his
peculiar friendship with his private parts,
however, is a topic not often tackled in theater.
"Me and My Dick," a new
musical presented by the Me and
student-run theater organi-
zation Basement Arts, tack-
les the taboo subject of sex At Walgreen
during the teenage years by Drama Center,
seeing what it would be like if Studio 1
we could communicate with
our reproductive organs. Tonightat p.m.
Although this concept might tm rro1a p.m.
appear to be a bit shallow,
a humorous and heartfelt Free
script along with solid casting and an intrigu-
ing yet twisted plot (and a number of subplots)
keep the potentially superficial idea afloat.
"Me and My Dick" tells the story of classic
nerd Joey Richter (played by Music, Theatre
& Dance junior Joey Richter) and his best
friend and notable body part Dick (played by
Music, Theatre & Dance senior Joe Walker).
Together, they desperately want to lose Joey's
"V-card" with the most beautiful Jew in the
entire school: Vanessa (played by Music, The-

atre & Dance junior Ali Gordon). Referred to
as "Weiner Wild" by his classmates, Joey is
always popping them at the wrong time and
has no chance with the woman of his (wet)
dreams.
Or does he?
The play takes on a degree of complexity as
we're introduced to each character's genita-
lia. The plot ends up becoming more about the
drama between reproductive organs than the
relationships between the people.
Each character is accompanied by his or her
private part, with body and part being held to
together by a retractable dog leash. The Dicks'
costumes are flesh-colored sweatshirts and
sweatpants with balloons near the ankles for
testicles and a little pink stocking cap for ...
well, you get the picture.
Both men and women are cast as the Puss-
ies, and they are adorned in a variety of pink
apparel. One Pussy in particular, The Old
Snatch (played by Music, Theatre & Dance
junior Nick Joseph Strauss-Matathia), steals
the show with her over-done accent, comnsically
cynical outlook on love and show-saving plot to
reunite Joey with his Dick after they are tragi-
cally separated.
So who came up with this ridiculous con-
cept of people being followed around by their
private parts?
"One of the writers came up with the idea
after he had an unsuccessful night with a girl,"
director and Music, Theatre & Dance junior
Matt Lang explained. "She tried to have sex
with him, and he tried to comply (though he
felt a little weird about it) but he wasn't able to
get an erection. It got him thinking about this

part of himself that he didn't have conscious
control of and was such a major influence in
his life. If he could talk to his dick, what would
he say? What would it say back? It seemed like
a funny way to explore self-identity through
sexuality."
It may seem absurd to say that by getting to
know your penis or vagina, you find out more
about yourself, but within the context of the
play, it works.
But let's make something clear: "Me and My
Dick," although towing the line of inappropri-
ate and offensive, is not explicitly sexual or
shocking at any point.
"We have tried to keep the play very
abstract," Lang said. "There isn't a lot of literal
anatomy going on in the play. There's much
more focus on the emotional lives of the char-
acters."
Although the script has its share of memo-
rable one-liners like "We don't go to school for
class, we go for ass" and "Foreskin, no skin,
everyone's in," the production's motivations
are mostly pure.
"The play definitely is tackling a taboo sub-
ject, but our goal in this play is not to shock or
offend," Lang explained. "We want to explore
the way sex plays into our lives in an honest
and funny way. We hope that by the end of the
play people no longer think about their genitals
and the words we have for them as dirty."
Crossing the line or not, "Me and My Dick"
handles the issue of teens having sex better
than most of those cheesy videos you watched
in high school health class. Unfortunately,
the play came a few years too late to help you
through those turbulent adolescent times.

Kerouac's
perfect pair
By MIKE KUNTZ tive. The true test for the success
Daily Arts Writer of any singer-songwriter collabora-
tion is in found in vocal harmony,
Jack Kerouac was one of those and for the songs in which both
rare writers who had his finger on vocalists are present ("Low Life
the pulse of an Kingdom," "All in One" and the
entire cultural *** title track are prime examples),
movement as it Farrar and Gibbard pass with fly-
was happening - Ben Gibbard ing colors. Gibbard lends a sweet-
namely, the Beat and J Farrar ness that Farrar's voice has always
movement of the lacked, and the same holds true for
1950s and early One Fast Move Farrar's grit against Gibbard's thin-
1960s. Butsudden or I'm Gone ness. Together, they round out each
fame and years as F-Stop/Atlantic other's shortcomings well.
a vagabond takes Apart from its songwriting, One
its toll, as Ker- Fast Move's greatest qualities lie in
ouac's 1962 novel "Big Sur" famous- its production, with acoustic guitars,
ly chronicled in its account of the pedal steels and inspired vocal melo-
author's personal deterioration in dies giving the album plenty of color.
the wake of severe alcoholism. If anything, it's the presentation
The album companion to Jim of Kerouac's prose that falls short:
Sampas's 2009 documentary of the
same name, One Fast Move or I'm
Gone pairs Ben Gibbard (Death Cab
for Cutie) with Jay Farrar (Son Volt) Conjuring a dead
to put prose from "Big Sur" with writer to make a
melody. Gibbard and Farrar found
a mutual admiration for Kerouac's few n songs.
work when asked to record a few new
tracks for Sampas's documentary,
and they set out to piece together a
full album after finding chemistry Kerouac's writing has a much more
in the studio. In similar fashion to frantic quality than either Farrar or
Wilco and Billy Bragg's Mermaid Gibbard can muster on these tracks,
Avenue sessions, the conjuring of and sadly they don't do it justice.
dead writers for new songs proves to More often than not, the lyrical
be a winning formula here. phrasing sounds too forced: Farrar's
The Gibbard-Farrar pairing cer- blue-collarbaritonedoeslittletoani-
tainly seems out of left field at first mate Kerouac's prose, and Gibbard's
glance, as Death Cab's typically shaky, boyish tenor sounds much too
lighter, more pop-friendly songwrit- innocent to embody the same voice
ing is a far cry from Farrar's slower, as Sal Paradise or Jack Duluoz. Ker-
more pensive roots rock. But where ouac, often sprawling and imagistic
Farrar is often too gloomy and Gib- to a fault, was certainly not intend-
bard too sweet, One Fast Move joins ed for a format as condensed as the
them somewhere in the middle to four-minute folk song. If only trum-
the benefit of each. pets - a la Keruac's own musical
"These Roads Don't Move" is a heroes - could speak!
perfect combination of each song- The key to One Fast Move lies in
writer's strengths, featuring both viewing the record as not merely an
Farrar's knack for classic Ameri- homage to Kerouac, but as a proj-
cana and Gibbard's brighter vocals ect between two very talented and
and pop sensibility: They even play established songwriters. This is a
into each other's styles - Gibbard's Gibbard-Farrar album after all, and
"Willamine" sounds like a Farrar as the pair tours select American cit-
creation from the start. More som- ies this fall in support of the album,
her and meditative than Gibbard's the collaborative moniker might
usual work, the vocal melody is start to build some clout all its own.
loaded with strange intervals and Aside from some compositional
suspended notes. The result is pure and conceptual lapses, Gibbard and
Son Volt, but seen through Gib- Farrar offer some terrific songs,
bard's eyes. with enough old, weird Americana
While it's often obvious to see to keep the Beat tradition alive. It's
who had a bigger influence in writ- just a shame the record doesn't run
ing each song, the Gibbard-Farrar off the rails a little more - Kerouac
coupling is surprisingly collabora- never sounded so stable.
WRITE FOR ARTS
E-mail battlebots@umich.edu
for an application.

A classic character robbed of identity

By ANDREW LAPIN
Daily Film Editor
For whatever reason, the
folks at Summit
Entertainment **
are aggressive-
ly promoting Astro Boy
"Astro Boy" to
college cam- At Showcase
puses. Maybe and Quality 16
it's something Summit
about the nos-
talgic appeal of the brand name
- the Japanese comic book
series on which the film is based
dates back to the 1950s and is
widely considered some of the
best manga ever written. The
subsequent anime adaptation is a
pioneering work of art.
Even still, here we are in 2009
with a completely Americanized
film adaptation that has white-
washed out every Japanese influ-
A robotic film
lacking soul.
ence except the big doe eyes, and
the result is nothing more than a
bland movie for bland kiddies.
Because the source material for
"Astro Boy" pre-dates most mod-
ern science fiction, it's difficult
to say who's ripping off whom.
But still, there's no denying that
the opening sequence - a mock-
infomercial extolling the virtues
of robots built for human service,
played in a city floating above piles
of garbage on the Earth's sur-
face - plays like a carbon copy of
"WALL-E." Even if this moment
and later moments that seem to
reference "The Iron Giant" and
"I, Robot" are just coincidental,
the film doesn't add anything new
or interesting to these basic sci-fi
concepts, which is troubling in
itself.
Also concerning is the lack of
enthusiasm on display from the
voice actors. Voice acting is the

least important aspect of an ani-
mated film until it becomes dis-
tracting. The professional actor
who plays Astro (Freddy High-
more, "Finding Neverland") is
somehow much less convincing
with his screams and shouts of
glee than the star of "Up" (first-
timer Jordan Nagai).
Nicolas Cage is here too as
Astro's father, who rebuilds his
human son as a robot after he is
killed by a rogue experiment. Pre-
dictably, Nathan Lane ("The Lion
King") is the most comfortable
behind the mic: His character, a
Fagin-like repairman who houses
orphans in his foster home, is one
of the only people in the film who
gets any laughs.
There's too much and yet not
enough going on in "Astro Boy."
The plot takes forever to getcoff the
ground, as the first act is setcalmost
entirely in small, claustrophobic,
blue-tinted rooms and the audi-
ence is never given a sense that a
real city exists outside of them. It
seems like the filmmakers are try-
ing to wrestle with deeper ques-
tions about philosophy - there's
a reference to Kant's "Critique of
Pure Reason" in the film - while
trying to work in some clumsy
political satire. A sleazy politi-
cian's re-election banner reads,
"It's Not Time for Change." Does
any of this work? Not really.
The movie picks up when Astro
leaves his city for the wild, any-
thing-goes lifestyle found on the
planet's surface. It's here where he
meets the hilarious Robot Revolu-
tion Front (RRF) and stays in an
orphanage where a girl cuts her
pizza with a chainsaw. Unfortu-
nately, these moments of relative
brilliance don't do enough to off-
set the ridiculously predictable
story arc, nor do they redeem the
Saturday-morning-cartoons-in-
shiny-Spandex vibe that perme-
ates the rest of the film. There's so
much under-utilized potential in
the RRF that it feels like an entire-
ly separate movie starring them
was cut out of this one.

Despite its attempts to be memories of your son. Doesn't that
warm and fuzzy, this kid's movie mean anythingto you?"
can't escape its cold and robot- "Astro Boy" is programmed
ic demeanor. A heartfelt talk with the memories of a great fran-
between two scientists hits the chise, but ultimately the film lacks
film's emotional climax when one a soul, and it shouldn't mean any-
says, "He's programmed with the thing to you.

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