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October 15, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-10-15

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 5A

Arthur Miller Theatre
hosting a theatrical Babel

John Lennon's
teenage biopic

'Pentecost' explores
and breaks down
language barriers
By PROMA KHOSLA
Daily Arts Writer
"You have taught oh-so much;
much more of you than you will
ever take the pains to learn of us,"
says Yas-
min, a char-
acter in the
Department Through Oct.17,
of Theatre Thurs. at7:30 p.m.,
& Drama's Fri. and Sat.
first produc- at 8p.m.,
tion of the Sun at2 p.m.
year, "Pen- Arthur Miller Theatre
tecost." Yas- Ticketsfrom $10
min's words
challenge
the Western world to imagine
other nationalities in all of their
complexities instead of disregard-
ing them as names on a map. This
idea pervades the production,
which features extended dialogue
in Arabic, Bulgarian, Russian,
Turkish, Polish, Azari and Sinha-
lese.
"One of the themes of the play
is the Tower of Babel," said Music,
Theatre & Dance junior Emily
Berman, who plays Gabriella
Pecs. "You have all these char-
acters on stage speaking differ-
ent languages that the audience
doesn't necessarily understand,
but it's constructed such that the
audience is given the informa-

tion they need in English. It's this
beautiful story about people who
are very different ... meeting in a
place and connecting on the level
that humans are all the same in
some ways. It's very universal in
that way and it's been fun explor-
ing that."
Berman's character finds a
painting in an abandoned church
in the 1990s that might bridge the
gap between the Renaissance and
Medieval periods of art history.
As characters meet and interact
in the church, they must confront
personal attitudes toward art his-
tory, politics, religion and each
other's cultures in war-torn East-
ern Europe.
"The way this play works is that
it really gives you interest in what
exactly these people are saying
and what is going on. As the audi-.
ence learns about these charac-
ters, the characters are learning
about each other," Berman said.
David Edgar, the playwright
who penned "Pentecost," met
with the cast and crew last spring
and explained that audiences do
not need any prior understanding
of European and Middle Eastern
languages to see the play. Though
all vital information is delivered
in English, the linguistic cacoph-
ony prompts audiences to pay
special attention to gestures and
emotion, thereby overcoming the
language barrier the same way
the characters do.
"It gets to a point where it
doesn't matter what language
they're speaking. Because of the

way they're physically expressing
themselves and the connection
between the group as a whole,
the language barrier kind of dis-
appears and you're able to under-
stand," said MT&D senior Joey
Richter, who plays Oliver.
To prepare the cast and crew,
Director and MT&D professor
Malcolm Tulip, along with MT&D
senior Matthew Bouse, (the dra-
maturgist or reasearcher for the
play), gave the class some home-
work: The two set up a CTools
site that included information
about wars in Europe and images
of Giotto di Bondone's artwork, a
central subject in the show.
"There's been a lot of back-
ground work on everybody's
part," said MT&D sophomore
Allison Brown, who plays Yas-
min. "We've all worked really
hard on dialects and getting
accents down. We had our lines
said for us on the CTools site. My
character is Arabic and needs to
sound Arabic, without a doubt.
You do, absolutely, have to have
an understanding for it or else
the words would be meaning-
less."
Tulip made sure his production
team was completely immersed
in the time period and culture of
Edgar's piece in order to best con-
nect with the story.
"The dialogue between Mal-
colm and the cast was so stimu-
lating," said stage manager and
MT&D junior, Rachael Albert.
"They talked at length about the
meaning of different sections and

oftentimes the final realization
was one that neither party had
originally thought."
"We spent days in those initial
rehearsals not even getting up
on our feet but watching videos
of different cultures and the way
that they danced or the way they
spoke. The show is about the per-
ception of people," Richter said.
"Pentecost" challenged per-
ceptions of diversity and oneness-
behind the scenes as well.
"Costuming the refugees was
a unique challenge to this play,"
said costume designer Corey
Lubowich, and MT&D senior.
"While the group is very diverse
and come from different coun-
tries, it was important that they
were all wearing clothes and not
costumes. They aren't wearing
traditional ethnic clothing, but
real clothes (with clear influence
from the west)."
Lubowich's designs and the set
created by MT&D senior Margue-
rite Woodward mirror Edgar's
notion that cultural differences
are often just external. In an
unnamed country in continent
ravaged by conflict, Edgar's play
emphasizes human connections.
"The most amazing thing about
'Pentecost' ... was the theme of
universality of different cultures,
races, and religions across the
world," Albert added. "Stories
have common themes and mes-
sages world wide, and despite the
language barrier, everyone was
able to somehow understand each
other."

By ANDREW LAPIN
Senior ArtsEditor
John Lennon has been scru-
tinized and dissected not only
more than any
other member of
the Beatles, but
perhaps more N
than any other NoWhere
figure in pop cul- Boy
ture. And why
shouldn't he be? At the
His cosmic, free- Michigan
wheeling perso- Weinstein
na is the gift that Company
keeps on giving,
even 30 years after his death. Len-
non's stature as poet, prophet and
revolutionary casts a long, dark
shadow over pretty much every-
thing that happened in rock music
since 1960.
Perhaps it's a testament to the
impenetrability of Lennon's legend
that his life has avoided the dreaded
"biopic treatment" for so long (TV
movies notwithstanding), though
we have been subjected to several
documentaries on the man as well
as - nauseatingly - two films about
his murderer. But now here is Sam
Taylor-Wood's "Nowhere Boy," a
dramatization of Lennon's early
years that tragically never gets
around to answering why it needed
to exist in the first.place.
Aaron Johnson ("Kick-Ass")
plays the teen as a troublemak-
ing smart-ass, a Cockney prank-
ster who, when asked to say "a
few words" at a party, rattles off
a string of profanities. His brash-
ness is the best thing about the
movie. Seeing Lennon unfiltered
and raw like this instead of as pop
music's holy-man savior is quite
refreshing, considering Johnson's
portrayal is likely the closest thing
we'll get to the truth. Lennon's pre-
rogative was always "goof off first,
play music second." His "Nowhere
Boy" self's chief concern isn't to.
imagine there's no heaven; it's to
keep his guardian aunt from find-
ing out he skipped schooh
But the hyperlocal scope of the
film wears thin quickly. Rarely
does "Nowhere Boy" move its
hero beyond the three-block radi-
us that contains his aunt's house
(where he lives) and his mother's
(where he frequents, trying to fig-
ure out where she's been all his
life). For her part, Julia Lennon
(Anne-Marie Duff, "The Last Sta-

tion") is an emotionally unstable
woman who showers her son with
borderline Oedipal love upon his
discovery of her close proximity.
The relationship between her and
her sister (Kristin Scott Thomas,
"Gosford Park") is in many ways
the crux of whatever emotional
point the film is trying to make,
but their interactions are mostly
sidelined until the third act, at
which point the plodding dra-
matic structure somehow turns a
real-life tragic event into a deux ex
machina.
Meanwhile, the segments in
which Lennon scrapes together
his first musical group should be
loads of.fun, but only achieve mild
success. Yes it's cool to see The
Quarrymen start to make a dent
Portrait of the
icon's youth goes
'Nowhere' fast.
in the scene as Liverpool's hip-
pest garage band, but we don't get
enough of a look at the bandmates
or their performances to feel like
we've witnessed an often-over-
looked portion of Lennon's life.
Thanks to a lack of chemistry, his
budding friendship with a young
Paul McCartney (Thomas Sang-
ster, "Bright Star") feels, of all
things, forced. And the obligatory
"this is George" scene serves no
purpose other than to wink at the
camera.
Despite the movie's short-
comings, Taylor-Wood and
screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh
("Control") should be applauded
for even daring to tackle such a
narrowly focused depiction of the
music world's most sacred cow.
But if we've learned anything
from Lennon, it's that you can't
expect a half-hearted attempt to
gain success just because no one
was brave enough to try it before.
Say what you will about Julie Tay-
mor's "Across the Universe," but at
least it had the guts to commit to
a wholly unique approach to the
Beatles. By comparison, "Nowhere
Boy" is the music-biopic equiva-
lent of the "Star Wars" prequels:
an unnecessary origin story for a
cultural icon.

T LC's Auctioneer$' is an
antique show on d rugs.

By LINDSAY HURD
Daily Arts Writer
With the uncalled-for dollar
sign in the name, "Auctioneer$"
has clearly ele-
vated the tacky
factor of TLC's
reality show Auctionee
9 lineup to an all-

yoga pants and bright red lip-
stick. Finally, the man who was
trying to sell his Tiger Woods
golf ball found out the ball was a
fake and completely lost it, flip-
ping off the camera and swearing
up a storm - totally uncalled for,
yet typical of reality TV drama.
These people were dying to get
on TV somehow and "Auction-

time h
highlig
a fak
Woods
and an
house,
stimul
This
tries t
"Antiq
by tak
at Ph
apprai
Tr
a]
do

igh. With Saturdays eer$" was their way to do it -
ghts like at10 p.m. even if they did have to purchase
ke Tiger TLC some junk along the way.
golf ball And the show needed some
ugly doll- endearing characters to redeem
the thrill factor is less than it from the depravity of its con-
sting to say the least. cept. It's totally infuriating to
s latest reality drama watch Auction System employees
o put a new spin on the frequently talk about the tactics
ues Roadshow" formula employed to get as much money as
ing you behind the scenes possible for pieces of utter crap,
oenix-based auction and then actually scam people into
sal company Auction Sys- bidding large sums of money on
the junk. In a slow economy where
some people don't have enough
money to buy food, no one wants
ying to make to watch dim-witted people waste
their precious money on someone
PBS concept e
*tnAs TLC's latest reality show
X ": exhibits, the channel must clearly
romed to fail, be hurting for the next big winner
like "Jon & Kate Plus 8." "Auction-
eer$" attempts this by trying to

DAILY ARTS CHOOSES
YOU, PIKACHU!
UNLESS THAT'S NOT
YOUR NAME.
JOIN DAILY ARTS.
E-mail join.arts@umich.edu for
information on applying.

"Going once, going twice, I'm a tool."
take a successful PBS show and
make it young and fresh, which
is an obviously impossible act of
desperation. People love - or love

to hate - Jon and Kate, but there's
no place for anything but hatred
for the useless items and people
on "Auctioneer$."

tems, going from initial meeting
with the seller to final buy at the
auction. But instead of the hon-
est, upfront and slow footage
that makes "Roadshow" at least
mildly charming, "Auctioneer$"
tries to be exhilarating and fast-
paced. Its quick cuts, obnoxious
graphics, sound effects, silly
items and excessive commen-
tary ultimately make the show
more annoying than anything
else.
To make matters worse, the
buyers and sellers on "Auction-
eer$" are weird far beyond the
point of being entertaining.
Jason, the VP at Auction Sys-
tems and the show's host, is so
into his job it's actually quite
creepy. To him, everything
really is thrilling, dramatic and
intense - you'll probably think
you're watching a man on speed
(and maybe you are). Also, the
people filling the auction seats
seem just plain dumb. One guy
was bidding upwards of $500
* on a dollhouse he had no pur-
pose for. Another lady tried to
express her fashion sense by
winning the bidding war for a
shoddy Princess Diana wed-
ding dress knock-off - a perfect
match with her gold-sequined

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