REVIEW: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This film was the first DVD my household possessed, back when VHS was just becoming a things of the past. May sick days were spent watching this film. As well as many moments of showing off our new gadgetry in the early 2000’s. I grew up on this film, and it’s charms are not lost on me.

Unfortunately there were two 40-odd-year-old woman sitting behind me who knew the ins and outs of Ferris’ day off as well as I do. However, their appreciation came in the form of quoting all of the greatest lines moments before they were spoken on screen, stirring my urge to spit soda at them through a straw. But I resisted.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is by far my favorite John Hughes movie. Although I enjoy the quirky charms of the horrible prom dress in Pretty in Pink and the motley crew starring in The Breakfast Club, Ferris’ charm, wit and comedic timing never fail to amuse me and capture my attentions.

Matthew Broderick peaks in his performance, perhaps topped only by his Broadway Debut opposite the brilliant Nathan Lane in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Broderick is adorable, likeable, charming, lovable and crafty. If only all high school students were that brilliant at skipping school. Think of the possibilities.

Alan Ruck (Spin City), as Ferris’ best friend Cameron Frye, steals the show every time. His repeated lines, facial expressions and physical comedy are unrivaled by any other in this flick. Cameron is the character who goes through the most significant character arch, beginning with his fatalistic view of the world and his life, and ending with his decision to take control of his future.

I wouldn’t categorize this film as a coming of age story so much as a pleasant window into the lives of teenagers in the 80’s.

Definitely watch this film. Make your children watch it too.

PREVIEW: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

What: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Where: Michigan Theater
When: Monday 30th September, 7pm
How Much: $8 Student Tickets

Released in 1986, Directed by John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club) starring Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck. A fun-filled movie about ditching High School in the 80’s. Takes place in Chicago, contains many splendid moments of hijinx, not to mention a spontaneous dance number to the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout”

If you haven’t seen this film, there is something seriously wrong with what you were doing in Middle School.

Preview: Annie Hall – Life in Techni-Awkward

What: Annie Hall, a film by Woody Allen
Where: Michigan Theater
When: Monday the 9th of September 7pm
Cost: $8 with student ID, $10 general

Annie Hall marks the kick off of Michigan Theater’s “Monday Funny Film Series.” Every Monday from the 9th of September to the 9th of December, Michigan Theater will screen a previously released comedy.
Film List:

Annie Hall, starring Dianne Keaton and Woody Allen is a wonderfully comical, charming and excruciatingly awkward film about relationships. If you have never seen this movie you must do so promptly! It is a favorite of many a Allen fan, as well as others who aren’t so keen on the bespectacled comedian/writer/director/actor.

PREVIEW: UMGASS presents, Pirates of Penzance

April 11-14 the University of Michigan’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society will present Pirates of Penzance; or The Slave of Duty at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in the Michigan League. Now, I have never seen a Gilbert & Sullivan Society production, so I am very much looking forward to seeing this one. Pirates of Penzance is always one of those shows that high schoolers put on…or attempt to put on…so I feel like it’s an important one to see done for real, you know? According to the UMGASS website, Pirates of Penzance is the only G&S show to premier in the United States, due to a desire to upstage a show of theirs that was “pirated” by a bunch of other companies throughout the United States shortly before the arrival of Pirates on Broadway. They succeeded, and Pirates of Penzance is one of the duos most well-known and restaged productions! A story of both adventure and love, this play is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat – perhaps laughing, perhaps cringing, but, nonetheless, entertained.

For more information, tickets, etc., check out UMGASS at their website here!

REVIEW: Minimalist Magic: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Power Center

Malcolm Tulip’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has taken the familiar play out of the woods and into the desert. In seeking to remove the play from its familiar fantasyland trappings while still retaining an air of mysticality and changeability, the director looked to the famous Burning Man festival instead, where people can create magical environs and fabulous new personae for themselves, and then disappear without a trace. The stage was filled not by shady trees and drooping vines but by a vast wooden semicircle, replete with ramps, climbing walls and trapdoors, and a very tall pole in the middle of the stage. This set, designed by Vincent Mountain, did not convey mystery but rather served to infuse the stage action with a sense of wild fun as actors clambered and leaped about—less forest, more jungle gym. Changes in lighting conveyed changes in scene and setting with almost subliminal deftness—kudos to lighting designer Rob Murphy. I personally have never been to Burning Man, so I cannot say how closely the proceedings on-stage resembled the actual event, but the emphasis in this production is really less on the setting and more on the individual characters.

The fairies in this show are very different from the usual cute, mischievous pixies we are accustomed to seeing in Midsummer. These fairies are, essentially, a very Burning-Man-esque combination of earthiness and weirdness. The servant fairies (Mustardseed, Peaseblossom, et al.), clad in simple black ensembles of jeans and sleeveless shirts, look for all the world like theatre techies; they make magic happen, but they’re very no-nonsense and workmanlike about it. The main fairies, Oberon, Titania, and Puck, are a somewhat stranger breed; the best way to describe their visual appearance would be if a trio of punk rockers decided to play dress-up with a combination of their parent’s clothes and Christmas-tree lights. Caitlin Chou as Oberon projected that character’s imperious majesty, using an Indiana-Jones-grade bullwhip as a symbol of power like Prospero and his staff, while Tyler Dean played Titania with an almost campy sense of regality and dignity. Oh, forgot to mention—the gender roles for many of the major characters have been switched around. This device, obvious yet imperceptible at the same time, is never confusing, highlighting the play’s themes of alterable identity. Indeed, the act of making some roles both male and female serves to emphasize the universality of these beloved characters.

The most startling characterization comes in the form of Robin Goodfellow, a.k.a. Puck: played by Derek Tran, Oberon’s right-hand sprite becomes a borderline malicious character, taking a frightening kind of delight in messing with mortals and fairies alike, not much caring what effect his actions have. Such a conceptualization is not entirely new; the fairy fun in Midsummer has always seemed rather random and bizarre, powerful creatures with ethics highly alien to human rules doing as they please with little regard to who gets caught in the crossfire. It’s just that they’ve never seemed so dangerous before. The strange otherness of these beings is underlined by the creepy sound designs of Conor Barry and Simon Alexander-Adams.

The impulsiveness of the young lovers came through with wonderful clarity in this production. Hermia and Lysander’s flight into the woods to elope, Helena’s crazy lovesick pursuit of Demetrius, and all the other painful and hilarious difficulties these characters endure resonated with the immediacy of youth. Even the magical complications that ensue once both of the men are bewitched to fall in love with Helena seemed to be less the result of fairy potions and more simple teenage caprice. Hermia and Lysander, played by Kevin Collins and Jacqueline Toboni respectively, were perfect at portraying the characters as the rebellious teenagers they are, fleeing the oppressive rules of King Theseus and Hermia’s father Egeus (the king and the father were played as stodgy sleazeballs by Drew Ariana and Emily Hanley, respectively, while Ariel Sobel gave an understatedly funny performance as a dazedly apathetic trophy-wife Queen Hippolyta). Jon Manganello’s Demetrius seemed a much more well-to-do lad than Lysander, smartly dressed, charismatic, and determined in his pursuit of Hermia, while Quinn Scillian gave a hilarious performance of Helena as a severely neurotic girl next door. Much credit must also go to Christianne Myers’ costume designs for helping to outline these characterizations before the characters even speak a word.

Madeline Sharton, Allison Brown, William Filkowski, Elizabeth Raynes, Danielle Cohn and Joseph Dunn are endearingly goony as the lowlife actors, the Rude Mechanicals. The Mechanicals in this production came off less like vainly oblivious wannabe-thespians and more like simple working folk who don’t really know what they’re doing, but want to make a good job of it anyways. Brown in particular made the absolute most of the role of Bottom—arguably Shakespeare’s most virtuosic comic creation—combining slaphappy brashness in the character’s “human” scenes, Looney-Tune wackiness in the sequence where the character is transformed into an ass, and unashamed outrageousness in the final performance-within-a-performance, which must be seen to be believed.

Although the unconventional set and hodgepodge of costumes can seem confusing at first, it quickly becomes apparent that this is an interpretation highly faithful to the spirit of this strange and wonderful work. Very soon, the thrill of watching such brilliant scenes, so rich in poetic truth and comic delight, being performed by such intelligent and insightful actors, becomes palpable. This is quite simply one of the strongest ensemble performances I have ever seen on the stage of the Power Center. Without a doubt, a must-see.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at the Power Center December 8 at 8 P.M. and December 9 at 2 P.M.

REVIEW: Comic Potential

Thursday night, January 26th, the small black-box theatre in Studio 1 of the Walgreen Drama Center filled with students and families who came to watch a handful of talented student-actors perform the romantic sci-fi play, Comic Potential, written by Alan Ayckbourn, which first premiered in the late 1990’s. The show began with a once-famous director, now a has-been and an alcoholic, working on the set of the cheesy soap opera he now works on with his crew of three “actoids” (actor androids–the new robotic invention that has replaced real human actors in the movie and television industry) and two lesbian lovers who film the episodes. The set was very simple, consisting of a bed, a table and chairs, and a video camera, yet very versatile, as the bed used in the hospital scene of the soap opera was converted to be used as the hotel room the two main characters stayed in later in the play.

The main plot of the play concerned the relationship between a young aspiring writer, the nephew of the man who owns the production company, who wants to learn from the once-famous director whom he adores, and the female actoid, known as JC, with a sense of humor that defies the rules and mechanisms of her robotic composition. The young writer discovers her unique sense of humor and decides that he wants to work with her on an old-fashioned comedy sitcom, and asked the director to let him use JC in a comedy show that he will write and pitch to the producers to be shown on the network. The director reluctantly agrees, but when the idea is pitched to the bratty accountant who wanted to date the young writer and was hurt and offended that he chose JC over her, she turns down the idea and decides that the actoid should be “melted down”, her memory erased and system re-booted, so that her “faulty” sense of humor would be no more.

The young writer, having fallen in love with the funny actoid, convinces her to run away with him, to rescue her from being melted down. They go to a clothing store, to get her some normal-looking clothes so she can get rid of the nurse-outfit she was wearing from the soap opera hospital scene, and they then go in hiding at a hotel, where they are discovered at the hotel restaurant, and are forced to flee to a dingy motel in a bad neighborhood, where JC has a run-in with a prostitute who suggests to her that the young writer is only using her, like all men use women. JC then gets upset and fights with the young writer, when the pimp in charge of the working-girls in the hotel barges into the room and threatens them, thinking JC was one of his girls. The young writer defends JC and he gets stabbed, lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

JC returns to the television studio, thinking the young writer was dead, and decides to allow herself to be melted down, in order to forget all of the pain, feeling guilty that she allowed so much trouble to come to the young writer who she loved. But she changes her mind, and when she comes back the young writer is there, and they lovingly reunite. In the end, the bratty accountant loses her job and JC is offered the prestigious position instead. The young writer gets his chance at filming his sitcom, and all is well again in the lives of all the characters on set.

The play had an underlying satirical message concerning the entertainment industry, suggesting that the individuals who have money and manage money are truly in charge of what is created and presented to the public for entertainment, cheapening what should be artistic and meaningful to mere money-making, cookie-cutter productions. The actoids, man-made and purchased, suggest that actors are no more than blank canvases, bringing no personal creative input to their craft. The artist must sell-out, as the director did, in order to remain in the business, working on superficial projects, like the cheesy soap-opera, that will be profitable to the individuals and companies funding the project. Looking at most of the films that are being made and released to the movie theatres today, I can’t say I disagree with this premise.

I enjoyed the premise of the story, and the actors did a wonderful job, especially in such an un-real, futuristic script. The actress who played the role of JC did an especially incredible job. She did really well at convincing you she was a robot, while still being humanly real and accessible, relate-able. She was very impressive in switching between dialects and characters in the many scenes where she recalled the characters she had previously played in her history as an actoid. She was very funny.

Personally, I think the play started out strong, and then the story fell off at the end. This is no fault of the actors, but the script itself. I disagree that the love story was a necessary part of the play. I think it would have possibly been more interesting without it. It almost made the play into the very cookie-cutter love story that is profitable and prominent in entertainment media that the play advises against. The happy ending also didn’t seem fitting, and I was left wondering if it would have been more interesting to have the actoid melted down, to bring back the original point of the current state of the entertainment industry, leaving the audience with that premise in mind, bringing the story full-circle. If I were to re-write the story, there are definitely some things I would have done differently.

Overall, I enjoyed going to see a free play on Thursday night, and I would highly recommend going to check out other plays put on by Basement Arts some time this semester. The actors are very talented, and the script was interesting and unique. It was a very laid-back atmosphere, and an enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening. For more information on Comic Potential, as well as a schedule of upcoming productions being put on by Basement Arts, check out their website: