THE MAGICIAN OF LUBLIN -- K-B Cerberus, K-B Studio.
CAPTION: Picture, no caption
It may be that erstaz folk tales of Isaac Bashevis Singer, in which mythic forces penetrate the bumbling humorousness of daily life, are not transferable to drama -- or at least that their serious side is not. The enormous success of this difficult combination on paper may owe so much to his seductiveness as a story-teller that it's doomed to perish when reduced to dialogue.
On stage, we have "Tiebele and Her Demon" at the Kreeger, fine rustic comedy that seems artifically "deepened" with hokey symbolism. On the screen, there is "The Magician of Lublin," in which the farcical aspects of a womanizing magician touring Poland have been suppressed in favor of an attempt to make the story seem tragic and important. The result is simply ludicrous.
Alan Arkin plays the magician in a snakey sort of way; Valerie Perrine appears as a pouting peasant, alternately kissing him and trying to kill him; Louise Fletcher is a retread countess inexplicably enslaved by passion; Shelley Winters, looking like Miss Piggy, dresses up in vulgar underwear to peer through his keyhole and drool.
One step more and it would have been hilarious -- not in Singer's low-keyed comedy, but in the manner of the faked Yiddish folk tales that also occasionally run in The New Yorker, but with Woody Allen's byline.