Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 27, 1976 · Page 99
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June 27, 1976

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 99

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, June 27, 1976
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Page 99
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Teaching an old show new tricks By Martha Smith Those who believe you can't teach an old show new tricks are in for a wonderful surprise. At last Saturday's opening night performance of the seventh season Qf/7af/ieMs ami McCoys, something Ipproaching the phenomenal occurred. A new concept of the legendary feud has been developed by director John Benjamin, and, as a result, a sparklingly fresh study has emerged unveiling the deeply- rooted suspicions that led to hatred and slaughter. That this was a new show, alive with creativity, energy and talent was immediately evident. In past years, the show has relied heavily on the ability of the actor p l a y i n g Devil Anse H a t i i e l d to create the mood of a larger-than- life legend. If the actor failed, the jifaow deteriorated into disjointed tragments. The 1976 production offers audiences a chance to study the binding--often stifling--closeness of the two proud families. 11 probes the depths of the feud from jealousy to assault to murder. The tightly k n i t , introspective p i c t u r e t h a t Benjamin and his fine cast of performers has drawn intrigues and c h a l l e n g e s as no other has been able to do. Many of the show's innovations are startling. The lighting effects, for example, are utterly breathtaking: Credit for the spectacular design--which bathes the faded Rose Anne McCoy in a pink glow, then splashes shockingly bright, glaring i l l u m i n a t i o n on scenes of v i o l - ence--goes to Stephen R. Woodring. Because he'd never seen //«- /icMs.Wooclring was unprejudiced in approaching his assignment. His design treats the election day brawls as garish arenas; the love scenes of Rose A n n e and .Johnse Hatfield as soft, stolen moments; the assassination tree where three McCoys die horribly as deadly dark events shrouded in blue. The lighting thus becomes vital, incredibly valuable to the show's success. i'hat //ii/i'/f/s is a t r i u m p h is undeniable. That the glory must be shared is equally obvious. First, of course, there are Billy Edd Wheeler's book and Ewel C n r n e t t ' s score, both facing well the test of time. Their goal is to capture a bit of Americana. Their vehicle is a r e f l e c t i v e j o u r n e y b a c k w a r d i n t i m e , led by two ghostly f i g u r e s representing the unrestful spirits of those who fought the bloody battle. It is a gimmick that works and adds fluidity as the tale unfolds. In this particular venture, there is much that must be said for John Benjamin's gift as a director. He is a fine actor, a talent displayed several years in the role of R a n d ' l McCoy. But he is a better director, as evidenced in consistently excellent work as founding director of nttoeatre West Virginia. In this first ' season directing Untfields, Benjamin has distinguished himself. The casting reveals Iceen perception of actors' abilities and limita- ·22m CHARLESTON. W.VA. In one ear tions. Rapport between cast and crew betrays unflagging good humor that withstands even an opening night downpour. Stage direction of the entire ensemble displays a flair for interpretation that rips away the play's facade, exposing both'fragile beauty and devastating harshness. All these are gifts Benjamin has brought to this show. As never before, perhaps, it is possible to grasp the essence not only of the play, but also of history i t s e l f . I n o n e b l i n d i n g , c h i l l i n g scene -- "Bad Blood," - attention focuses on a cluster of bodies, gathered as a Greek chorus to chant the message t h a t bad blood ran between the two mountain families, separating them more powerfully than the Tug River. It was a lasting, destructive flow that hurtled through generations, leaving the dead, the grieving and the vengeful. Under Woodring's daring lighting pattern, the corps de ballet, directed by J e r r y Rose, executes the "Bad Blood" theme dramatically, accompanied by the singers. By positioning the entire company al center stage. Benjamin has tran- sofmrcd "Bad Blood" into the most arresting scene of the show. The players are a good, solid company, but some give outstanding performances. Interestingly, two women's roles emerge as unusually significant. Lisa Bansavago a s Levicy H a t f i e l d a n d C h e r y l Stockton as Sarah McCoy project images of quiet strengoth and determination. Ms. Bansavagc wins praise for a thoroughly credible job in a role written for an older, more seasoned actress. And accolades to Ms. Stockton who has made some thing memorable of the wailing and praying scene, beseeching God to save three sons doomed to die at the h a n d s of H a t f i e l d assassins. Previously, that scene (ended to become tedious. As Devil Anse. v e t e r a n actor Robert Donley accomplishes what had begun to seem impossible. He has mastered a h i l l b i l l y accent without sounding like a New York actor f a k i n g a h i l l b i l l y a c c e n t . When he says "fergit" it sounds perfectly acceptable, completely natural. A few additional words of praise to Donley who. in his first outdoor theater e n d e a v o r , was greeted opening night with torrents of chilling rain. He persevered and was in the midst of an all-import a n t d r e a m sequence when the show was stopped for 15 minutes. When the rain abated. Donley continued, but he gave every indication he would have done so regardless. I n c i d e n t a l l y , he's also the f i r s t Devil Anse whose age and slow, a m b l i n g gait a r e a u t h e n t i c . H i s long theater credits go way back to the golden years of radio. P o r t r a y i n g the t r a g i c lovers whose romance is doomed from the outset. Barbara Kosciuk ( R o s e Anne McCoy) and Timothy McCusker (Johnse H a t f i e l d ) make a good match. They exude youth, beauty and confidence, three often underrated commodities. In what may be the most daring casting. Kenneth Stuart plays Spirit McCoy, the ghost who appears to plead the case for the K e n t u c k y clan. Stuart is black. The color of his skin, while historically incorrect, has n o t h i n g to do w i t h the power and strength of his beautiful baritone voice, which is well suited for this important singing role. His c o u n t e r p a r t . S p i r i t H a t f i e l d . is played by Michael Farah. an excellent tenor, whose handsome appearance makes the feminine pulse quicken and the heart flutter. . Among other supporting players. F,d McClelland is splendid in multiple roles, appearing initially as the goofy son. Phamer McCoy, whose sole interest in life is shooting anything that moves, then returning as the shifty lawyer Perry Cline. Also good in dual assignments is Jim Klawin. interpreting tne intense, brooding Tolbert McCoy and. later, the demented Cap Hat- f i e l d , who rekindles the feud by horsewhipping a McCoy woman. Ideally, certain,elements of this production would be different. The llatfield's tablecloth, for instance, wouldn't look like plastic, even it someone.did want to convey an impression of genuine oilcloth. And Jim McGuire. who plays the comic figure Uncle Jim Vance, wouldn't throw away so m a n y of his big l a u g h lines'. Likewise. M i c h a e l Morris' characterization of Rand'l McCoy wouldn't be as flat as his singing. Rand'l. history tells us. was a t h o u g h t f u l , peace-loving m a n . not a o n e - d i m e n s i o n a l d u l lard. Additionally, when the two Spirits are required to speak in unison, all the words would come out together. Regardless of these faults--and all shows have them, no m a t t e r how pleasing the total product--the 1976 version of llutfielih nml Mc- Coy* is an extraordinary experience. It is a mixture of young talent and veteran performers. I t is a blending of strong, sure voices (in particular, listen for soprano Donna Marie Evans.) It is a demonstration by exquisitely versatile, flexible dancers. P r i m a r i l y , however, t h i s is a show that dares to be fresh, new. bold. It is a p r o d u c t i o n t h a t demands much of its company in dev e l o p i n g a complete f a m i l y port r a i t i l l u m i n a t i n g all the members who were bound together by a curious mixture of love and hate pe- c u l i a r to the isolated m o u n t a i n country. It is. lastly, powerful, dynamic theater that must be seen and savored, especially for persons who t h i n k they've seen it all before. Produced by T h e a t r e Arts of West Virginia. llmfieMs ami .Wr- f.'ov* will be presented each Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday and Saturday through Aug. 28 in Cliffside Amphitheater near Becklcy. 'Logan's Run' good futuristic thriller By James F. Dent " L O G A N ' S R U N , " M i c h a e l York, Jenny Agutter. Plaza East. * * * A futuristic thriller, Logan's Hun is set in the 23rd century when the s u r v i v o r s of the e a r t h ' s w a r s , plagues, ecological disasters, etc. are living in a great domed city, hermetically sealed off from the outside world. It's a pretty good l i f e they've got for themselves, al least on the surface. The marvels of technology ease their cushioned, hedonistic existence. They can have just about anything they want - food, drink, a sexual partner -- simply by pushing the right button. "New You" shops sell painless and instant facial and body plastic surgery. "Love Shops" supply hanky panky in many varied forms. But'love is missing. As is family. Babies, at the moment of birth, are taken from their mother who never sees them a g a i n . The fathers are unknown. And no one. in this world, lives past the age of 30. A strictly enforced population control keeps the number of people in strict relationship to the available supply of food and housing. Of course, no one is going to go willingly to death so an elaborate ceremony called "renewal" is held each day for those reaching their 30th birthday. Supposedly the mystical rites project those taking part into a new life. But no one has ever met. personally, anyone who has ·ever been "renewed." And there is a l i t t l e body of skeptics that believes renewal is just a polite term for extinction. So when these nonbelievers become 30. they try to escape. And a security force, called "Sandmen." hunts them down and zaps them. Or. in CIA p a r l a n c e , which seems to have carried over into the 23rd c e n t u r y , · · t e r m i - nates" them. With extreme prejudice. The remains are then melted by floating sanitary workers. 'Michael York is a Sandman. He terminates runners left and right j o y o u s l y a n d w i t h o u t q u e s t i o n . Film Review Then he is handed a secret assignment. There are more than a thousand runners unaccounted for and rumors are that they have reached someplace c a l l e d " S a n c t u a r y . " York is ordered to impersonate a runner, find Sanctuary and destroy it. To add versimilitude to his disguise, his age is a d v a n c e d f o u r years to 30. "But I will get those four years back, won't l?"he asks anxiously. For answer there is only an ominous silence. York seeks Sanctuary with the assistance of J e n n y A g u t t e r . a young woman who is in sympathy w i t h t h e r u n n e r s . B u t i n t h e i r flight, they are relentlessly pursued by one of York's fellow Sandmen (Richard Jordan) who is unaware of York's secret orders. Finally York and Ms. Agutter stumble into the outside world where they find the weed choked ruins of. of all places. Washington, D.C. (Judging from the hilly terrain and the proximity of Washington, by the way. it would appear that the great mega- polis of the future is located somewhere in eastern West Virginia, a p o i n t the state c h a m b e r of commerce may want to note.) Naturally in the midst of all their racing around York and Ms. Agutter fall in love and York decides he has to return to the city and tell everybody what the world is really like.' The producers of /,op«« Hun have created their world of the future with imagination and a great n u m b e r of e x c e l l e n t special effects, which should put the movie high up in the running for an Oscar in that category. The acting is uniformly good although there's nothing spectacular. In addition to the players already mentioned, the movie also features Peter Ustinov as an old man living in the ruins of the Senate chamber in Washington surrounded by sev- e r a l h u n d r e d cats; Roscoe Lee Browne as the g l i t t e r i n g Box. a w e i r d c o m p u t e r who Y o r k and Agutter come on in their escape, who guards a huge cave of ice and wants to add the pair to his collection of quick frozen humans; Farrah Fawcett-Majors as a sensual laboratory assistant; Michael Anderson Jr., as a cosmetic surgeon who tries to use his r p e r a t i n g machine to. terminate York; Gary Morgan as a juvenile ga:ig leader in a sealed off part of the future city; and Michelle Stacy as a little girl in that same ghetto. The plot doesn't try to cover the ground in too much detail which is good. There's no mention, for example, of exactly who rules in the future city or why everybody I Usti- nov, for instance) isn't living there or if there's more than one city. There doesn't seem to be. Again. I repeat, the visual effects are spectacular. A lot of them are done with what are called "matte paintings" which Matthew Yurcich is g i v e n c r e d i t for and they are extremely well done. In c a s e ' a n y o n e w a n t s to jot it down, by the way. the movie's publicists make much of the fact that York is the first movie actor ever to perform in a hologram, which he does in Lagan's Kim. In case you're w o n d e r i n g w h a t t h i s e n t a i l s , i t means t h a t in one scene Y o r k ' s brain is fragmented into six separate images while he's undergoing Sandman interrogation. The hologram produces images in action and color that float in midair and thus have York performing in seven different roles at the same lime. So if anybody ever comes up to you on the street and asks; "Who was the first movie actor ever to per- f o r m in a h o l o g r a m ? " now you know. That and the price of admission will get you into any theater.

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