THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES -- AMC Academy, Fair City Mall, Jefferson, K-B Ceberus, Landover, Roth's Manor and Roth's Mt. Vernon.
The young hero of "Those Lips, Those Eyes" is shy, homely, ignorant, awkward, unobservant, gullible and prudish. He is also stage-struck. It's 1951, and he is serving, with obtrusive incompetence, as prop man for a summer stock theater in Ohio.
Guess what this boy is going to be when he grows up?
The other characters all know immediately: A playwright. (Or, as they invariably call it, a sensitive playwright.) Anyone remotely familiar with the show-biz picture would spot his vocation in an instant. The only person who has any trouble with it at all is the boy's father, whose misguided enthusiasm for education leads him to ask the shocking and irrelevant question, "Have you ever written anything?"
No, of course not. But the naive ones are always pegged to be the dramatists of the future, which may go a long way toward explaining why we have so many naive dramatizations of the idealized youth of playwrights. Screenwriter David Shaber, as it happens, served in summer stock in Ohio in the early 1950s.
But even as these things go, "Those Lips, Those Eyes" (a song from another branch of show business, unconnected to the story) is a strain. The boy, played by Tom Hulce with all freckles on duty, makes friends with the company's second-rate leading man, but then is devastated to find that his hero's stage name isn't his real name, and that, after a summer of worrying about the feelings of the local stagehands, the actor once loses his temper backstage. The boy's next disillusionment comes when the chorus dancer he has selected to receive his virginity does not want to prolong their summer affair into fall.
Falsity, temperament and promiscuity in the theater! If this isn't the show-biz equivalent of The Fall, what is?
Nevertheless, the production, directed by Michael Pressman and produced by him and Steven-Charles Jaffe, has a certain hot-weather stylishness. The excerpts from "The Red Mill," "The Desert Song" "Rose Marie" and "The Vagabond King" are amusing, and Frank Langella, formerly of "Dracula," has great dash and some wit as the actor. There are small, funny bits by Kevin McCarthy as an agent, Joseph Maher as an old actor, and Herbert Berghof as a comic ethnic.
The only things really awful are the boy, the girl and the lines.