REVIEW: The Canterville Ghost

Saturday, March 26, 2023—


“The Canterville Ghost” is a short story by Oscar Wilde and was originally published on March 2nd, 1887. And this past weekend, the R.C. Players put on their own production of the humorous tale at East Quad’s Keene Theater. Sophomore Isabelle Zeaske wrote and directed the production and she did a fantastic job at it! In her director’s note, she says this about the original story: “The first of the two parts is a slapstick, and queercoded satire of both Americans and Brits” and she “wanted to create a new adaptation that honors the first chapter . . . but keeps the themes of life, love connection, and closetedness” from the latter part.


Before the show began, Lord Canterville (Maddie Nolen) and The Canterville Ghost (Will McClelland) roamed the isles and entertained the audience with in-character banter. They treated the whole theater as the Canterville Chase, delightfully immersing the audience into the story’s world.


Senior Will McClelland stole the show as the Canterville Ghost from the moment he stepped on stage. His voice had an impressive range, one moment portraying himself as evil and haunting, and the next as meek and pathetic. My personal favorite moment of his was when he took advice from the audience on how he should haunt the mansion’s new American residents. He ended up scooting across the floor like a worm, taking the word from a viewer to keep his “but up.” 


Another stand-out character was Washington Otis (senior Adrien Beyer), the oldest son of the American family that just moved in. His jealousy of his sister’s mysterious manly suitor was performed dramatically through anguished squeals and head motions that had the audience laughing heartily in response.


Speaking of the sister, Virginia Otis (junior Dax Sheedlo) held the heart of the story. She went through hoops and hoops to keep from her family her reluctance toward getting married, even employing help from the Canterville Ghost himself. The interactions between the two simultaneously brought much warmth and comedy to the story. My favorite moment between the two of them was when Virginia claimed that she just hasn’t “found any man that she likes” and the Ghost looks toward the audience with a face that knows exactly what her romance problem is, dramatically mouthing “Oh—that’s what it is.”


Other than the actors, I very much appreciated the costumes: from pristine suits to large and flowy dresses. They made the play feel that much more real. 


This was the last production for the R.C. Players for the semester, so I’m glad that they went out with a bang. I highly encourage everyone to keep an eye out during the coming semesters for more of their comedic and touching productions. 


You can learn more about them through their Instagram: @rc_players.


Header image from @cantervillercp on Instagram.

REVIEW: A Page of Madness

Thursday, October 13, 2022~

A Page of Madness (1926) is a Japanese silent horror film directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa. Just this past Thursday, the Center for Japanese studies hosted a free screening of it at the Michigan Theater.

I first heard about the event from my Japanese, and I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to practice my listening skills. I also don’t have much experience with horror films, so this seemed like it would be a good experience.

The general plot follows a man, played by Masao Inoue, who took a job as a janitor at a mental asylum. He did so in an attempt to get closer to his wife, played by Yoshie Nakagawa, who was admitted there.

Unusually, this film did not have intertitles as I would have expected from a silent film; however, there was a benshi, a live performer who narrated silent films. Benshi were popular in Japan during the silent film era, and some say that they may have even extended the era for Japan. During the event’s introduction, they even mentioned that in later times people would turn off the sound for movies so that they could bring in a benshi. 

Nanako Yamauchi, a graduate of the oldest film school in Japan, Nihon University’s Film Department, was our benshi that day — and she was mesmerizing.

I admittedly didn’t catch much of the plot since there was no form of English translation and I’ve only been studying Japanese for a little more than a year. I understood some of the basic dialogue and a few phrases, but that’s all. However, as Yamauchi mentioned before the film began, it didn’t matter if we didn’t understand her. The emotion and drama in her voice were palpable, and you could easily recognize the emotional state of each character.

Additionally, the Detroit group Little Bang Theory (Frank Pahl, Terri Sarris, and Doug Shimmin), performed an original score that they played on toy and handmade instruments. Their music complimented Yamauchi’s narration and excellently set the film’s chilling mood.

While the film itself wasn’t too scary for me, nor did I find the plot anything extraordinary (probably because I didn’t understand it), the overall experience was valuable. After learning and witnessing firsthand the unique film culture of benshi narrations, I’m definitely intrigued to see more (maybe when I have a better grasp of the language).

This event was the first of CJS’s Japanese Film Series for the year. Their theme this time is Diamonds by the Decade, exploring different eras of Japanese movies. If you’re interested in that, I’d highly recommend checking out what other films they’ll be showing at the Michigan Theater!

REVIEW: 26th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

Today I took a short trip over to the Duderstadt Center Gallery to witness the opening night of the 26th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. I invited my mom with me as well for some bonding time and a free car ride. There were guest speakers at the event, but unfortunately, I arrived too late for that. Nonetheless, all the pieces were still a sight to behold!

The art displayed was impressive, with both 2D portraits and 3D models. There were a few acrylic paintings that really held me entranced. The colors were so vibrant and the landscape was fairy-like. Then, something my mom really liked was the section featuring wildlife art. They were done in so many different styles, it was amazing to see the varying approaches. There were also Hulk models made out of toilet paper. 

As a whole, the event was fairly successful, based on the audience outcome. The lively atmosphere was definitely energizing. Luckily, the exhibit continues till April 5th, and each day seems to have its own unique segment. For instance, on the 26th there will be a public tour and critique writing, and the 27th has an artist panel at the Chrysler Center on North Campus. You can also purchase some artwork; the proceeds will go to the families of the artists. 

Overall, it was a fun and chill event that you all should check out. It goes on till April 5th!

REVIEW: Jan 28 Webster Reading Series

I’m a rather boring person, so for me, Friday nights usually mean climbing in bed by eight, and sitting there for four hours reading, playing a game, or just scrolling through my phone. However, I mixed it up this Friday and went to UMMA after leaving my work.

Yes — a museum is very exciting.

The Webster Reading Series, which features the poetry and fiction works of the second-year Masters of Fine Arts students, was held in UMMA’s Stern Auditorium. And thus, my weekend was spiced up with a poetry and fiction reading.

Jokes aside, the reading was a pretty chill way to bookend my week. As my intended major is Creative Writing and Literature, I thought that I may learn something from the event’s authors. It was also a good opportunity to see more of UMMA since I usually don’t have a reason to go there. The University has multiple landmarks free to its students that I have yet to fully explore.

 At the session, Eva Warrick read her fiction works, and Abigail McFee read her poetry after being generously introduced by their cohorts. Their works, despite their apparent simplicity, were gripping once spoken aloud. It’s always interesting to actually hear stories be translated from the authors’ own voice. Simply reading works is a different experience altogether.

It was also nice to be reminded that “real” stories aren’t only what I was shown throughout my past years of schooling — lengthy, antique tales, with symbolism that made me feel stupid. They can also be modern and direct. Eva and Abigail presented humor and heart to the audience with their cadent storytelling. I thoroughly enjoyed their artistic narrations.

The Webster Reading Series has three more events on February 11th, March 11th, and March 18th which you all should definitely check out if you’re interested. And if you can’t make it in person it is also possible to witness it through a provided Zoom link.

REVIEW: Drive My Car

Warning: Slight spoilers for the film’s exposition

Just yesterday, a few of my classmates and I went to see the premiere of Drive My Car (2021) in the State Theater. The Japanese film was directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and based on the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami, whose works have been bestsellers within and outside of Japan. 

I went into the film expecting a touching or tragic romance, the exposition of the film began to hint at the latter when the main character Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) walks in on his wife Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima), in the throes of passion with a young actor that she works with. I expected a dramatic confrontation between the husband and wife, but Yūsuke’s response to the incident is passive, as he simply walks away before Oto or the actor sees him. 

Despite the cheating, their love appears genuine, as both of them are drawn together by the art of storytelling; he is a stage actor, and she is a writer for television dramas. However, the movie takes its turn from the romance as Oto soon passes, and Yūsuke fails to gain closure in regards to the relationship with his wife.

The second act begins when Yūsuke is hired a driver, the young Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura), when he takes a job to be a director for a stage play of Uncle Vanya. Their relationship starts with indifference towards each other yet progresses each time he requests Misaki to play the recording of his wife reciting lines from the play for him to practice with. Misaki has past grievances of her own and together she and Yūsuke help each other find closure with each of their dead family’s strange behaviors.

At first, Yūsuke did not want anyone other than him to drive his car, but he soon grows comfortable with Misaki’s driving and it is as if he has finally let go of that independent passivity that held him back from confronting his wife. This allows Misaki to reveal her trials of being raised by the abusive mother who she let die during a mudslide that collapsed her house. The comradery that the two find together is wonderfully developed without the need for overt displays as they simply build their trust in each other with each facet of information they release.

Being three hours long, the movie’s pacing is quite slow. The exposition itself took almost an hour to set up. However, if you have the patience and want to watch a film that touches your heart with a unique friendship, make sure to catch Drive My Car at the State Theater.

REVIEW: All Too Well: The Short Film

Warning: Slight spoilers for All Too Well: The Short Film

Laying on the bed, when Sadie Sink’s character of Her dazedly asks “Are you for real?” she is entwined with Dylan O’Brien’s character of Him. Him and Her appear enclosed in their own clandestine haven.

I already looked up the ages of the actors once the short film was announced. Sink is nineteen and O’Brien is thirty and even entwined together I cannot be fooled that their characters are closer in age. I’m just a year younger than Sink, so her being so intimately held by someone a decade older makes me a bit uncomfortable.

But that’s the point.

If you’ve listened to the original shorter version of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” you would know a story about a woman whose lover left them broken and inadequate. Now, if you’ve listened to the recent “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” you would notice the established narrative unfurl further: a woman — who still feels like a girl — left feeling insecure in the presence of her older lover.

In that first scene, you can already tell so much. Her is sweet-faced with a young flush, her eyes are alert because being there with Him is so new and thrilling for her. Him has a dark beard, betraying his mature age and his eyes are softer — he seems content but doesn’t appear to entertain her same thrill. Sink and O’Brien portray this wonderfully in those first few seconds.

“Are you for real?”

Her asks him initially because when it’s just the two of them everything is enthralling and heavenly.

You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.

This line from the song is important to the film because it shows how when the relationship was treated as a secret just for the two lovers everything was tender and loving. However, as the film will proceed to show, once others are let in that loving foundation will begin to crumble.

Soon enough, the song’s ten-minute version begins to play in the background, and scenes between the lovers run by in coherence with the lyrics. They start out playful, happy, and in love — intensely in love — as they drive through pretty autumn trees. The camera always makes sure to focus on their faces; there is the fall scenery, yes, but mostly it is just them — Her and Him. But then, we see them transition into the plummet of downfall when the music abruptly stops and we hear the actors talk again.

They have an argument. It’s tense. It’s gripping. 

At that moment I cannot help but somehow picture myself in the shoes of Sadie’s character. She feels insecure about something her partner never noticed he did. To him, it’s a small thing and he tells her to stop obsessing. Stop looking for things where there’s no meaning. I’ve looked for such things before, but in my place, I do find meaning, so I understand what Her is going through. She’s hurt because Him doesn’t get her. Soon enough, O’ Brien’s character begins to placate her in a way that almost seems like he’s placating a child, and Sadie’s character seems very much like a child at that moment in her distress and sadness.

The film continues with moments of happiness laced with desperation as the lovers try to clutch onto what they have, moments of hardship where they find that they cannot take it any longer, and moments in the aftermath of their downfall. 

Swift has split the video into sections with titles that enunciate the story behind each part of the video. It’s especially useful so that viewers understand the story she’s trying to convey through her song even better.

It is interesting to notice that Sink’s character is reflective of Swift’s own personality. We see her take to a typewriter after the breakup, much like Swift takes to her songwriting. Then in the final scene, when it cuts to thirteen years in the future, Sink’s character is all grown and played by Swift herself. She’s a famous author in this reality with a novel titled All Too Well. It’s a fun easter egg, and fascinating to imagine where else Swift’s writing prowess might have taken her. 

So far I’ve spoken solely about the experience of Sink’s character. However, O’ Brien did especially well in his part too. He does not make himself seem like a complete jerk, ignorant to his young lover’s feelings. He shows his own moments of regret and remembrance after the break-up. I also do like that the film showed Him’s side of the story as well. Often in Swift’s songs, the heartbreak is all from the woman’s perspective, because Taylor writes through her own eyes. It was refreshing to see the man’s viewpoint, to see how he also valued the relationship.

Taylor Swift has done stunningly in the writing and directing of All Too Well: The Short Film, and I’m sure many fans like myself are pleased with the result of one of their most beloved songs getting the music video it deserved. You all should definitely take the time to listen to “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” and the rest of RED (Taylor’s Version). I’m sure you’ll love it.