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September 17, 1971 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1971-09-17

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Friday, September 17, 1971

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Friday. Seotember 17. 1971

arts

Lenny':

By MARK ALAN FARBER
Lenny, unlike Follies, and
No, No, Nannette, is a show
nminus the old stars, but about
them. Or at least about a kind
of star of the 1950 boho set:
Lenny Bruce.
Lenny Bruce, was a stand-up
comedian who was always get-
ting busted for obscenity. Mr.
Bruce during the 1950's and ear-
ly 1960's had the foresight to
use such words as 'fuck' and
'cocksucker' on nightclub
stages around the country. For
this foresight he was continually
persecuted and prosecuted.
Lenny Bruce's humor was not
that of the innuendo or of the
dirty comic. He was a satirist in
the vein of an Aristophanes, a
Swift, and perhaps a Mort Sahl.
He was a comic not of the one

show in order to justify the
reservations that I have about
the production.
A curtainless stage hung with
netting and tiki-like heads. An
abstract set suggesting an Af-
rican primitive motif. Actors
come on stage dressed in Afri-
can tribal style. They are bang-
ing percussion instruments.
They come downstage and incite
the audience to clap the beat.
More of the tribe converges on
the stage. Conversation begins,
"I love the Lord better'n any-
body in the tribe. I'm giving up
nine rivers for the Lord. Write
it down. How about you?"
"Seventeen rivers, ten farms.
That's for the Lord. How about
you?"
"Well, today I'm gonna be the
best man in the tribe cause I'm

. .iages

Time b
"THE BEST MAN IN THE
TRIBE."
"Why?"
"Cause I don't do it, that's
why. You do it-second best.
And you who talk about it-
WE'LL BLEST YOUR ASS.
The stage clears. Some pieces
drop from the flies, forming an
impressionistic nightclub. A
man appears on stage. He grabs
a hand mike, and starts a
monologue.
What am I describing? Could
this be a play about Lenny
Bruce? Have I come to the
wrong theatre? Perhaps it's a
new play from the Black thea-
tre? Maybe it's a communal
rock musical? Or I could be de-
scribing what it's like sitting at
home, s-t-o-n-e-d; switching
channels from a NET produc-
tion of Missa Luba to the NBC
presentation of theJohnny Car-
son Show. Wrong. Wrong.
Wrong. This is the Brooks At-
kinson Theatre. These are the
beginning moments of Lenny!
Why an African motif to a
play about a Jewish comedian
from Long Island? Yes, why
indeed? Tom O'Horgan (evi-
dently still obsessed with the
communal spirit of Hair) has
mixed Black tribalism with the
1950's equivalent of Alexander
Portnoy (Lenny Bruce). This in-
termarriage leaves even the
most liberal - minded wishing
for a pure race.
Lenny suffers from a juxta-
position of two conflicting the-
atrical styles; the ensemble
play, and the conventional dra-
matized biography.
The ensemble play can best
be described as very physical.
The stage flows with movement.
It is composed of episodes, held
together by a sameness of mood
or idea, rather than a consistent
storyline. It is the genre of
Hair, Paradise Now, The Ser-
pent, and Terminal.
The dramatized biography, on
the other hand, is a straight
treatment of someone's life
story. Emphasis is on a few
major characters. The progres-
sion of plot is well defined. The
aim of the production is not so
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Just a person who
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much a particular mood, but
rather an educational glimpse
into the life of a famous person.
It is the genre of Julius Caesar,
A Man for All Seasons, Luther,
and more recently Vivat, Vivat
Regina. Lenny is sometimes a
documentary using excerpts
from Mr. Bruces routines. Other
opted for visual effect and
groping. Both of these styles
that O'Horgan employs are in-
teresting and well done, but
the problem is that when com-
bined they don't mix well: It's
liking both pickles and ice
cream, but somehow a pickle
milkshake is not very appealing.
Enough of matters gastro-
nomic.
Anothe problem with the,
show, besides O'Horgan schizoid
direction, is that its authors
just couldn't decide if Bruce's
satiric old nightclub routines
were enough to keep an audi-
ence satisfied. Should they in-
clude the story of Bruce's life
too? This question was partially
dealt with by including half a
story. There are choppy tran-
sitions from the nightclub ma-
terial to Bruce courting his
eventual wife (a goyish strip-
per named Honey.); their di-
vorce; casual allusions to
Bruce's mother and her show
biz roots; and Bruce in court
fighting his obscenity bust.
However these scenes rather
than satisfying, merely tease
the audience with their incom-
pleteness.
However, Cliff Gorman as
Lenny Bruce is superb ! From
the moment Mr. Gorman (the

former queen Emory of the
Boy's in the Band cast) grabs
the microphone and starts do-
ing the old Bruce material, the
stage becomes a tirade of ener-
gy. Gorman is an impressive co-
median, and his command of
the style of a nightclub comic
is as precise as it is free-wheel-
ing. He does the best of Bruce
just as well, if not better than
the original. There is the Lone
Ranger bit, teaching Johnson
how to say Negro (Nigra, nu-
gru, nagra, ah cain't do it! !),
and other bits about Jews, Cath-
olics, dikes, fags, and a hearty
emphasis on other matters of
sex.
Gorman's performance is one
not to be missed. Yet he cannot
compensate for a poor script nor
a medicore supporting cast
that is large and undefined.
Characters are always going on
and off. Frequently the stage is
cluttered by what is supposed to
be a night-club audience. They
do little else than applaud,
laugh, throw in an occasional
ARM/Michigan Film Society
Jean-Luc Godard's
the Rolling Stones
Anne Wiazemsky
1968 color
TONIGHT
7:30 & 9:30 $1 cont.
NAT SCI AUD
SATURDAY 9 8

line, or walk off insulted. Some-
times the cast assumes the
parts of characters in a Bruce
routine. For example, instead of
Lenny doing his bit about Christ
and Moses visiting Saint Pat's
Cathedral, the routine becomes
a dramatized playlet, (complete
with Bishop eShen1, Cardinal
Spellman, and a nude Moses and
Jesus.:
In fact, Lenny might be bet-
ter as a bare stage one man
show: Cliff Gorman as Lenny
Bruce (like Hal Holbrook as
Mark Twain and Emilyn Wil-
liams as Charles Dickens).
However I know that this for-

mat wouldn't be as effective
when I recall the end of the
show.
Two policemen question two
pusher musicians about some
fatal dope. One musician says
that they sold some to Lenny
Bruce. The cops repeat the
word "lennybruce," and decide
not to bother.
A section of the set is re-
moved. A cramped bathroom
is revealed. There is Lenny
Bruce. Naked. A needle in his
arm. Dead on a toilet.
The cop photographer arrives
to take pictures of the immoral
comedian dead of an overdose.

)mb

that never explodes

It's Apple Season Again
TOM WALKER'S
GRIST MILL.
in PARSHALLVILLE
Fresh Pressed
Apple Cider and Doughnuts
and
Apples
(of course)
20 minutes North on U.S. 23-left on Clyde Road

ARM/Mich. Film Society
Jean-Luc
GODARD
is the single most important
forcehkeeping the art of film
alive."
-Pauline Kael
"A movie experience of major
importance."
-Canby, N.Y. Times
ROLLING STONES
recording "Sympathy for the
Devil"
Anne Wiazemcky
a young Maoist French actress,
playing Eve Democracy
"To be a revolutionary
intellectual
it is necessary, finally, to cease
being an intellectual at ally"
TONIGHT
7:30 &i9:30 $1
SATURDAY
SEPTEMBER 18
NAT SCI AUD
Join The Daily

D

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SATURDAY & SUNDAY MATINEE AT 1 P.M. & 3 P.M.
The Wayside Theatre will show the immortal classic of nostalgia,
"National Velvet," with little Liz Taylor and Mickey Rooney.
eVE ALL...tbereIs

-Daily-Sara Krulwich

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liner, but of the story, the anec-
dote, and the stream of con-
sciousness. More Myron Cohen,
Bill Cosby, and Will Rogers than
Don Rickles, Johnny Carson, and
Buddy Hackett. Mr. Bruce's hu-
mor was slow and perceptive.
His material was sardonic, stim-
ulating, and oftentimes funny
-but never in a jovial way.
Says Bruce, "All my humor is.
based upon destruction and des-
pair. If the whole world were
tranquil, without disease and
violence, I'd be standing on
the breadline right in back of
J. Edgar Hoover and--who's an-
other real heavyweight? - Dr.
Jonas Salk."
This reincarnation of Bruce's
life appears on stage six days
a week at the Brooks Atkinson
Theatre. But is it as interesting
as the man, himself, and is it
good theatre? Let me describe
the beginning moments of the
Program Information 662-6264
OPEN 1 P.M.
Shows at
1 :30-4 P.M.-6:30-9 P.M.
JULES VERNE
TAKESYOU OVER THE
ME ~FOF THE WORD!I

giving up seventy-eight rivers,
forty-five farms, ten sheep, six
oxen, and a mountain for the
Lord."
"Wait a minute! Before you
give out the prize for the best
man in the tribe, I'm going to
give up something for the Lord
you'll all, remember. (Whisper,
whisper)."
"Hey, are you bullshittin or
somtin? You're givin it up? Faw
how long?"
"I'm giving it up for ever and
ever!"
"Just to prove a point, huh?
Well, that's ridiculous. He's
ah.....
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FESTIVAL
"STOLEN KISSES!" is a
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-N. Y. Times

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Sat. and Sun.
6 and 8:30 Hit
Program information 434-1782
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On WASHTENAW AVE.
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Music by Salm
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