Summer theater in Dallas is a lot like those summer food tips you see all the time in women’s magazines-very light. Nothing that’ll make your stomach sticky. Pure cucumbers and aspic.

Oh, there were some attempts this past summer to set a theater buff’s buffet, but much of the menu convinced us that summer theater in Dallas is somewhat like trying to make a meal out of a molehill. The late summer smorgasbord - with a few notable exceptions - forced us to eat like birds.

Tobacco Road: Shriveled salad.
Even though Erskine Caldwell was here for the Dallas Theater Center’s rendition of his classic, the chef. Ken Latimer, saw fit to serve us a bland bridge-club snack straight from Family Circle.
In fairness, it wasn’t Mr. Lati-mer’s fault entirely. James Crump,resting on earlier - and deserved - laurels, played accomplice to the crime with a portrayal of Jeeter Lester straight off a Stuckey’s postcard.
Here and there, as through a collapsed crouton lightly, we managed to catch a taste of something solid. Mary Sue Jones, with a sunken silhouette and a constant whine, captured the emptiness and sullied dignity of the world’s Ada Lesters. John Logan’s Lov Bensey was note-able for its near purity of line. Logan’s Bensey knew what he wanted and went after it, not allowing the rest of the production to clutter his path. Other’s missed, mostly from directoral excesses.
Cindy Holden poignantly captured the loneliness and frustration of Ellie Mae, until she got down on the floor for some pseudo-erotic gymnastics. We don’t know who was responsible for the Olympics,but we doubt Ellie Mae ever entered the 100-yard squirm. Robyn Flatt’s delightful, wide-hipped, braying Aunt Bessie also suffered from the director’s heavy hand. The pointless lasciviousness of her scenes with Dude Lester twisted character to caricature.
We suspect the intention was to hammer home the pitifulness of the milieu, and to get a few laughs along the way. Abstract it to the absurd, and all that. But it didn’t work here. The humor and the pathos in Tobacco Road are in the characters and lines as drawn. Overworking makes them cute. And what goes on on the Tobacco Roads of the world may at times be truly funny, but it’s never cute.
Tobacco Road could have been a good meaty production had the director been less concerned with making it funny and frothy for summer audiences.
Gigi: Naive domestic burgundy.
A musical, at its best, can be an intoxicating, delightful draught of the gods. But the Dallas Summer Musicals’ production of Gigi floundered fitfully in Bacchus’ backwash. A weak script and lukewarm (at best) acting. With the exception of Carmen Matthews as Mamita and William Le Massena in a number of amusing roles, the cast left us sifting through layers of blah technique, desperately in search of a character. The only interesting moment of the evening ended on a tragic note: Someone stole our intermission drinks while we were applauding the chandelier.
No, No Nanette:
Light white wine.
Much more what we expect from musical comedy. A nice breezy touch on a humid evening. William Le Massena did a very funny book more than ample justice with fine acting. Ginger Rogers danced, of course, and everybody loved her. The supporting cast, including Rosie Holotik, Harvey Evans, Arlene Fontana and Rose Mary Rumbley, were all strong. Most importantly, they had fun, a quality Gigi lacked.
Electra: An entree at last.
Theatre Three handled Girau-doux’s provocative Electra with poise and confidence. For the most part.
Kudos to Dick Hooser’s innocent and incredulous Gardener, and Stephen Tobolowsky’s conniving Judge. Al Evans, the Beggar, weaved his way through the first act with honest and gentle wit, only to lose it in the second act. Norma Young’s Clytemnestra was authoritative and reasonably regal, despite awkardly scripted first act lines and an atrocious costume. T. Y. Hill, Jr. portrayed an awkward, bumbling Aegisthus.
In the title role, Fancy Goode Knight should have played more than witness for the prosecution. She reached a vocal plateau early and stayed there. And stayed there and stayed there. With a few variations on her basic theme, she would have been vastly more successful.
While the first act was strong, the second simply didn’t cut it. Characters crumbled and drama disintegrated into a shouting match, each participant searching for the definitive decibel. We were tempted to report the entire cast to the Environmental Protection Agency for noise pollution. Screaming doth not emotion make.
The play was not cut, for which we are grateful to director LarryO’Dwyer. However, we do feel he should have selected a few peaks and valleys.
Compare the conflict between Electra and Aegisthus to a sword duel. If the characters indiscriminately slash and puncture, we eventually tire of the bloodletting. There is no excitement. Drama comes from the finesse displayed in the duel, the parry and the riposte, between equals. Suspense builds to the inevitable deadly lunge, with the audience wondering to the last second which of the antagonists will "end. the refrain, thrust home!" This is what was missing in Theatre Three’s Electra.
Plaudits to Theatre Three for offering something other than the usual late summer fare. While it wasn’t a completely first class serving, no one wasted his time-players or audience. Mourning certainly didn’t become their Electra.
Randy Tallman’s and Steve Mackenroth’s original rock rendering of Dream played at the Hyatt House for eight weeks. The Hyatt House? Well, why not. It’s about time a work of some substance played in a dinner theater format. We could stand a lot more of the same. If Hyatt House manager Dick Cook can find other works of similar merit, more power to him.
Tallman and Mackenroth have written and directed a piece that could go anywhere. The music is crisp, pretty and melodic. The voices are good. The humor is real, played with verve and style. There is a sense of the story there, easily understandable.
This show came close to setting some standards. Fast, but not afraid to slow down when necessary. Lots of energy. Tempo and pace on the dot. Good voices saying words clearly. Dream was an indication of how good local theater can be.
It will help tide us over for a couple weeks until the theaters open their fall seasons, when - if you’ll allow us to indulge in the food metaphor one more time - we hopefully can sink our teeth into some meat-and-potato offerings.
because it’s good, but because his market - the high school, teenaged, zonked out, let’s - groove - on - wild - pictures - and - loud-music set-doesn’t know or want any better and is anxious to get off on this sort of thoughtless trash.
David Ritz

D RECOMMENDS
Just as there are people who will debate for hours over whether Homer is greater than Shakespeare, Leonardo greater than Michelangelo, or Beethoven greater than Mozart, so are there people who will argue the comparative merits of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The University of Dallas may be able to settle the controversy - or just provide further fuel for it - with the screening of two of the classic clowns’ greatest films, Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and Keaton’s The General, in Lynch Hall on November 21 and 23. Custard pies at twenty paces, anyone?

Three Days of the Condor, at the North-Park I and II.

There may have been good intentions behind this film. Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack may actually have thought they had something important to say about post-Watergate America. But it’s impossible to separate paranoia from principle, commercialism from conscience in this self-conscious spy flick.
The glossy surface of the film belies any truly serious intent. It is designed to sell, as its slick casting - Redford, Faye Duna-way, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman - suggests. Its punches are pulled when Redford, the mild-mannered CIA employee, steps into a telephone booth and comes out as Superspy. It has a predictable romance, a predictable double-cross denouement, a predictable ambivalent ending.
Redford, as usual, is an engaging performer. His charm is that, despite the su-per-frat-rat good looks, he seems vulnerable in all of his films. That’s a major source of his appeal - how can you resent beauty when it is so obviously mortal? Faye Duna-way is not happy in her thankless part. She is being cast in too many neurotic loner roles, and is developing little mannerisms - quirks of eyes and mouth - to suit the part. Someone should give her a break and let her play a light comedy role for a change.
Charles Matthews

Hearts of the West, at NorthPark.

So insubstantial it barely sticks to the screen, this film has one thing going for it: engaging performances by Jeff Bridges, Blythe Danner, and - of all people - Andy Griffith. It’s nice to be reminded that Griffith was a respected actor, particularly for A Face in the Crowd, back in the Fifties before TV made him a folksy straightman for Don Knotts and Jim Nabors. It’s also nice to see Blythe Danner get a good film role, since Hollywood can’t seem to find many good roles for other talented young actresses of her generation, like Susan Sar-andon and Stockard Channing. Here sheplays Jean Arthur to Bridges’ Jimmy Stewart. Bridges plays Jimmy Stewart better than anyone since Jimmy Stewart.
Otherwise, the film wastes a lot of time and a lot of talent - major talents like Alan Arkin and Donald Pleasance are given rather dull cameo roles. The direction is uninspired - dozens of comic possibilities whiz by without development. The setting is yet another recreation of Hollywood in the Thirties, which means the film looks like it was made with the leftovers from Chinatown, The Day of the Locust, The Fortune, and Farewell, My Lovely. The whole thing has a made-for-TV look. Wait and see it there.
CM.

Coming Attractions
UTD Film Society, Wednesdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. in Founders North Auditorium, University of Texas at Dallas, Campbell Rd in Richardson. 690-2281.
October 22: Open City (Italy 1946). Rossellini’s film about the Italian underground during World War II, with Anna Magnani.
October 29: Disney Cartoons. A festival of short classics from the Disney studios.
November 5: Dead End (USA 1937). The original Dead End Kids film, starring Humphrey Bo-gart, script by Lillian Hellmann, directed by William Wyler.
November 12: Touch of Evil (USA 1958). A bizarre melodrama directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Mercedes McCambridge, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Charlton He-ston, and Janet Leigh.
November 19: Barbarella (France/Italy 1968). Camp sci-fi fantasy, directed by Roger Vadim, with Jane Fonda, John Philip Law, Marcel Marceau and David Hemmings.
November 26: Fireman’s Ball (Czechoslovakia 1968). A ribald satire directed by Milos For-man.

UTD Student Government Film Series, Fridays at 7 and 9 p.m. in Founders North Auditorium, University of Texas at Dallas, Campbell Rd in Richardson. 690-2281.
October 24: The Killing (1956). An early Stanley Kubrick film with Sterling Hayden.
October 31: The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). A Roman Polanski horror-comedy with Sharon Tate.
November 7: The Wild Bunch (1969). A Sam Pec-kinpah western with Warren Oates, Robert Ryan, and Ernest Borgnine.
November 14: The President’s Analyst (1967). An extravagant spy-spoof with James Coburn and Godfrey Cambridge, directed by Theodore Flicker.
November 21: Cisco Pike (1967). A cops-and-junkies film with Kris Kristofferson, Gene Hackman, and Karen Black.
November 28: Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Arthur Penn’s film with Warren Beatty, Faye Duna-way, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, and Michael J. Pollard.

SHU Cinematheque. The International Film Classics series shows a variety of films in the Bob Hope Theatre, 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets $1.50 for the general public and $1 with an SMU ID. For more information call 692-3090.
October 24-26: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (Canada 1974). Richard Dreyfuss stars in Ted Kotcheff’s film.
October 31-November 2: The Third Man (Britain 1950). Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Valli, and Trevor Howard in Carol Reed’s film of the Gra-hame Greene novel.
University of Dallas film series. All films are shown in Lynch Hall on the UD campus, Irv