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March 24, 1979 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A

arts & entertainment
Small faults mar 'Anita Bryant'

The Michigan Daily--Saturday, March 24, 1979-Page 5

1

By JOSHUA PECK
When I left the Canterbury Loft Wed-
nesday night after the opening of The
Anita Bryant Follies, I found myself in
an unusual frame of mind. I didn't know
what the hell to say about it. Original
theater is so rare in Ann Arbor that I
find myself loath to say anything which
might discourage playgoers from sam-
pling what fesw homegrown offerings;
there are.
So I endeavored to overlook some of
the more minor drawbacks that beset
the show in favor of its overall worth
and entertainment value. But what is
one to do when minor problems loom
and become major ones?
There are good moments in Anita
Bryant, but they cannot sustain a show

The Anita Bryant Follies
Tom Simonds
Ctanterbury I ort
March 21-24 (8p.m)
Anita ..............................Galen Davis
Her Son .......................Larry Finkel
Her Daughter..................Kirk Davis
David ..............................David W ick
Frankie........................Tom Simmonds
Tom Simonds, director;
Cynthia Dunitz, lights
that is marred by too little preparation,
a faulty political premise, and a
hackneyed featured character.

PERHAPS IT is unfair to indulge in a
political critique of a production whose
aim is to satirize gently and amuse,,but
on the other hand, Anita Bryant is not
quite just a popular music figure any
more. Satirical treatment of a woman
who has appeared on the cover of
Newsweek in a news-story context
ought to be a little more carefully
worked out than that playwright
Simonds has penned.
In one first act scene, for instance, a
television broadcast on the night of the
infamous Dade County vote is enacted.
Simonds explains away the gay loss as
being caused by a combination of voter
apathy and ignorance on the part of the
voters about how they ought to have
voted to support gay rights. The sketch

'THE CHINA SYNDROME'
A hot core, thriller

By ERIC ZORN
The China Syndrome, a taut, bold
thriller which could be subtitled "Fear
and Loathing at the Nuclear Reactor,"
might easily have wasted itself by put-
ting the figurative black hats on the
Establishment bad guys and letting the
forces of Justice and Right chip at the
hardened plinth of the corrupt elite.
What makes this recent Columbia
release so riveting as it comes to its
Andromeda Strain style suspense en-
ding is that the characters have won
you over after your initial reservations.
As dippy, Southern California
television news personality Kimberly
\Tells, Jane Fonda observes a curious
moment of panic in the control room of
a Los Angeles area nuclear power
plant. Though her affable tour guide in-
sists that the disturbance is simply
routine, Fonda and her radical-lib
caiheraman, Michael Douglas, find
that by means of surruptitious camera
work, they have captured more than
routine distress on the faces of control
room personnel.
UNAUTHORIZED filming of gover-
nment installations is a felony, and the
television station news director refuses
to air the evidence which would also
pose a threat to the future of nuclear
power in the area. Douglas, who plays a
thoroughly convincing hothead, swears
and-rants, calling everyone unpleasant
names and generally comning off as the
sort of hoarse voiced activist we ignore
when walking through the Fishbowl.
Organized opponents of nuclear
energy, shown at a hearing for a
proposed reactor site, are also
scathingly lampooned. They hold up
pictures of children and wear mouth
gags as part of an almost purely
emotional attempt to tell the governing
board what they have heard ten
thousand times before.
Fonda, who begins by insisting that
"this is coverage, not controversy,"
fares little better in our eyes as she
lives the idea that blue eyes and a
brown nose will better serve her am-
bitions of success than will shaking up
WAKE
UP!1
to
;ai1g

the power structure, so to speak.
Jack Lemmon, as shift foreman Jack
Godell at the control of the reactor
when the alarming incident takes
place, emerges from the host of silly
people to play the role which finally
wins our affections and sets the ball
rolling. -I love that plant, it's my whole
life," he explains, and his insistence to
Fonda that "the system works" is ex-
tremely sincere and practically con-
vincing.
"NUCLEAR PHYSICS ain't so new,
and it ain't so clear," as the owl once
said in Pogo, and for those of us with
only a rude knowledge of reactor
technology, seemingly elaborate safety
precautions added to the Mission Con-
trol ambience of the central room lulls
us into a sense of security. Lemmon,
who knows these matters a million
times better than the rather flakey
Fonda, ought to know what is safe and
what isn't, right?
Once the veteran engineer gets a took
at some corner cutting done in safety
precautions taken at the plant plus an
entire set of forged inspection x-rays,
the film cranks into high gear. Though
it will cost the company for which he
works millions of dollars, Lemmon in-
sists that the plant shut down until
comprehensive tests can be run ,and
trie safety established.°
When no one will listen to himi, the
anguished controller attempts to take
his case to the public. The power com-
pany's mob style violent techniques to
thwart his valiant efforts along with the
brave muckraking done by the now-
converted Fonda drive the story to a

tense final scene inside the control
room. This surge of high intrigue and
suspense is powerful, and all of a sud- -
den, no matter what persuasion on
nuclear energy, the viewer finds him-
self hyping the uranium merchants suf-
fer'the immediate and summary wrath
of the Lord.
L EMMON PLAYS with searing
emotion and good taste which is light
years away from the mugging which he
has been doing for years as a Neil
Simon stock actor. This performance is
a tour-de-force which puts Fonda and
the supporting cast in the background.
His facial expressions alone reveal
more of the horror, agony and gutty
suspense which all the characters un-
dergo than all the righteous rhetoric of
those shocked guardians of the public
weal.
Perhaps The China Syndrome doesn't
give nuclear power a fair shake, and
perhaps the likelihood of failure is ex-
tremely small, but the film poses the
difficult questions surrounding this
issue in a way which makes your
respond on a frighteningly emotional
level. It is much easier to walk down the
other side of the street when the Arbor
Alliance is proferring their logic on a
streetcorner, but not so easy to turn
away when Jack Lemmon, your main
man, i- fighting time, the police, and
the grotesque corporate structure to let
everyone in on the secret which you
know!
Jaws may have caused a pang of
terror every time you went swimming,
but China Syndrome will get your every
time the light goes on.

is funny in parts,,but fails to examine or
satirize the elements which really had
the most to do with the defeat, and
which are, therefore, most deserving of
satirical treatment: The faet is that
Dade County voters, and for that mat-
ter, most Middle Americans, are quite
backward about gay rights, terrified of
homosexuals, and disgusted with gay
and quasi-gay culture. Simonds owes it
to his audience, yes, even in a light
revue, to look at that issue.
Of the music, words, and book trium-
virate, Simonds is most gifted at creat
ing the first. The musical highlight is a
wittily arranged trio at the end of the
news show, with Anita and company
singing the Ode to Joy from
Beethoven's Ninth (to represent the
conservative establishment, I guess.),
the gay election workers chattering on
confidently centerstage, and a lone
soprano vigorously intoning, "Assholes
. ..News commentators are inevit-
ably assholes," in front of the piano.
ON THE WHOLE, though, Simonds is
better with the slow numbers, love
ballads and the like. Admittedly, he
could have done with less borrowing,
e.g. the bit he pilfered from Burt
Bacharach in "The Blues Song."
The comedy was generally base, too
obvious and road to be funny, but once
in a while, a sketch did emerge from the
mediocrity. In one, an ultra-straight
talk show host interviewed a professor
about the academician's theory that
homosexuality is a myth, "perpetrated
by the Communists."
Off to stage left, two other guests
See FOIBLES, Page 8
RED
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Tickets $2at PT.P. Office O
in The Michiga n0e ME
76.4-0450
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Hugh Wheeler
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