You know the theater movie in which the problem-beset actress pulls herself together at the last minute and is a sensation? Well, in "Opening Night," she doesn't pull herself together - she goes on stage drunk, improvises some lines and falls down during others - and is a sensation with frenzied fans, first in New Haven, and then on opening night in New York City.

So much for what the makers of this movie think of theater audiences: Presumably they're so cowed by the mystique of The The-a-ter that they don't notice when an actress is falling down drunk; and when a play isn't about anything, they obligingly supply interpretaions which explain it.

What they think of movie audiences is another question. John Cassavetes, who wrote, directed and acts in this, was last seen being blown to smithereens in "The Fury," another film that assumed that in the psychic genre not only are the laws of nature suspended, but also the dramatic conventions of plot and internal consistancy.

Gena Rowlands is supposed to be a great star unable to cope with a play about an aging woman because she is herself aging. She keeps getting into fistfights with a dead groupie of hers, reincarnated to represent her youthful self. There is no attempt to explain why an actress would go to pieces when she discovers a point of identity with her role; nor why an actress who is constantly loony, drunk, abusive or all three would not be understudied, let alone replaced.

It should be noted that the play-within-the-movie is even worse than the movie-about-the-play. But they loved it in New Haven.