Picks and Pans Review: Voices Within: the Lives of Truddi Chase

updated 05/21/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/21/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Sun., May 20, 9 P.M. ET)

C+

Shelley Long stars in a flawed but watch-able miniseries based on When Rabbits Howl, the memoirs of a woman whose traumatic childhood catapults her into multiple personality disorder.

The flashbacks to Chase's childhood with a domineering, unbalanced mother and a sadistic, sexually abusive stepfather are scary and claustrophobic, thanks in large measure to sensitive acting by Tiffany Ballenger, who plays Truddi at 8.

These scenes should command sympathy for the adult Truddi, but because of Long, they don't. She has such an inexpressive face she has to work hard to get emotion to play over it. We spend so much of the time watching her mug in close-ups, reacting to the voices in her head, that when the really heavy emotional scenes arrive, we're immune to Long's tantrums. She's the actress who cried wolf too often.

Only two of Long's various personalities are distinguishable by her vocal modifications: a heavy brogue and a gruff black man's bark, both absolutely laughable.

The male leads—John Rubinstein as Long's husband and Tom Conti as her therapist—are excellent, but four hours of Shelley in psychodrama is too much lack of personality for anyone to bear.

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