Lily Tomlin won the 1986 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" by Jane Wagner and recreated her performance for this filmed production. The original production opened on September 26, 1985 at the Plymouth Theatre, and ran for 391 performances. See more »
It's easy to see what made Lily Tomlin's popular one-woman stage show a successful theatre piece. But the belated big screen version distracts attention away from her chameleon-like skill with characters (created using only her voice and body language) by cutting at random from the actress alone on stage to Tomlin, in costume, portraying the characters against some stylized backdrops. At best it's an annoying attempt to open up the play with a lot of self-conscious cinematic 'style', but the material doesn't need all the visual hype. The impression is given that the filmmakers either didn't trust the material to stand on its own merits (unlikely, since Tomlin and writer Jane Wagner were the executive producers), or couldn't trust movie audiences to sit still for the entire length of an unembellished one-woman show. Thankfully, the memorable sequence condensing twenty years of feminist history into a ten-minute triple biography emerges unscathed, highlighting the balance of insight, humor and pathos missing elsewhere in the film.
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