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Alive From Off Center

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Alive From Off Center is back with a sixth season that offers this anthology’s usual mixture of innovation, humor, and insufferable artiness. This week’s season debut is Postcards, a half hour from writer-director Mark Rappaport. It’s a two-character piece chronicling the romance and breakup of Fred and Janet. Fred is a traveling salesman who writes Janet postcards from the road; she writes back, and we observe how the relationship develops (”Dear Janet, Had a flat on this road. I miss your body. Love, Fred”).

Rappaport comes up with a nice, deadpan comic tone, and knows how to turn a phrase (”Janet,” the salesman writes, ”many are called; a few call back”). But Rappaport’s strategy as a director is much less clever: He uses blowups of the postcards as the film’s only scenery, superimposing the talking heads of Fred and Janet reciting their messages. At first, this method is mildly amusing, but quickly it becomes boring — Rappaport’s smart, minimalist script needs more than these dumb, minimalist visuals to keep it interesting.

Postcards is OK, but be sure to watch Alive From Off Center‘s second effort next week, Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture. It’s a look at hula dancers that brings enormous dignity, beauty, and humor to a folk art that most of us think of as people wiggling around in grass skirts. Postcards: B- Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture: A