Lisa Schwarzbaum
January 14, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

The producers of Tales of the City put as much meticulous care into the re-creation of an era as Martin Scorsese put into The Age of Innocence. But because this dramatization of an early portion of Armistead Maupin’s acclaimed serial novel about gay, straight, and otherwise complicated love in San Francisco is set in the ’70s-pop culture’s dorkiest decade — it’s easy to underappreciate the tender scholarship that went into the amassing of all those paisley-print nylon shirts and platform shoes.

In a strong cast, Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) presides as Anna Madrigal, the caftan-wearing, marijuana-tending landlady of 28 Barbary Lane, from whose airy garden apartments tenants emerge (and merge) with a fluidity that would impress the residents of Melrose Place. Among the renters: Laura Linney (Dave) as Mary Ann Singleton, a wide-eyed Midwestern transplant; Chloe Webb (China Beach) as wry, free-spirited Mona Ramsey; and Marcus D’Amico — star of the London production of Angels in America — who is particularly appealing in the central role of Michael Tolliver, looking for one good man in a city where free love is about to cost dearly. Maupin’s Tales are often gay in the old sense of the word. But there is also a depth and poignancy to them, well captured in this ambitious production. B+

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