Review: Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan: Guilty of Laughter

This Sunday night I went to the Power Center (my favorite campus venue) to see the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan. It was crazy funny! We laughed so hard at the dry Irish humor. The actors were so talented. No matter how much we laughed or what crazy things they did on stage, not a one of them ever broke character. And they did some pretty ridiculous things, including breaking eggs on heads, being incredibly boring to the point of laughter, and beating on each other.

The play is set on the small island of Inishmaan in 1934. There is nothing of interest happening on the island, so the people are forced to consider things such as sheep being born without ears to be interesting. Also in this category of things that should be reported; Cripple Billy is staring at cows again, a goose bit a cat, the egg man’s eggs didn’t lay today, and, what’s this? A team of Hollywood moviemakers are on the next island filming a movie? This really is big news! In fact, it’s the biggest news that the town gossip/self-proclaimed news carrier John Patine Mike has ever had. So big that a group of townspeople are sailing over to the island to see the filming and hopefully get a chance at acting in it. Billy Claven, called Cripple Billy by most on account of his severe deformities, is one interested in going. After winning the heart of the boatman with a doctor’s note reporting his eminent death, he sails with the group. Fortune smiles on him and Billy go’s to America for the chance of starring in a film about a cripple in Ireland. What a chance!

Throughout the production, constant jokes, insults, and egg throwing keeps the audience laughing and saying “I can’t believe they just said that!” Constantly people praise their homeland with the phrase “Ireland must not be such a bad place if dentists/Frenchmen/colored fellas/earless sheep/Americans want to come here.” The younger brother of the love interest, Helen McCormick, constantly talks of sweeties from America and his obsession with telescopes. Helen chucks eggs, swears like a sailor, and is the village slut that no one knows about (in order to maintain the name of the actual one and to avoid competition). The aunts that adopted Billy both have their quirks. One eats the sweets of their shop when stressed, the other talks to rocks when she’s worried. John Patine Mike has tried and failed to kill his mother for 65 years by giving her constant alcohol. There is so much comedy and brilliant writing in this production that it’s hard not to laugh, even when the setting makes the word “Cripple” a joke. You sort of feel guilty laughing when the characters, even his loving aunts, make fun of Billy’s disabilities. But then you remember the setting and realize it is realistic; what would have actually happened, and it’s okay to laugh.

The play was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I would thoroughly enjoy it if the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company returned to the Power Center in the future. It takes an open mind and a taste for dry humor to understand the comedy of this play. It also takes a sensitive character to understand the sadness, emotion, and tragic life that Cripple Billy leads. I would strongly advise going to plays like this. Everyone can learn and laugh a little from such a production and I am very happy to have attended.

As always,
This is Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

PREVIEW: Detroit’s Got the Funk

Celebrate the last Friday of every month dancing to funk music downtown. This Friday, February 25th, Motor City Funk Night presents artist Dennis Coffey and Will Sessions Band. Funk Night will be held at Detroit’s Majestic Theater
4120 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI
and goes from from10:00pm-4:00am. Tickets cost $10.00 at the door but bring extra money if you’re interested in buying handmade tee shirts, which are sold inside. Local vendors showcase Detroit-made products, but be sure to check out Funk Night’s fb page for more information and pictures:
Funk Night

Review: Creation. Life. Legacy.

Metallic industrial, organic robotic, digital bug, fluttering verbs.

Form can sometimes be constricting, only allowing for certain expressions while disallowing others. While watching Merce Cunnigham Dance Company perform, I could not align what I was watching with any concrete words. How to translate a dance performance into a concise review seemed like a daunting task, but alas, I will do my best.

Merce Cunningham
Merce Cunningham

For those of you unfamiliar, Merce Cunningham is one of the most innovative choreographers of the last century. Spanning across genre and discipline, Merce Cunningham is perhaps most known for his longtime collaboration with partner and radical composer, John Cage, also working with fellow artistic visionaries such as Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, and Warhol. The Legacy Tour honors Cunningham, who passed away in July 2009, as well as his 70 years of expansive work. Culminating in 2011 with the disbanding of the company, this is the last time his work will ever be performed and UMS was one of the lucky few locations to host the Company. (Check out this Merce Cunningham Interview)

The curtain was up before I had time to anticipate what was hiding behind it. Blinding spotlights on impossible elevation of cinderblock walls. Large green recycling bins and containers, exposed with sheet metal and wooden planks. As anyone’s guess, this was the natural look of the Power Center. My attention was drawn to an acrylic white court surrounded by luminescent astroturf as 4 dancers in steely athletic wear arched across space, while many others watched in the background.

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PREVIEW: Best of Michigan A Cappella CharityFest

This Saturday, February 19th, the Michigan A Cappella Council will host its first philanthropic event of the year: Best Of Michigan A Cappella CharityFest. The show will feature 13 University of Michigan A Cappella groups, each of which will perform a single song.  The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about the charity album that MACC produced last year, entitled: Best of Michgian a Cappella. This album will be sold at a special discount price of $5 during the event. All proceeds from the show and album sales will go to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation.

The concert will feature:

58 Greene

Amazin’ Blue

Compulsive Lyres

Dicks and Janes

The Friars


The G-Men

Good News

The Harmonettes

Kol Hakavod


Midnight Blue

The Sopranos

Hope to see you all come out for this amazing event!

When: Saturday, February 19th, 7:00pm

Where: University Club (First floor of the Union)

Price: $3

REVIEW: Dancing Americas

On Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 I entered the Power Center at the University of Michigan to watch the University Dance Company perform in Dancing Americas.  The show showcased dances from across the Americas, from tango to jazz to New York City pop.  The purpose of Dancing Americas is to celebrate multiple disciplines in dance across time and space.  The cultural diversity within this program set each performance apart from the other.

While the program featured the work of four different choreographers, I will only focus on the first two pieces within the program: “MinEvent” and “Towards A Sudden Silence.”  The show opened with “MinEvent,” a piece by Merce Cunningham.  This piece was the most contemporary of the night.  The curtain rose to reveal a barebones set.  The backdrop, curtains on the wings and everything else was removed leaving a set that was reminiscent of a construction site.  The industrial feel of this performance was the first of many surprises.  I should note that Merce Cunningham was known for his innovation.  He believed that music and dance should be created independently of one another.  Thus, the dancers rehearsed in silence and were not exposed to the music prior to this performance.  This created a very interesting experience, as the music was nothing like traditional music.

The music was reminiscent of an introduction to music composition class I once took.  The class philosophy held that any combination of sound was music.  This philosophy seemed to define the music within this first piece, as there was no apparent tempo or melody.  The “music” included many unpleasant sounds: sawing wood, tin cans, feedback, drills, bells, chewing of food, change in a mixing bowl, whisks and a plethora of other non-traditional instruments.  While I can appreciate the creativity within the music, I felt that it became distracting at points.  I often found myself engulfed in the creation of this music, which pulled my attention away from the dance itself.

The dance started with two people on stage, a man and a woman.  Their moves were stiff and extremely rapid, but synchronized at times.  Their grey leotards revealed every curve of their body.  This was very interesting, as you could see every muscle working to create their art.  It was like watching a machine.  The dance continued with multiple groups of dancers running on and off the stage.  Because of the bare nature of the set we could see the dancers waiting in the wings, which was also a very interesting experience.  The dancers would often run on and off stage at full speed.  They would come on in groups of two or three, dancing to their own beat.  As more dancers began making their entrance the colors of their costumes began to change.  We began to see dancers in light blue and red costumes.  These bright colors were a relief and provided a stark contrast from the set and the costumes initial dancers.  There were not many times when the entire group of dancers was on stage and dancing in unison.  Throughout the majority of this performance the dancers all seemed to be doing their own dance in the same style.  As mentioned previously, the dancers were very mechanical and almost alien in their movement.  I distinctly remember a reoccurring move that involved an isolated violent shaking of the foot.  The dancer would walk up the stage and engage in this birdlike dance.  It reminded me somewhat of a mating dance from the wild.  The performance was extremely foreign to me, so much so that it is difficult for me to actually describe the choreography.

I must admit that this performance made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  It was an extremely visceral experience that pushed me past my comfort zone.  However, I appreciated it and felt that it was the highlight of the evening.  It was truly an indescribable performance.

Melissa Beck choreographed the second piece of the evening, “Towards A Sudden Silence.”  While I felt that “MinEvent” was more memorable, this was the most enjoyable piece throughout the program.  When the curtain rose the audience was presented with a more traditional dance experience.  The curtains were lowered in the wings and downstage and the set was very simple and featured a bench downstage center.  The bench was adorned with several female dancers wearing bright colored dresses, each a different shade.  The women were poised and proper with their hands in their laps and their backs straight up.  At the end of the bench stood a single male dancer, who seemed to be a headmaster of sorts.  When the choreography began, a female dancer at the end of the bench closest to the man attempted to stand up only to be brought back down by her peers.  The anguish in her face assisted the audience’s interpretation of the piece.  She wanted out.  Once she escaped she stood upstage right.  She then began running in place, but tripping with each step.  It looked as if she was trying to escape from something, but was unable to obtain that freedom.  Her running became more violent with every stride.  She began flailing in place, creating audible grunts.  Her attempt to escape became so violent that her headband flew off of her head onto the ground.  She stopped.  It was as if she had given up.  She picked up her headband, placed it on her head and straightened out her dress.  The remainder of the piece reflected this first scene.  The dancers attempting to break free, becoming more and more violent only to be corralled back in by their peers or the lone male.

I came to this performance with a feminist point of view, believing that our patriarchal society as some sort of control over minorities, including women and especially women within a sexual minority.  To me, this performance seemed to be a testament to this ideology.  The women performing within this piece carried with them a fire.  They were angry and wanted more than anything to break out of the roles in which our society has cast them.

The two performances, though extremely different, created an experience and elicited visceral emotional responses.  While I was unaware of the quality in dance throughout the majority of the show, I was able to connect to the performances on an emotional level.  Whether that was feeling uncomfortable and awkward or feeling a strong connected to the performance and its meaning.  For me, the emotional connection to these performances was the most impressive aspect of this program.

REVIEW: dandia Dhamaka 2011

I must say that I have never set foot into a space with so much energy in my entire life.  The moment I walked into the Michigan Theatre for dandia Dhamaka 2011 I knew I was in for something special.  Hundreds of audience members stood in the lobby wishing their friends and family members the best of luck for the competition ahead.  Fans from each respective school orchestrated these interactions, as they donned their school’s colors and chanted their fight songs from the grand staircase in the lobby of the theatre.  The only situation of worthy comparison is State street on a football Saturday, pure madness.

As I waited in my seat for the show to start, I could not help but notice the dazzling costumes of each competing team.  They were absolutely stunning.  Not only were the costumes authentic in nature, but they sparkled like nothing I have ever seen before… and I mean literally sparkled.  I couldn’t wait to see what they looked like under the stage lighting.

The show opened with a video introducing each competing team.  The great thing about this competition was its positive atmosphere.  I never heard one negative comment from any of the teams, never any booing or cackling.  Each team was extremely respectful and potentially overly supportive of the other.  The positive energy in the room was inspiring.

The first team to take the stage was Georgia Institute of Technology, and I was completely blown away.  I have never seen so much energy and enthusiasm in a performance group.  Each and every member of that team was completely dedicated to what they were doing, and they made the audience believe it.  These kids were not faking anything.

And the costumes…. Whoa the costumes!  I mentioned earlier that I was excited to see the effect of stage lighting, and I was not disappointed.  As the dancers spun around, changing formations and the like, their costumes shimmered like nothing I had ever seen before.  It looked as if an arsenal of fireworks were being set off on stage.  Arguably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  I feel as if I’m being overly dramatic about this experience, but my thoughts are completely genuine.  The show was filled with so many beautiful performances.  As time went on it was difficult to differentiate each team’s performance, as they started running together.  Regardless, the experience was unlike anything I could have imagined.

At the end of the night, Rutgers University took home first place, followed by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.  Unfortunately I cannot comment on the validity in these placements, as each performance was beyond incredible to my eye.  I highly recommend dandia Dhamaka 2012 to anyone who is in the Ann Arbor Area next year.  Not only is it a cultural and educational experience, but it is just too much fun!