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December 02, 1969 - Image 2

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' Tuesday, December 2, 1969


TageAT w2

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theatre -- -
Tasteful bite of British highlife

'Sterile Cuckoo': Ahhhhhh love

The John Fernald Company
of Meadow Brook Theater is
doing T. S. Eliot's The Cocktail
Party through Dec. 7, and if you
can imagine The Wasteland
being performed on the stage,
you will have a very good idea of
what this production is like.
Eliot billed it a comedy, but if
there is a comic note in it at all
this is sounded more and more
faintly as the play continues.
What does develop is a solemn
pronunciamento on a number
of big bow-wow questions about
the appetites and capacities of
the human spirit.
Not that the play has any bite.
In a perfectly tasteful way it
is a rather hateful things, full
of respectable agitation which
intimates some ultimate drama-
tic end. Its good manners do
not contribute to this consum-
mation, however, and the ardor
of its characters in pursuit of
the juice of life has at best a
dry virtue.
The play is about British high-
life. In literary terms, the char-
acters are curiously remote and
hard to pin down. They consist
of a neat little clique of upper
class Londoners who seem to
make a life out of talking,
traveling and worrying about
their souls. Most of them inhabit
a wasteland of ennui, of which
the cocktail parties that begin
and end the play are symbols.
(Expatriate, Anglican convert
Eliot has made them exceed the
English in their Englishness, and
it is hard to tell whether he re-
gards them with envy or with
irony. Their last names, in any
case, are Chamberlayne, Shutt-
letwaite, Coplestone, MacColgie
Gibbs, and Quilpe--if this is
irony preserve me from it.)
They do fine in their life until
crisis is precipitated by the
Chamberlaynes discovering each
others infidelity. This discovery
has the effect of making them
both bored with their extra-

s z ' 7-- -


undergone an epiphany, has
taken its course to a violent but
triumphant death - character
being destiny.
A good deal of elaborate con-
versalion goes into making this
not very extravagant point. But
as a matter of fact, the char-
acter of Celia really is finely
conceived, God bless T. S. Eliot.
It is almost impossible to
comment on the performance
itself. Although Director Mal-
colm Morrison has made the
nicest possible arrangements for
the script, his actors move across
the stage as if they have nothing
to do and nowhere to go and
could just as well recite their
parts seated on seven stools lined
up in a row.
The American members of the
cast don't quite make acceptable
Britons, the British ones are are
acceptable, and Karin Fernald
as Celia is better than accept-
The set is a hodge-podge con-
sisting of blow-ups of- I think
Westminster Abbey, Old Ben,
and the Houses of Parliament
hung as drops which zoom back
at converging angles. and of a
too comfortable interior that
doesn't look as if it were quite
up to their cocktail parties.
Moreover. I should hate to have
my head shrunk in the formid-
able black and white office that
the designer of sets has pro-
vided for Sir Henry Harcourt

The Sterile Cuckoo, now play-
ing at the Michigan Theatre is
maudlin, trite, sentimental, a
real three handkerchiefer.
Through all this, however, it
manages to be touching as well.
And being an old sentimental-
ist myself, I liked it very much.
It is bne of the few films I've
seen that shows young love as it
really it, at least from my limit-
ed experience. Love is not ideal-
ized nor is it presented in tawd-
ry "realism." Instead, a balance
has been achieved that strikes
a chord of familiarity - those
long, poignant phone c a 11 s,
the trial separation, those glor-
ious moments when you feel as
if you're the only two people
in the world. I almost hate to
say it about a picture as con-
ventional as this, but I could
truly identify with it.
To some extent, that's an ad-
mission that I've been tricked by
the wily moguls of Filmdom.
The Sterile Cuckoo has all the
gimmicks. There are several
semi-obligatory lyrical inter-
ludes. There is some frank dorm
talk on sex, with words 1 i k e
"virgin" and "lay". There's even
a wild dorm party! But, in spite
of this, the film evokes so many
memories that somehow, mira-
culously, it works.
I can't help but feel that di-
rector Alan Pakula was lucky
in succeeding. He guessed that
kids in love act that way, and
I think he guessed right. But
the profound insight of a Truf-
faut is missing; we must bring
it to the film ourselves. Never-

theless, Pakula, producer of To
Kill a Mockingbird, does convey
in his directorial debut a feel-
ing of sentimentality that com-
bines with experience to
thoroughly involve the viewer.
Liza Minelli is superb as
Pookie Adams, a college fresh-
man who hides her insecurity
under the shell of an insensi-
tive jester. She is repulsive, but
she is tragically repulsive. Here
again, despite all the superficial
psychology (she could keep a
horde of psychoanalysts busy
for decades), I came to sympa-
thize with her and see her as
a very real person, which is all
you can ask of an actress. One
Chicago theater is so certain
that she'll be nominated for an
Oscar, they're offering double
your money back if she isn't.
Amidst all the deserved hulla-
balpo for Miss Minnelli's per-
formance Wendell Burton h a s
been overlooked. He is excellent
as thv very straight, pull-over
sweater white levis Jerry Payne,
Pookies' reluctant lover. He's the
type of guy who neatly folds
his girl's clothes as he awk-
wardly undresses her. Like
Pookie, his character is genuine.
He isn't just a nice guy; he's a
sensitive human being. I am
shocked that a major reviewer

could ask, "What's a nice kid
like this doing with an obnox-
ious girl like that?" We know
better; we know the illogic of
The performers' real accomp-
lishment is that they don't look
like they're acting. Most actors
swagger; Wendell Burton has a
stiff, unprofessional walk. And
screen kisses usually stink of
passion but not love. When Min-
nelli and Burton kiss, there is
no 'heavy panting, but there is
an affection that Rock Hud-
son and Doris Day will never
The Sterile Cuckoo is a very
simple boy meets girl picture
about two realistic people in a
very realistic love affair. If
you're having a hard time iden-
tifying with John Wayne these
days, go see it and relive some
fond memories.
SAYS. $5.09 per printed page or
part thereof. Manuscripts will not
be ret'd. unless accompanied by
self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Mail to KEN GAERTNER, 605 E.

DIAL 8-6416
Ends Wednesday
and the GREAT ONE
"Marry Me, Marry Me"
Daily Classifieds
Bring Results


marital partners - who both
happen to belong to the inces-
tuous social clique-but does not
lessen their loathing of each
Act II takes place in the of-
fice of an unlikely psychiatrist
called Sir Henry Harcourt Reil-
ly who tells them bluntly but at
length that, spiritually limited
as they are, the only way for
them is mundane. The scales
fall from their eyes.
Enter then Celia Coplestone, a
young woman evidently meant
to be charming, who is suffering
from a vision which the mun-
dane world will never let be
consummated. Though Harcourt

Reilly has rejected the Cham-
berlaynes as candidates for his
"sanatorium" he prescribes just
this for saints such as Miss
Time passes. Act III reveals
the course their lives have
taken. They are all about to
embark on another cocktail par-
ty. All, that is. except Celia
Coplestone whose life, having
Program Information 662-6264
SHOWS at 1, 3, 5, 7, & 9:05 P.M.

"Liza Minnelli has given a performance which
is so funny, so moving, so perfectly crafted and
realized that it should win her an Academy
Award but probably won't, because Oscar is
archaic and Liza is contemporary!"
-Thomas Thompson, LIFE MAGAZINE

Lenin in October
"The main marvel is Shchukin's reproduction of Lenin, face and figure and
mannerisms. We can truly say 'to the life' . . . In the train, the streets, the
bare quarters, you see the little man with the big head silent among his
great plans or pacing with an impatient spring; benevolent in the necessary
details of living, a pure despot in the service of his world cause . . ."-The
New Republic
"Actor Shchukin's profile is Lenin, to the eyelash. From biographies, letters,
newsreels and associates of Lenin he got Lenin's impatient, nervously-ener-
getic demeanor down pat. In the film he thumbs his vest, shifts uneasily
whenever he has to stay seated, drives his points home with emphatic co-
ordination of forefinger, whiskers and narrowed eyes."-Time
WED., DEC. 3 7-9-11 P.M.
Admission 75c

December 3rd and 4th
Department of Speech Student Laboratory Theatre
PRESENTS . .. in co-operation with the Department of English
by Sylvia Bandyke
by Richard Lees
ARENA THEATRE, Frieze Building

Porornoun Pictures Preents An Akjnj . rou ctio
LizaMinne i-VAende lBurtbn-imMdnt e

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