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November 08, 1995 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-08

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 8, 1995

Provocative'Butterfly flies high.
Interracial issues and gender confusion m war-torn China


By Kristin Cleary
For the Daily
"Don't judge a book by its cover"
seems to be the moral of David Henry
Hwang's play "M. Butterfly," produced
by the Ann Arbor Civic Theater (AACT)
last weekend. The production was a con-
stant stream of scandalous events playing
on the stereotypes between East and West.
Even more apparent was the confusion of
the traditional roles of males and females
in modern society. "M. Butterfly" man-
aged to keep the audience wide awake
with a never-ending series of surprising
"M. Butterfly" is Hwang's interpreta-
tion of Puccini's opera, "Madame Butter-
fly." The opera is a very stereotypical
story of a Chinese "geisha-girl" and the
American who marries and abandons her.
"M. Butterfly" is the modem-day rendi-
tion ofthe same tale-with a few disturb-
ing twists.
Hwang based his play on the real-life
story of a French diplomat who fell in
love with a Peking Opera singer during
the time of the Chinese cultural revolu-
tion and the war in Vietnam. For20 years
they carried on a secret affair, ending
abruptly with the diplomat's trial and
conviction fortreason. It turns out that the
opera diva happened to be a spy for the
Chinese Communist government - she
was also a man.
This gender confusion provided for
some very interesting scenes. Although
the difficulty ofthe roles sometimes came
through in the production, for the most

FM. Butterfly
Lydia Mendelssohn
November 3

part the interludes between the diva, Song
Liling, andthe diplomat, ReneGallimard,
were emotional and intense. The budding
romance between the two seemed very
natural in the beginning of the play, even
though Liling's portrayal (played by T.
Chang) of a woman was at times unbe-
One of the highlights of AACT's pro-
duction was the scene involving the Pe-
king Opera. Because this scene involved
so much precise choreography, the the-
ater employed Man Wong, the choreog-
rapher for the Broadway production of
"M. Butterfly." Although the scene was
disappointingly brief, the choreography
and costumes of the actors were amazing.
It was obvious that much effort went into
the detailed baton routing between Liling
and the rest of the Peking Opera. The
colorful scene was clearly a favorite
among the audience.
Another very moving scene of the
play was during Gallimard's remem-
branceof his childhood. As he described
his discovery of his uncle's stash of
Playboy magazines, a silhouetted
woman stripped seductively above the
stage. This powerful scene was one of

two shocking nudity scenes within the
play, the second ofwhich involved Liling
exposing his true gender to Gallimard.
Both of these scenes were easily among
the most impacting of the play.
The ending of the play was one of the
weaker links in this production. In one of
the most emotionally trying parts of his
role as Liling, Chang switched from a
self-assured egomaniac to a desperate,
abandoned lover with little conviction.
Although the role of Gallimard was a
little more constant, this uncertaintymade
the final scene hard to follow.
The story behind"M. Butterfly"is yery
intriguing and complex. Although it pro-
posed to deal mainly with the stereotypes
between the East and the West, it'spent
more time highlighting the cross-cultural
differences between males and fernales in
spite of prevailing stereotypes. Because
these themes took so much timeto de-
velop, at times the play was painfily
slow. In addition,thehesitancy with which
the AACT actors delivered their lines did
not help to speed the show along. But
even though the pace was at-times slug-
gish, there was enough thought-provok-
ing material to keep the audience occu-
It is hard to have any sort of concrete
reaction to "M. Butterfly." The themes
and events are so shocking and confusing
that it is hard to sort through all that the
play presents. Although AACT's pro-
duction could have been a little more
polished, overall it was a very intrersing
way to spend an evening.


The cast of 'Faisettoland.' Go see this powerful and affecting play=

By Paul Spiteri
For The Daily
I generally don't like being told what
to do. When I heard that this weekend's
production of William Finn's
"Falsettoland" fell into the category of
a must-see show, I wanted to know
why. What I found, after talking with
director Job Christenson, was that the
show coming this weekend to Base-
ment Arts deals with the universal
struggles of human relationships. But it
also deals with these grandiose ideas in
a funny, musically entertaining way.
"'Falsettoland' is kind of aminiature
world in which we all can relate," said
Christenson, a junior in the Musical
Theater Program (MTP).
Theshow centers on Marvin, played
by Adam Hunter, and the struggles he
goes through after realizing he is gay.
Set in the year 1981, "Falsettoland" is
the final chapter in Marvin's struggles
with love marriage, family values and
death. (Finn's "In Trousers" and "March
of the Falsettos" begin the trilogy.)
Surrounding Marvin are his psychia-
trist (Brian Mulay), his wife (Amy
Eidelman), his male lover (Glenn Seven
Allen), two lesbians (Margaret Chmiel
and Erika Shannon) and his son (Seth
Hinsky). This band comes together in
this world and the resulting conflicts
charge the show with both humor and
social contemplation. The name of the
musical itself has meaning:
"'Falsettoland' ... it's an example, or
more, a sample of life," said
Christenson. "The name refers to when
amale voice sounds more female, open-
ing the ground for gender role-play-
To acquire its harmony, a huge effort


has gone into the show.
"It was a challenge to put on some-
thing like this, in its creativity and in its
subject matter," said Christenson. "It
has a lot to say about different relation-
ships ... (describing) how each charac-
ter relates to each other was the biggest
Despite its reputation as must-seo,
the labeling of the show as a "gay play"
does not seem fair to Christenson, feel-
ing it limits the musical's scope.
"It certainty is not (a gay play). It is a
story describing a world with gay is-
sues. But it is first and foremost about
relationships and relationship structures.
It starts with a 'traditional' family and
goes from there."
Of course, the stigma of the show
comes from Marvin's discovery of his
homosexuality, andthe changes his fam-
ily goes through. "We have this idea of
family," said Christenson, "but family
can mean several different things."
Perhaps the most worthwhile reason
to see the show comes from these new
understandings oftraditional views. The
way "Falsettoland" goes about show-
ing these views is through the struggles
of the characters themselves to under-
stand them.
"'Falsettoland' deals with the issues

figh notes
of homosexuality, illness and religion
by using them as stigmas of challenges
within the character's lives," said
Christenson. "(The musical) insists we
redefine our views. A lot ofthe animos-
ity of the characters comes from their
resistance to this change."
The audience goes through these
a story describing
a world With0 gy
issues. But if is
first and foremost
-- Job Christenson, director
of "Falsettoland"
changes as well, Christenson said.
"Our struggle is against our unwill-
ingness to redefine our relationships.
That a lot of our confusion, bias and
prejudice stems from our inability to
change or evolve our relationships with
"We relate, not because of (sexual
orientation), but because of their own
circumstances - (orientation) be-
comes irrelevant. The gay issue is just
an added element, one that (the charac-
ters) have to filter, and we find out it's
the least important."
So, for those of you who do not like
to be told what and what not to see, I
won't. But just see the show anyway;
I'll say it was your idea.

Various Artists
Classic Disney (vol I & II)
Walt Disney Records
Few will deny that childhood and
Walt Disney cartoons, movies and
songs have gone hand-in-hand for
most of the company's 60 year exist-
ence. To this day, many of us can
fondly recite snippets from songs like
"It's a Small World After All" from
"New York World's Fair" and the
longest word sung in one breath,
from the hit 1964 movie "Mary
Poppins." And, who among us can't
remember the cheerful "Zip-A-Dee-
Doo-Dah" or "Heigh-Ho" from the
ever-popular "Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs?"
Disney has garnered the rightful
anger of various groups for its obvi-
ous lack of non-white, positive char-
acters for children to identify with,
such as gay rights groups for what
appears to be a stereotypical charac-
terization of Scar in "The Lion King."
Native Americans and historians are
appalled at the historical inaccuracies
perpetrated in "Pocahontas." Yet,
this hasn't taken away from the popu-
larity of more modern Disney songs
like "Kiss the Girl" and "Under the
Sea" ("The Little Mermaid"),
"Hakuna Matata" and "Circle of Life"
("The Lion King") and "A Whole
New World" and "One Jump Ahead"

These songs are but a few of the 50
- count 'em, 50 - Disney hits, and
a few not so familiar songs, which
makeup the two-CD collection "Clas-
sic Disney." Featuring music from
movies created over 55 years ago to
those which hit theaters only a few
years past, "Classic Disney" attests to
the musical variety inherent in Disney
songs. Slow, fast, happy, sad, insight-
ful, emotional, logical, silly - Walt
Disney songs are anything but ordi-
nary. "Classic Disney" is the perfect
medium for re-experiencing the feel-
ing that only a Walt Disney song can
- Eugene Bowen
Biber Violin Sonatas
Harmonia Mundi
Few have heard the name. Few have
heard the works. Fewer still have played
them. So who's out there to buy a re-
cording of unknown music by some
old, obscure composer?
The trio Romanesca deserves some
credit for just recording the seldom
heard violin pieces of Baroque com-
poser Biber. Being specialists in a less
than adored period music, the trio knew
better than to prophesize popularity or
expect masses to race to the music store
and snatch up the two CD, therefore
pricier, set of little known works.

Maybe the musicians were fascintted
by the imaginative music. Maybe.they
just wanted to print the melodic-soignd-
ing name 'Heinrich Ignaz Ftanz von
Biber' on the cover of an album. Yet
whatever it was that compelled
Romanesca to record this music has
also convinced big-label H arx)onia
Mundi that the CD is worth big-time
support and publicity. This mightin-
duce those with a few extra dollars to
splurge on this fine purchase.
The music is wonderful, thwarting
expectations with every new bar. The
collection includes the' eight soatas
published in 1681, the sonata "La
Pastorella," two passacaglias and "So-
nata Representativa." This last, work
shows off Biber's creativity- and
Romanesca's virtuosity. In the ,short
movements, the instruments imitate
(amazingly well) a carnival of seven-
teenth century pets, including a frog,
cat and nightingale.
The trio plays with flair and a down-
right jazzy style, welcome in an early
music ensemble. Fast sections have un-
expected excitement and energy. The
opening drone draws you in. The good
music funnels you through-until the
ending violin solo sends you off -
reminiscing about music you-never ex-
pected to find yourself listening to over
and over again.
-- Emily Lambert
See RECORDS, page 9


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