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October 20, 1970 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-10-20

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Tuesday, dctobgr 20, 1970

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Tuesday, October 20, 1970

cinema:

'People': A

bundle of neuroses

'New Chautauqa':
Hang loose theatre

By NEAL GABLER
In The People Next Door Eli
Wallach asks his daughter, "Do
you hate us?" Slie snaps back,
"I think so," and a kid in the
audience applauds loudly. If you
needed any evidence that the
generation gap is a lot of non-
sense there it is. We no longer,
have a generation gap; we've'
got a war. People hate kids -
their own kids, the kids they
see on TV, the kids they see on
the street, even the kids they
never see but hate anyway be-
cause of their long hair and
bell-bottoms and peace medal-
lions and marijuana and the
curse of being u n d e r thirty.
Many of the oldsters would like
to pick off a few of us as a
sort of national service; a n d
many of them for precisely this
reason met Kent State w i t h
mixed emotions: Four dead
isn't enough. -The Guardsmen
should have killed all of those
lousy punks.
But that's only half the prob-
lem. Not surprisingly, kids hate
adults too, maybe not all adults
(there are a few good ones if
you look hard enough) but a
good many of them. Adults are
creepy, intolerant, fascist, flag-
waving, black-hating idiots. So
we've go a real live war on our
hands. A country despises its
own young and those y ou n g
people despise their elders. Hard
hats c h a r g e the students,
Guardsmen shoot the students,
the Vice President makos politi-
cal hay out of student discon-
tent and an Ohio grand jury re-
turns indictments against stu-
dents whose only crime w a s
getting shot at.
Nixon and Agnew are cer-
tainly exacerbating t h e prob-
lem, and why not when that's
where the votes are? Unemploy-
ment rises as steadily as taxes
and prices, the war drags on in-
exorably toward its 1972 con-
clusion, the arms race contin-
ues with MIRV's and ABM's;
but as long as there are stu-
dents who can be attacked on
the hustings, politicos need not
worry about society's real af-
flictions. Some kids attribute all
t h i s animosity to a national
malevolence, and in my less ra-
tional moments I'm inclined to
agree with them. Then you see
something like The People Next
Door and realize just how lit-
tle "evil" or even "stupidity"
really describes h o w we got
where we are.
The People Next Door is about
your typical next-door neigh-
borhood - insensitive, bourgeo-

is, hypocritical, permissive sub-
urbanites. That "permissive" is
there as a sop to the Agnew-
ites. After all, it isn't entirely
the parents' fault th at their
kids are going crazy. They work
their tails off so the young-uns
can have everything they nev-
er had.' There was a depression
when they w e r e growing up,
Right? And then a war. And
then prosperity. Cars, TV's, elec-
tric toothbrushes. Their kids
grew up with plastic spoons in
their mouths. So how can you
blame parents for listening to
Spock and trying to do right by
their offspring?
While the adults w e r e out
satisfying their children's ma-
terial needs, they were skimping
on the spiritual needs. At lease
that seems to be screenwriter
J. P. Miller's prognosis. Arthur
(Eli Wallach) is a softcore Joe,
a boor who constantly attacks
his hippie-musician son's hair-
do and wardrobe. Geri (Julie
Harris) is Arthur's weak-kneed,
high - strung, chain - smoking
spouse, and Maxie (Deborah
Winters) is their acid-dropping
sixteen year old daughter. They
find her one night crouched In
her closet and screaming; she's
on a :bummer. Arthur p our s*
himself a drink, Geri lights up
a cigarette and they fret over
these damned, pill-taking, pot-
puffing kids.
* They go to group psychiatric
sessions to s a v e their misled
child. "I've got to find a new
reality," says Maxie. "With
drugs?" "Yes." "Isn't t h a t a
kind of death?" "What's so bad
about death? It would get us
out of this place." So :Maxie
goes home and gets zonked one
night on STP and winds up in
a psycho ward. And in the sur-
prisingly effective last scene
(effective because of Harris,
though I suspect it will send
psychiatrists out of the the-
ater screaming) Geri yells at
her daughter to make the ef-
fort and pull through. Close-up
of Maxie. Freeze frame. Folks,
she's going to make it.
None of this tells us v e ' y
much about drug-taking that
we didn't already know, but it
does make for a leering, almost
depraved, film that touches all

the bases of perverse America
- chain - smoking, drinking,
phoniness, neuroses, psychia-
trists, nymphomaniacs, the su-
burbs and LSD, not necessary ii
that order. In many ways it re-
minds me of another depraved
film, Visconti's The Damned.
Visconti gives us - unsuccess-
fully I think - the fall of Ger-
many in microcosm. D a v e
Greene, People director, a n d
scenarist Miller also work in
stereotypes, this time bourgeois
suburbanites; and like the Es-
senbeck Aryans the suburban-
ites are incapable of sustaining
any real drama. Greene's film
is less operatic, more mini-mu-
sical than Visconti's (we Ameri-
cans are less grandiose than the
Germans) but it gluts the view-
er with the same kind of sur-
realistic dementia t h a t spills
over from the theme of t h e
film onto the film itself.
Visconti knew what he was
doing; Greene doesn't,. and so
his surrealism is unintentional
and even laughable. Rampaging
high schoolers destroy their
school. Desks are smashed, win-
dows broken, the building set
on fire, Mao banners draped
from the auditorium's rafters.
The scene underscores the mo-
vie's difficulty: It is a f i1 n
about the lack of communica-
tion between generations and
what results from misunder-
standing, but the film itself is
a testament to this very prob-
lem. High schoolers don't hang
banners praising Mao when
they demolish their school, andj
how many high schools get de-
stroyed in the first place? Kids
don't say. "Acid is my scene."
Motorcycle freaks don't h a n g
out at the local Tastee Freeze.
What The People Next Doorj
does is objectify people, and ob-
jectification is one of the major
stumbling blocks to understand-
The Mihigan Daily, edited and man-
aaec. by students at the University of
Michigan. News phone: 764-0552. Second
Class postage paid at Ann Arbor, Mich-
igan. 420 Maynard St.. Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48104. Published daily Tues-
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Summer Session published Tuesday
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ing. It is also one of the chief
dramatic devices of the c o ol1
medium and J.P. Miller's play
originally appeared on CBS
Playhouse. A f e w four letter
words have been added and a
b i t of gratuitous pubic hair.
Aside from that it remains es-
sentially tin-eared drivel. This
just goes to show w h a t bad
straits screenwriting is in when
a trashy television melodrama,
spiced up with an R-rating, can
make the big screen. In fact,
I'm afraid a few years from now
we'll have the' most technically
perfect films in cinema history
with the most insipidly stupid
scripts; Miller is getting us
launched in that direction.
Beyond the script there is a
weakness in the acting. Wallach
and Harris are good but new-
comer Deborah Winters, in the
film's most important role, is
both unpretty, which is accept-
able, and unconvincing, which is
not. I can't blame her. Most of
the fault lies with the indus-
try's permissiveness; there is a
hell of a lot of j u n k going
around these days, lousy scripts
and poor performances. Some-
body ought to put his foot down.

By DIANE ELLIOT
Sometimes theater means box
office line-waiting, rustling pro-
grams, voluminous costumes,
blank verse and curtain calls.
But theater can be as simple, as
relaxing as the sharing of a
good story. And a stoi'y can be
told in many ways-with words,
a tune, a gesture, a grin. All
these story-telling devices, the
time-tested sign language of
theater, will be used by an in-
dependent group of actors in
their production of The New
Chautauqua, this coming Thurs-
day, Friday and Saturday at 8
p.m. in the Residential College
Aud.
A collection of twenty-odd
vignettes by Fred Gaines, The
New Chautauqua sparked the
interest of Chris Lahti when
she worked with it during a
UCLA theater workshop last
summer. Excited by the drama-
tic potential of this loosely-or-
ganized script, which runs the
gamut from whimsical fairy tale
to serious social comment, Chris
chose the eleven vignettes she
considered most playable and
gathered a group of Ann Arbor

actors to work on them, hoping
to capture the broad farce, the
bitter humor and gentle pathos
of the sketches.
The Chautauqua concept is
that of a freewheeling, hang-
loose kind of theater, aimed at
direct and honest communica-
tion with the audience. Nothing
new here; just an attempt to
make a theater experience spon-
taneous and fresh for both
actors and audience. Intersper-
sing dramatic confrontations
with music and comic bits, the
group hopes to ease its audience
into a present-tense involvement
usually impossible in an uptight,
conventional theater.
The tone of this production
grows f r o ng the interaction
See HANG, Page 8

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AUDITORIUM A, ANGELL HALL 4:00 p.m.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22

"THE FUTURE OF JEWISH-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS: A BACKWARD VIEW"

The Daily is anxious to cor-
rect errors or distortions in
news stories, features, reviews
or editorials. If you have a com-
plaint, please call Editor Mar-
tin Hirschman at 764-0562.
MN

DIAL 5-6290
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Produced by Carlo Ponti and Arthur Cohn
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PROFESSOR NOEL FREEDMAN, coming
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Coordinator of Studies in Religion to work
for expanded offerings in the area of Re-
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jected Institute for Studies in Religion;
currently Director, American School of
currently Director, American School of
Oriental Research in Jerusalem and Dean
at San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Also served as Professor of Old Testament
at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and
as Editor in Chief of the Anchor Bible
Commentary.
Near Eastern Languages and Literature

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