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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Summer theater in Dallas is a lot like those summer food tips you see all the time in women’s magazines-very light.