Strong Medicine (1981) ***1/2

Produced with a grant from the fiendish National Endowment for the Arts, the self-consciously artsy Strong Medicine is the brainchild of avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman, founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, which has “the aim of stripping the theater bare of everything but the singular and essential impulse to stage the static tension of interpersonal relations in space” and “seeks to produce works which balance a primitive and minimal style with extremely complex and theatrical themes.”

Strong Medicine follows a woman named Rhoda (Kate Manheim) through a real or imagined absurdist hell of uncomfortable interactions with a host of strangers ostensibly celebrating her birthday. Among those she meets are a dirty-minded doctor (David Warrilow) and a horny lesbian on a train. An air of Kafkaesque futility and ennui pervades Foreman’s film, which may interest those who go for the outre, and who like or can stomach the likes of Beckett and Bunuel or enjoy the stagebound austerity of a film of the type of Marat/Sade (1967). Mildly amusing at best, the experience of taking Strong Medicine is very much like that of watching an opaque European art film in English – although, betraying its foreign affinities, the pretentious end card actually reads “FIN”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

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