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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 20, 1979)
tuesday, november 20, 1979
Musical comedy on family abuse hits home
By Michael Wiest
' The Omaha Magic Theatre's latest production Goona
Goona, an avant-garde musical comedy about abuse
within the family,- opens, appropriately enough, with a
beating. It occurs in near darkness, before the stage lights
are raised. It is heard more than seen-three body blows
with a baseball bat and the victim is on the floor.
There is nothing funny about this. It sounds real. But
then the lights come up and the cast, in the great
American slapstick tradition, sings and dances its first
number, "The Ghost of John Wayne," with Jo Ann
Schmidman is the deranged teenager periodically decking
them all with the bat (it's padded)..
This establishes an important method of the
production, the seemingly unlikely technique of using
comedy to explore a very painful and tragic family prob-
By way of. explanation, Schmidman included several
quotes in the program notes taken form Clowns, by John
H. Towsen, and The Comic Mind , by Gerald Mast. Two of
them run as follows:
"IN PEKING, I had to witness how an elderly man at
the point of death, mouth flecked with foam, lay on the
ground in violent convulsions while the crowd around
laughed at his every movement. (In this country) we have
trained ourselves to feel compassion, guilt and even
"Laugh to keep from crying, your emotional defenses
will collapse." . . . . :
'. The play centers on the Goon family. The father, Dr.
Granville Goon, played by Schmidman, is a West Omaha
surgeon, a workaholic who patches mangled bodies by day
and beats his children by night. Schmidman interprets his
character with almost Nixon-like villianish relish. He's so
terrible he's funny. -
The mother, June Goon, played by Dyan Tison,;
catches her own share of the blows, but often escapes
through pill-induced euphoria and sleep.' The children,
Gaga and Garfield Goon, played by Lynn Herrick and
Craig McCurry, are battered and bewildered. The young
est child, Gogo, who appears later, played by Schmidman;
has to be kept in chains so she won't hurt herself as well
as the rest of the cast. . ,
It is an important' fact that child abuse transcends all
classes of society. This point is made in .the play by its
focus on an upper middle class family. The production
constantly takes shots at the materialistic "good life,"
particularly in the context of the musical number "I'm
Happier Than You," sung first by June, then Granville,
then the children, and finally, by the sadistic grand
mother, also played by Schmidman.
THE VIOLENCE and abuse, seen in this way, is as
much a product of the society, the feverish pursuit of the
American dream, as it is any individual psychological
tendency. Still, it is clear that child abuse is an inherited
characteristic, handed down from, the grandmother to
Granville and finally emerging in the monster child Gogo.
The humor of the lyrics and script, written by Megan
Terry, is at once bawdy and sophisticated. The action is
fast paced, and it is almost only in hindsight that one can
appreciate how intricately she has revealed the many sides
of this complex problem.
The society outside the family also comes, under
Terry's critical eye, first with the neighbors played by
Abigail Leah and Wes "Clowers, who know of the prob
lem in the Goon house but are reluctant to act, and finally
the nurses and the police officer, who are so fettered by
professional convention and red tape that they can't
adequately deal with the problem until it's almost too
The stage props were constructed and economical,
serving many functions, particularly in the instance of the
teeter-totter at the center of the stage, which, along with
being a center of much. of the action, was also a heavy
Goona Goona will be playing at the Omaha Magic
Theatre, 1417 Farnam St., every weekend until Dec. 16.
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. Photo by Jerry McBride
Performing in the Omaha Magic Theatre production of onna, Goona Saturday were, (from left) Craig McCurry as
Garfield Goon, Jo Ann Schmidman as Gogo Goon, and Lynn Herrick as Gaga Goon.
Kimball Hall hosts Louis' enjoyable dance company
By Penelope Smith
Friday night Murray Louis and his company of dancers
brought the joy of abstraction to Kimball Recital Hall.
Louis is concerned with universal movement, the move
ment that is fundamental in all things. His company; with
a lighthearted bravado, demanded that onlookers watch
the movement, absorb the line and feel what they were
bear any relation to human, social or psychological
occurences or forces. '
The first piece of the evening, "Afternoon,"-was
performed by seven dancers in yellow leotards and tights,
moving against a backdrop that was sometimes a cool,
sometimes a warm slash of paint: The music was ragtime
and the movement was sensuous, but sassy, with hints of
slapstick. The contrasts between quick, breezy allegro
movements that soared through the surrounding space
and slow balancing movements illustrated the skill of the :
company and showed Louis' interest in contrasting'
m m different movement speeds. There was a great deal of
PQT7r2.J laughter and the audience seemed to enjoy the mood of
There were often nuances of mood or strength but,
there was no story line. Louis exhibited his skill as a
choreographer in demonstrating that movement can stand
alone as an exciting and enjoyable experience, yet not
. Two contrasting versions of a Jean Cocteau
drama, "The Human Voice" and "La Voix
Humaine," will air back-to-back on Great Perfor
mances, Nov. 28, beginning at 8 pjn., on the Ne
braska Educational Television Network.
- In "La Voix Humaine" filmmakeropera director
Barbara Karp has used composer Francis Poulenc's
1959 solo musical interpretation of Cocteau 's work
as the basis for a highly original, fully dramatized
operatic version. Sung in English, the opera stars
Karan Armstrong as the Woman.
"SCHUBERT" WAS A visualization of a Schubert
piece where the dancers simply became the music adding
another dimension to music by making it visible to the
human eye. The movement was quick, sharp and merry,
with rocking motions and locked arms.
The high point of the evening was Murray Louis' solo
performance of "Deja Vu," a suite in five parts. To music
that possessed a mockingly passionate flamenco air, Louis
demonstrated not only his ability as a dancer, but
performed a signature piece for his mischievous sense of
humor. He marched onto the blackened stage and looked
directly ' at the audience, his expressive presence
immediately demanding its undivided attention. The five
episodes were almost a reaction to the music. Sometimes
he seemed to be comically bored waiting for it to make its
In one episode, his arms moved as if he were playing
the castanets; in another there was a sustained trembling
in his body as if he were -the guitar in his own
THE MOST MEMORABLE piece of the suits was when
Louis appeared on stage with a chair and looked about as
if to say, "I know you're wondering, but I am going to do
something with it." Then at no time during the perform
ance did one notice the chair; it became an object limiting
the space so that the only thing seen was Louis' lilting
dance-humoresque. ' '
The episode made a comical comment on the perennial
problem of dancers; sometimes the body will just not res-,
pond. Louis would be on the point of executing a move
ment only to look down at an offending foot and discover
that it was glued to the floor.
At the conclusion of the piece, he protectively picked
up the little chair that had been sitting alone and
forgotten, turned towards the audience, nodded and left.
Louis personality radiated through the theater: as he gave'
entirely of himself and his boundless sense of humor.
. "Geometries' the concluding piece of the evening, was
an essay into mechanical movement and the strength and
power of technology.
THE MOVEMENT MADE the dancers pistons, gears,
twisted pullies and synchronized gears and levers-all
types of machine movement were explored. The lighting
created by Alwin Nikolais was especially effective:
sometimes the stage took on the red-hot heat of a blast
furnace. . ,
Nikolais electronic music was magnificent. At times it
was harsh and piercing or grating with the synchronized
beat of massive machinery in operation. It would change
to become the successive tones associated with computer
circuitry or the humming associated with-activating a nea
This piece was especially enjoyable and enlightening in
relation to Louis movement philosophy. It caused the
audience to notice everyday movement, other than their
own, which they had always taken for granted and put it
in a common perspective. It was noticed, not as alien
movement, but merely as different, retaining its kinship
with humanity because it was movement and we also
move in an animated universe.
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