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SISTER SUZIE CINEMA Fourteen Karat Soul Patricia Jones Tony Mascatello 23 LGV Sister Suzie Cinema is a poem done to doowop music. Not poetic theatre. Or theatrical poetry. It is an eerie expression of the tender terms of adolescent sexuality remembered and a marvelous showcase for what some thought was a dying musical tradition. On a set that combines the alien atmosphere of a small movie theatre and the wing of a 727, five young Black men wearing white jumpsuits and red shoes perform part of this richly evocative poem (with music by Bob Telson) about first love, first romance, first sex, movies, air planes, endearments, lies, vulnerability, goddess worship, and California dreaming of a fifties kind. The first riff features the bass and tenor trading fours slowly, pleading as the group moves from the back of the movie theatre ("I was in the back row/playing with my yo yo") to the presence of the beloved ("Sister Suzie, you're my first love/my last chance"). The desperation of adolescent sexuality mingled with the relentless 24 earnest vision of love. The move becomes incandescent -a song of all young men who tried to "cop a feel" or get a real kiss instead of the brush across the lips. Women never have seemed so mysterious, so distant, so necessary. The tenor's solo soars above the rich harmonies of the chorus (Telson's melodies are perfect for the words) as the silliest of feelings give way to the recognition of the absolute absurdity of first romance. After a brief interlude made up of commentary by a tuxedoed black man sitting just outside the action, at the side of the audience, the singers hardclap a mean clave to the beginnings of "Carry me back to the prime time," with a most delicious hook ("You natalie wood/would you, you natalie wood"). This riff is Lee Breuer at his funniest. Puns, twisted language, movie-biz talk all wrapped around the part where the young man obviously "gets over." There seems to be no writer who uses puns as refreshingly as Breuer does. His love of American language extends to making magic out of the most banal. Where the punk ethos and its practitioners would take this language and drive nails (rusty ones at that) through the utterly absurd heart of it, Breuer elaborates, provokes until a reality becomes so transcendent that you wonder why you're laughing, but you laugh just the same. The final part of the performance concerns the air plane ride (metaphor for first sex and memories thereof). The falsetto comes into play-puns intended at this point. He rides the melody high like the air plane wing which rises to fine crescendo, then falls as the stylized movements of the singers give way to the relaxed climax of "I'll Be There When the Popcorn is Gone" (with popcorn in hand, of course). The fevered falsetto to the rich baritone. Breuer has done it again. Made another statement on the vulnerability, the fragility , the ephemera of masculinity and time. In The B-Beaver, he dealt with impotence, with evolution as a process of falling apart. In The Shaggy Dog and Preludeto Death in Venice he sees the transformation a terrifying , probably necessary, bewildering. No answers. But a will. The shaggy dog regains her dignity. John keeps hanging on the telephone. SisterSuzie Cinema is slight in comparison to the "Animations," but no less serious. The lush poem inspires this lush music. Breuer speaks to and for the young man feeling for the first time,-the awe of, the desire for, a woman, the Other. (That little girl grown up just a little. She whose mouth pouts like Tuesday Weld or who kisses languid like Elizabeth Taylor in A Placein the Sun.) Male adolescent sexuality is often looked upon as a time of incredible violence, anguish, and terror. Breuer uses those elements just as doo-wop music, despite its sweet sophistication, uses primal harmonies, rhythmic complexity, and a supremely simplistic melodic structure. An elegant concoction has been created that evokes just enough of the rough stuff to let the audience in on the rather bumpy ride of this "night flight...


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pp. 23-26
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