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November 22, 1981 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-11-22

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ARTS.__
The Michigan Daily. Sunday, November 22, 1981 Page 7
Comedy revue
by Second City
is second rate

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R A DAY.

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A young man is about to meet his fate in Time Ex-
p ires, a film by Nathan White.
Premier of movien
" trilogyshoews talent

By Richard Campbell
A NN ARBOR is one of the best
bities in America in which to watch
movies. Every night, at least two films
are shown by the local co-ops; on week-
ends the avid movie-goer must choose
between six or seven. In the spring,
there are the super-8 and 16mm film
festivals, presenting films from around
the country.
Last Friday night, former University
student Nathan White brought to this
city of cinemaniacs the premier
showing of a trilogy of his films, en-
titled Three Lives.
The first film, Charley, was the shor-
test (two minutes) and the ,mplest of
the three. A man is standing on a
streetcorner, ostensibly waiting for his
friend, Charley. When a mugger comes
and attacks him, the man thinks it is
Charlie playing a practical joke. After
being stabbed and robbed, the man falls
to the ground whispering, "Cut it out,
Charley." By adding specific red
lighting and precise editing, White
transformed a very abstract idea into a,
very successful film.
The main theme-a person confron-
ted by an idea he can't quite com-
prehend-shows up in the other two
works as well. The Path is White's most
recently completed film, and his most
difficult.
The movie opens on a man, wearing a
bold red shirt and faded jeans, walking
down an empty, country path. In his
arms he cradles a small doll.
After a few moments a person
dressed in black walks zombie-like past
the man, bumping him and causing him
to drop the doll. The same thing hap-
9 pens when the man confronts a group of
four people, again dressed in black. By
this time he is confused and is comfor-
ting the doll.
The man must then walk through a
group of about 10 darkly-clad people. As
they punch and struggle with him, he
drops the doll. Finally, the man is for-
ced to walk with the group, leaving the
doll behind. Exact editing of this last
scene creates a very strong impact in
the viewer's mind. The symbolism is a
little heavy-handed, but the film is con-
structed so well that this is quite ex-
cusable.
Time Expired, the only black and
white movie, is the story of a man who
receives an impression of death. Any

plot description would completely fail
to express how well the film has turned
out. Lighting and editing roles provide
a great framework for what is a fairly
strightforward idea.
White is a very professional film-
maker. His movies may sound sim-
plistic, but it is almost impossible to ex-
plain every cut, every sound effect,
every lighting nuance, without soun-
ding like a textbook. White makes films
very well. The problems he has are con-
fined to his writing.
There is a breed of directors today
that know everything about making
movies, except what to film. Brian
DePalma did brilliant things in Dressed
to Kill, but the underlying plot was
quite empty. Michael Cimino filmed
several breathtaking scenes in
Heaven's Gate, but he never put them
together into a workable film.
White has gone far in terms of
creating a film. His works show his at-
tention to detail, and his ability to stay
with a project until it is successfully
completed.
Although the triology is somber and
dramatic, White himself is a very
cheerful individual; he has even done
some stand-up comedy. Ideally, White
will be able to combine his talents to
make longer films with fuller charac-
terizations and plots.
White originally came to the Univer-
sity to pursue a degree in engineering.
After his success in high school,
however, his dropping grades forced
him to re-evaluate that goal. He drop-
ped,out of college, hitch-hiked to New
Orleans, and got a job as a gourmet
chef. Based on his success there, he
returned to the University for a
Business degree to help him start his
own restaurant.
White's interest again began to flag,
and he decided to switch to the film and
video studies program. Having made
films on the side for years, he finally
believed he had found the right path for
his life.
Now working for a commercial
production outfit, White is attempting
to get some investors interested in a
screenplay he has completed, Family
Tryst. Whether or not he succeeds with
that plan, he says, he is going to shoot a
feature film while he is still in his '20s.
Judging by Friday night's evidence,
we can assume he is right; White has
the ambition, energy, and talent to
make it happen.

By Steve Kurtz
C HICAGO'S TRAVELING Second
City Comedy Troupe performed at
the Michigan Theater last Friday. I'd
never seen Second City live before, but
I'd heard wonderful things about them
and I had great hopes. Unfortunately,
the show turned out to be a disappoin-
tment.
The performance lasted about two
hours and was in two acts. The actors
used almost no props, just a few chairs
and a grand piano, and minimal
costumes. Both acts had around 12 or 13
sketches, varying from full length bits
to twenty second blackouts.
While the second act was satisfac-
tory, the first act was practically dire
of comedy. The show opened with a
weak and unfocused sketch about -a
community meeting (not the famous
Second City PTA meeting sketch).
From then on, I kept waiting for a sket-
ch that would start me laughing a lot.
There wasn't any. Only intermittent
lines and bits were funny.
Things picked up considerably in the
second act. The first sketch, about a
couple and two divorced men at a wed-
ding reception, was one of the best of
the night. Also good was a newscast an-
nouncingtschool closings, another about
driving through Wisconsin, and one
about a graduate who refused to pay
back his student loan and has his
knowledge repossessed. Overall, the
act was enjoyable.
The major problem with the show
was the writing. Most of the sketches
lacked cleverness. A little wit can go a
long way, but Second City rarely relied
on it. When an honest to goodness hum-
orous and clever line was spoken, it was
like a breath of fresh air. Unfor-
tunately, scatological, sexual, and drug
humor were used to get many of the big
laughs.
Many of the sketches also lacked
directions and focus. They seemed to
start with a basic situation-a
cemetery, a dorm room, a religious
retreat, a laundromat, a
restaurant-and take it down a
zigzagging path going nowhere in par-
ticular. This trait, betraying the
material's improvisational origin, is
okay for a few bits, but after a while it's
tiresome. More sketches which stuck to
strong, basic concepts would have been
appreciated.
There was one such improvisatory
sketch in each act. Both were well
known regimented Second City formts:
the "freeze" format and the or-

chestrated story format. At least half
the reason an improvised sketch works
is the idea that it's being made up on the
spot. It's like a tight rope walker-if he
rides a bike on the rope its great, but
riding it on the ground is nothing spec-
tacular. In the same manner, any half-
way decent joke in an improvised sket-
ch will get a much bigger response than
if it were in a planned sketch. While the
improvs were better than some of the
other sketches, they didn't strike me as
paricularly inspired.
There was also a bit of music in the
show-one song in each act. However,
since none of the actors had especially
good voices, the songs were the least
professional part of the show. The song
in the first act-about
macroeconomics-was particularly
poor, because the presto lyrics were
virtually unintelligible.
There were still a number of laughs in
the show and a lot of them were due to
the cast. Much of the show's humor was
in the often strange characters the ac-
tors created each sketch. It's a shame
the writing wasn't up to the quality of
the actors.
The cast consisted of four men and
two women (and a pianist). It's hard to
single out any particular performer for
praise-for one thing, there was no
program listing their names. Maybe
none of the performers had the un-
definable magnetism that makes them
funny just by walking on stage but,
overall, the entire cast was personable,
fresh, and tireless.
I'm sorry if this article leaves the im-
pression that the show was terrible. It
wasn't terrible. It just wasn't anything
special. And when you pay $8.50 to see a
professional comedy troupe with a
national, reputation, you expect
something special. When it isn't, it's a
disappointment.
ee
~Oe
. " o d"

TONIGHT * Angell Aud. A, 7 & 9:45
A young Polish film student searches
for the "truth" about a man named
Birkut, an ordinary bricklayer
made into a national hero, only to
be declared a non-person and
disappear from public view. Using a
narrative structure similar to Citizen
Kane, director Wajda exposes the
hypocrisy of Stalinist post-war
Poland. Polish with subtitles.
(Andrzej Wajda, 1977)

A________ U U

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