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November 13, 1981 - Image 6

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-11-13

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ARTS
Page 6 Friday, November 13, 1981 The Michigan Daily
'Laugh' more than just a joke

By Richard Campbell
I expected Only When I Laugh to be
another joke-a-minute Neil Simon flick
designed, like The Cheap Detective,
only to give his wife, Marsha Mason, a
job. When I learned that it was a re-
write of his play The Gingerbread
Lady, which bombed on Broadway, I
really expected the worst. Happily, I
was wrong.
The best Simon material has
generally relied upon very strong ac-
ting (Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye
Girl or the team of Walter Matthau and
Jack Lemon in The Odd Couple), and a
relentless series of one-liners. While
jokes and acting are still a worthwhile
factor in Only When I Laugh, the em-
phasis is on the drama.
Mason plays a successful actress,
who, as the film starts, has just dried
out after years of drinking. She returns

to het apartment in New York and sets
about rebuilding her life. Helping her
regain control are her two friends,
Jimmy and Toby. -
Entering into the fragile situation is
the film's only dramatic liability,
Kristy McNichol as Mason's daughter,
Polly. McNichol mismanages her role,
acting cuter than humanly possible,
and behaving years older than her
chararacter would seem to allow.
Simon has much to explain by writing
in the extraneous role of Polly. He
weakens the realistic style of the film
by introducing one more plot com-
plication onto an already intricate
story. And the assignment of that role
to a lightweight actress like McNichol
doesn't help. However, the majority of
Only When I Laugh is good enough to
overshadow McNichol's character.
In the supporting roles, Simon has
developed two interesting and plausible
people. Jimmy is a struggling, always

out-of-work actor with a heart of gold.
James Coco, who Simon apparently had
in mind when writing the part, plays
Jimmy to perfection. Toby is a woman
who believes that beauty is only skin
deep. Joan Hackett gives afull perfor-
mance as the taut, frightened lady on
the eve of her 40th birthday.
Marsha Mason, however, is the
reason that the film is as good as it is.
She is completely believable as the
post-drunk Georgia Hines, an accom-
plished actress and neglectful mother.
Her relationships with her friends and
daughter come across so well because
of our immediate identification and
sympathy with Mason. She builds a real
concern about her character's
problems to the point where we want to
see her succeed'.
But the going isn't easy. Mason
presents some fairly stunning scenes as
Georgia gradually loses grip on her new
chance at life. The style of these scenes
is fairly new stuff for Simon. The jokes

are totally subserviant tQ the drama
within the film. Fortunately, everyone
involved with the film seemes to realize
this fact.
Like many of Simon's works, much of
the action takes place in a specific
character's apartment. Director Glenn,'
Jordan, in his feature film debut, has
ably handled the confines of the set. We
end up unaware of these limitations.
His extremely matter-of-fact shooting
style is, however; secondary to his in-
fluence in bringing out the generally
terrific performances.
Only When I Laugh is not a must-see
movie. It does contain a possible
Academy Award winning role by
Mason, and it is Simon's best work. But
I can't write that the film is brilliant,
overpowering, or breathtaking. It is the
kind of film that should be made for
American Audiences-sharp film-
making backed up by a good script; the
kind of film that is rarely made
today.

Records

Arertha Franklin-'Love All the
Hurt Away' (Arista)
I remember an Aretha Franklin
album several years back that made
me think, "Oh well, another major
talent finds herself outclassed and
outrun by her imitators." Now that I've
heard Love All the Hurt Away, all I can
say is that I can't believe that I ever
doubted the grand diva.
Admittedly, the album starts off on a
slow, slightly sour note with the title
track duet with George Benson, but it's
easy to skip that one in favor of the two
killers that follow (one of them being
the hit single, "Hold On I'm Coming").
Here, Franklin proves that if
anyone's being outclassed in the
modern black dance market, it's her
upstart competitors-Evelyn King,
Nona Hendryx, Natalie Cole, Grace
Jones. She can make them all sound
like cheap imitations without even
seeming to try.
Testament to her talents are the ab-
solutely charged session work and
production she inspires. Even when the
material isn't great, she has a way of
twisting it around her little finger and
turning potential sleepers into momen-
ts of glory. She makes any tune sound
special just by virtue of her loving at-
tention.
This one's for all the doubters out
there.
-Mark Dighton

The Romantics-'Strictly
Personal' (Nemperor)
Personally, this is the worst album
the Romantics have ever made. The
group's sound has dismally gone
downhill since its smashing debut LP,
The Romantics, and even the mediocre
follow-up, National Breakout.
Much of the demise must be at-
tributed to the newest member of the
band, lead guitarist Coz Canler. The
once fun, bouncy riffs that Mike Skill
contributed have deteriorated into a
grinding heavy metal sound. The guitar
dominates to the point where is drowns
out the catchy rhythm section.
The fun and innocence of the debut
LP has also disappeared. Instead of
coyishly singing "What I Like About
You" they sing about lusting after
women who resemble prostitutes and
chant "She's Hot." It just isn't fun.
Hell, you can't even dance to it.
Producer Mike Stone must be com-
mended for his rare ability to tran-
sform bad. material into awful
material. The whole album sounds like
it was recorded in a garage with a
single microphone and amplifieps that
sound like they had seen their better
day about 20 years ago.
So much for anything fun coming out
of Detroit.
-Michael Huget

Photo by DEBORAH LEWIS
Jay Frost and John Pollins: 'Clyde Evades the Draft'
R C Players serves
pitc,-wIthcomedyr

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By Anne Gadon
In a few years, everyone will be
talking about the comedies of Jeff Wine
an4 you'll be sorry that you missed
them.
Wine, a recent Residential College
(RC) graduate, is the author of two one-
act plays which are opening at the East
Quad Auditorium this weekend. The
one-act plays are part of the fall
semester offerings of the RC Players.
Clyde Evades the Draft, directed by
Wine, follows a paranoiac's efforts to
escape Uncle Sam. His scheme back-
fires when his girlfriend's psychiatrist
brother takes his pretense of insanity
seriously. In Serve the Public, directed
by Pauline Gagnon, a restaurant owner
tries to pump his unsuspecting clientele
of their last dollars by playing every
role from bus boy to entertainer.
Currently Wine is struggling, with
"making political plays stomachable."
His dialogue is as light as Neil Simon's
with a grouse thrown in here and there
about nuclear war and Arab sheiks.
"With these plays I'm seeing if I can
make the audience laugh, if I can
sustain physical humor on stage," Wine
said. He hopes that people will be enter-
tained and also think a little about what
they see.
"I think what Clyde doesn't do in his
situation is important," explained
Wine. "He doesn't register as a con-

scientious objector. Instead, he gets in- 0
to a neurotic self-absorbed state. If we
all did that there would be no organized
resistance to anything."'
Gagnon, a graduate student in direc-
ting, believes that audiences want to
see more plays with '"people deal(ing)
with more normal problems like the
relationship between a waiter and his
customers." She explained that much
of the play's action was simply for
comic effect. However, it also helps us
understand why people behave the way
they do in such situations.
Both plays evolved largely from im-
provisations during the first weeks of
rehearsal. By watching the improvs,
Wine was able to see structural flaws in
his ideas and correct them in his com-
pleted scripts. By the time the actors
received their scripts they had already
developed their characters and merely
needed to add the lines.
The RC one-acts are not a first for
Wine as far as playwrighting goes.
Clyde Evades the Draft had its
premiere two years ago in From Page
to Stage, a performance of original
plays written and performed by RC
students. Wine graduated in 1980 with
RC degrees in creative writing and
drama.
Clyde Evades the Draft and Serve the
Public will be performed November 13,
14, 20, and 21 at 8 p.m. in the East Quad
Auditorium. General admission is $2.

Joint Glee Club Concert
with
The University of Michigan
Men's Glee Club
and
The Ohio State University
Men's Glee Club
Saturday, Nov. 21-8:00 p.m.

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