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792 T362 1947/481(2) 



'"'Books' on the Theatre 
by George Jean Nathan 

Mr. Nathan, who is the authority on the American theatre and 
drama for the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Britannica 
Book of the Year, has published the following books on the 

Testament of a Critic 

Art of the Night 

The House of Satan 

The Autobiography of an Attitude 

Since Ibsen 

Land of the Pilgrims' Pride 

Materia Critica 

Comedians All 

The Popular Theatre 

The Critic and the Drama 

The Theatre, the Drama, the Girls 

The World in Falseface 

Mr. George Jean Nathan Presents 

Another Book on the Theatre 

The Avon Flows 

Passing Judgments 

The Intimate Notebooks of George Jean Nathan 

The Theatre of the Moment 

The Morning after the First Night 

Encyclopedia of the Theatre 

The Entertainment of a Nation 

The Theatre Book of the Hear, 1942-43 

The Theatre Book of the Year, 1943-44 

The Theatre Book of the Year, 1944-45 

The Theatre Book of the Year, 1945-46 

The Theatre Book of the Year, 1946-4*] 

The Theatre Book of the Year 



1947 1948 

A Record and an Interpretation 

B Y 



NEW YORK : 1948 


Copyright 1948 by George Jean Nathan. All rights reserved. No part of this 
book may "be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from 
the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a 
review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper. Manufactured in the 
United States of America. Published simultaneously in Canada by The 
Ryerson Press. 



-I- OLLOWERS OF THESE annual surveys are, I fear, some- 
times disturbed by their degree o critical dispraise. That 
the detraction often exceeds the commendation I regret- 
fully am forced to admit. But, if my point of view is 
thought to have any merit, I see no way out of the dilemma. 
The fact is that genuine worth in our theatre in the last 
few years has been of no noticeable bulk, that the great ma- 
jority of new plays have been devoid of quality, and that, 
so far as I am concerned, that seems to be the only proper 
manner in which to report on them. 

I well appreciate that, whatever may be cynically said to 
the contrary, praise is always more popular than blame. 
The critic so constituted that he can find good miscellane- 
ously is consequently esteemed far above the one so pe- 
culiarly constituted that he can find it only where it actu- 
ally exists. It is my misfortune in this respect that I was 
born under an unpropitious star. As a result, I am not, I 
grieve, approved as I should be; I am not invited to serve 
on more than fifty or so of the usual hundred committees 
to save the theatre; I have not been vouchsafed a seat at a 
banquet chicken and its collateral string beans for some 
years; and I am not overburdened with boodle. 

But, desolate as I find myself and yearn as I do for the 
admiring plaudits of the masses, I can do naught but pur- 
sue my haplessly inoculated and depressing course. If you 
think that I take any secret pleasure in it, you are mis- 
taken; I say freely that I get little or no comfort from it. 
Like everyone else I wish for a theatre all of whose plays 
and productions would be such that my writings on them 
would be as warmly acceptable as currently are those of 
some of my venerated and envied colleagues. But, since 

v |. Foreword 

any such theatre seems to exist only in the latter's over- 
active" initiations, I suspect that I must patiently wait 
for the Realization of my prayer and in the meantime 
comment on it as it happens to be. If, therefore, the pro- 
portion of eulogy to condemnation is out of balance, I 
seek apology and maybe even absolution in the circum- 

It is not, surely, that I am so vain as to believe that my 
opinion is usually right and that of others usually wrong, 
though I confess a lamentable suspicion now and then tor- 
tures me. It is rather that, right or wrong, I can not see any 
sense or virtue in the profession of criticism, after more 
than forty years in its service, if it does not at all times, let 
the chips fall where they will, perform its offices with only 
the strictest standards in mind, with no slightest compro- 
mise in the misguided interests of a periodically sick and 
needy theatre, and with indifference to any reader reaction 
either favorable or unfavorable. That I accordingly must 
often seem a little hard and even odious to those given in 
all things to the light that shines in charity's eyes is un- 
avoidable. But I certainly am very far from offering myself 
in the greasepaint role of martyr. I am no more a martyr 
than I am a crusader, an evangelist, or a genius. I am 
merely a commentator with, I hope, some possibly rational 
critical overtones. That many people disagree with my find- 
ings is a pleasure I am not one to deny them. That a few 
may agree only dooms them with me in any politely opti- 
mistic society. 

The theatrical year covered in the following pages was 
all in all an indifferent one and, since a succession of un- 
complimentary chapters would be tedious, I have tried 
where possible to make them readable apart from their 
dire content and even now and again extrinsically divert- 
ing, much as the entrepreneur of an old small-time vaude- 
ville bill distracted his customers from its monotony by de- 
liberately letting a member of the trained dog act jump 
over the footlights, run into the auditorium, and bite the 
candy-butcher in the leg. The relatively few opportunities 
I have enjoyed for praise I have taken full advantage of, 

Foreword vii 

and with deep personal satisfaction and gratitude, since 
they have served to lighten the strain by providing green 
oases in the ploughed-up desert. 

Here, then, is the theatrical season of the years of Our 
Lord 1947 and 1948 as seen through the eyes of your chron- 
icler. The record speaks, though ventriloquially, for itself. 


Foreword v 

Honor List 1 

The Year's Productions 3 

Especially Interesting Performances 369 

Index: Plays i 

Index: Authors and Composers iii 

The Theatre Book of the Year 

The Year's Productions 


MAY i, 1947 

Short operas by dan-Carlo Menotti. Produced by Chan- 
dler Cowles and Efrem Zimbalistj Jr., in association with 
Edith Luytens for 6 monthf performances in the Barry- 
more Theatre. 


LTJCY Marilyn Cotlow \ BEN Frank Rogier 


MONICA Evelyn Keller 

TOBY Leo Coleman 


MRS. GOBINEAU Beverly Dame 
MR. GOBINEAU Frank Rogier 

MRS. NOLAN Virginia Beeler 

Marie Powers 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in Madame Flora's parlor, in 
our time. Act I. Evening. Act II. Evening, a few days later. 
Director: Gian-Carlo Menotti. 

TO MUSIC initiatedly composed and sometimes tech- 
nically interesting, if Puccini influenced, over-all scarcely 
distinguished and nothing to induce prolonged critical 
pause, The Medium, with its libretto o a fraudulent spir- 
itualist who terrifiedly falls under the spell of her own chi- 
canery, periodically projects a dramatic chill seldom expe- 
rienced from the so-called thrillers of Broadway commerce. 
So effective in this quarter is the two-act opera in consider- 
able part that it is to be regretted that the author-compos- 
er's imagination does not more fully suffice him. The st- 
ance in which the charlatan, aided by her daughter and a 
mute. gypsy boy whom she has adopted, plays on the emo- 

4 The Telephone and The Medium 

tions of clients who seek communion with their dear de- 
parted has a cruel irony that grips. So, too, have the scenes 
in which the conniving medium suddenly goes pale at the 
feel of a ghostly hand at her throat and in which she is be- 
set by the same spooky fears which she has sold for gain to 
her susceptible trade. But the mood collapses when, in her 
frenzied determination to lay the ghost within herself, she 
shoots into a closet out of which presently tumbles the 
dead body of her mute confederate. This makes little dra- 
matic sense, unless one ruptures one's mental powers. The 
ghost-slaying idea would have been more relevant to the 
theme and much more significant had the dead body been 
made that of the medium herself in replica. 

Under the immediate general circumstances it is occa- 
sionally difficult to decipher Menotti's dramatic intention. 
There are times when it seerns that he is attempting to pic- 
ture the indissolubility of the real and the spirit worlds. 
There are other times when he appears to be trying to para- 
phrase the Frankenstein theme. And there are still others 
when what he is up to seems to be the philosophical de- 
spair that only in silence (as represented by the mute) is 
there to be found paradoxically the Sphinxian answer to 
the riddle of the unknowable, a thesis perhaps more no- 
table for its nonsense than for its profundity. Music natu- 
rally comes to his aid in his confusion and he makes val- 
uable dramatic use of it. But what might have been a 
consistently eerie excursion into the metaphysic of Piran- 
dello becomes now and then muddled through an unclear 
and unsustained fancy. 

The one-act The Telephone, which is offered as a cur- 
tain-raiser and which spoofs the nuisance that the instru- 
ment can be, is intermittently ingenious in a musical di- 
rection, particularly in its humorous orchestrations, but in 
the aggregate forced, much too long, overdone, and tire- 
some. The first time the telephone interrupts the swain's 
proposal of marriage, the idea is entertaining enough, but, 
as the business goes on and on, what amusement there ini- 
tially was gradually fades and expires. 

Though Menotti, judging solely from the two exhibits 

May 1, 1947 5 

I am not familiar with his Amelia Goes To The Ball, 
The Island God, The Old Maid And The Thief, or Sebas- 
tian seems partly to share with various of his fellow 
moderns a doubt of melody, or at least anything that too 
closely approaches it, he fortunately does not join their ec- 
centricity in an avoidance of emotion. Altogether too much 
of the music of these moderns sounds as if it had been con- 
ceived and composed by their mothers-in-law. Menotti's 
agreeably strives for some warmth, feeling, and passion. 
There is in it, also, whatever its shortcomings, the sugges- 
tion of a nimble intellect, whether light, as in The Tele- 
phone, or serious, as in The Medium. 

The voices are acceptable enough, though Marie Pow- 
ers' in the medium's role suffers from what seems to be a 
slight lisp, and Evelyn Keller's, in that of her daughter, 
from a periodic tendency to shrillness. The acting, how- 
ever, is another matter. While perhaps not any more criti- 
cizable than much of that at the Metropolitan, it is at its 
best, save for Leo Coleman's performance of the mute, ei- 
ther uncomfortably self-conscious, as in the instance, par- 
ticularly, of Marilyn Cotlow and Frank Rogier in The 
Telephone, or of a piece with the wood winds minus the 
wind. The physical production of The Medium calls, how- 
ever, for favorable words. Though obviously economical, 
Horace Armistead's setting and Jean RosenthaTs lighting 
are considerably superior to three-fourths of the expensive 
kind of thing we generally get in the Broadway theatre. 



A comedy by S. /. Lengsfelder and Ervin Drake. Produced 
by Jour Theatre, Inc., for 29 performances in the Cort 



Lies Tremayne 

AMY Lulu BeUe Clarke 

HELEN SHELDON Audra Lindley 
BURTON SNEAB Joseph Silver 

FRANK JONES Gregory Robbing 
MARION GCLMORE Lucie Lancaster 

PHILIP McGmc- Jed Prouty 

SYNOPSIS; Act I. Scene 1. The terrace of the country home of 
Cornelius Sheldon. Saturday morning. Scene 2. Barney McGill's office. 
Several days later. Act II. Scene 1. The terrace. Afternoon of the same 
day. Scene 2. The MUford living-room. "Wednesday evening. Act III. The 
terrace. The 13th of the month, Cornelius's birthday; late afternoon. 

Director: Edward F. CUne. 

BARNEY McGiLL Ralph Simone 
ERIC PETERSEN Werner Klemperer 
MRS. WARREN ' Lelah Tyler 

MR. GREEN Anthony Gray 

HUMFERPINCK Eichard Barron 
McNuLTY Paul Lipson 



.HE PROGRAM announced that Mr. Lengsfelder, of whom 
no one locally had ever, before heard and whose name was 
to be searched for in the European records in vain, "has 
had more than forty successful productions to his credit." 
The successful productions were thus perhaps scarcely con- 
nected with the theatre and, if not purely a figment of the 
press-agent's imagination, were possibly babies, though 
that, too, is doubtful if the gentleman's biological fertility 
was to be estimated in proportion to his dramatic. Noth- 
ing worse than his theatrical offspring has been suffered by 
the stage in years. A portion of the blame is possibly to be 
borne by the collaborator whom he summoned to his as- 
sistance. This gentleman, according to the same program, 
was "a special material writer for Milton Berle and other 
top comedians*' and his function seemed to be to insert 
jokes into Mr. Lengsfelder's script whenever it called for 

May 2, 1947 7 

some humor, which was not only often but always. Since 
the jokes were of the vintage species of the one about the 
couple celebrating their twentieth anniversary and were 
now going to get married, it appeared that Mr. Lengs- 
felder should have looked somewhat farther afield for an 
auxiliary genius. 

The plot had to do with two men in love with the same 
woman, their toss of a coin to determine which would com- 
mit suicide and leave the way clear for the other, and the 
efforts of an insurance broker who had insured the loser to 
forestall his self-destruction. The writing sounded as if it 
had been dictated by one backward tot to another; the act- 
ing was even worse than the direction, which was morbid; 
and the settings by Watson Barrett looked as if he had read 
the script and had decided to get even. The enterprise was 
predicated on a profit sharing plan, dreamed up by the 
metaphysical Mr. Lengsfelder, which promised each ticket 
purchaser his proportionate share of the financial rewards. 
The program again confided that "after overcoming ini- 
tial obstacles, enthusiastic response greeted the plan, so 
that Your Theatre, Inc., has over three thousand subscrib- 
ers and one hundred and forty-two church and civic organ- 
izations." After the first act, those of the suckers who were 
present catapulted themselves out of the theatre to consult 
their solicitors on the possibility that their sharing con- 
tracts did not contain non-assessment clauses. 


A comedy by Peggy Lamson. Produced by the Blackfr tars' 
Guild for 14 performances in the Blackfriars 3 Theatre. 


DORIS Mary Morgan 


MRS. Mcd-AiN Ethel Kenney 

MR. MCCLAIN Owen Dickson 

PHOTOGRAPHER Allen Stapleton 
Miss RIGGS May Burkan 

Miss VINSON Jean Emslie 

The scene is the Greenleafs living-room, Cambridge, Mass. 

Time: 1912. 

Director: Marjorie H&dreth. 


,N THE six years of its existence, the Blackfriars* Guild has 
produced twenty-three plays more or less experimental in 
nature. With this, its twenty-fourth production, it aban- 
doned, for reasons best known to itself, anything of an even 
remotely experimental character and went minor Broad- 
way with a wholly conventional whistle-stop comedy that 
had been presented for failure three years before, under 
the title, Bee In Her Bonnet, in a Southern road town and 
on which options had subsequently been taken by several 
Broadway producers, also for reasons best known to them- 
selves, but who soon thereafter dropped them, for reasons 
now best known to everybody. 

The theme of the waif script is the trouble brought upon 
a Harvard professor in the painfully respectable campus 
atmosphere of thirty-five years ago by his wife's publication 
of a pre-Dale Carnegie opuscle called How To Command 
Respect At Home. Since in the thirty-five year period 
elapsed we have had a sufficient number of exhibits in 
which the publication of something or other has brought 
embarrassment in its train, the idea has become pretty 

May 13, 1947 9 

tired and would need considerable wit and humor to revi- 
talize it. These Miss Lamson does not sufficiently com- 
mand, and her play dies in its tracks half an hour after it 
gets under puffing way. 



A so-called pyschological thriller by Ivan Goff and Ben 
Roberts. Produced by David Lowe and Edgar F. Lucken- 
bach for 61 performances in the Booth Theatre. 


COB O'BRIEN Barry Kelley 


GRACES McPHEE Mary Michael 
PETER TALBOT David Anderson 

Dorothea Jackson 


Sidney Blackmer 


SYNOPSIS: The entire action of the play takes place in the draw- 
ing-room of the Talbot home in San Francisco. Act I. Scene 1. An autumn 
afternoon. Scene 2. The following morning. Act II. Scene 1. Three nights 
later. Scene 2. Three days later, afternoon. Act IH. The same night. 

Director: Reginald Denham. 

J[HE DEMAND most often imposed upon the spectator by 
one of these psychological thrillers is, first, that his psycho- 
logical education shall have bloomed and stopped with the 
"You can't pull that trigger" scene in Augustus Thomas' 
The Witching Hour and, secondly, that his spine shall be 
of the sort which curdles in inverse ratio to the amount of 
a stage's illumination. I do not wish to pose as the posses- 
sor of either a knowledge of the science that would have 
shaken Freud to his foundations or of a backbone that is 
impervious to titillation, at least of sorts, but the average 
play of the kind none the less ever impresses me as a book 
on psychology for freshman classes with a cap pistol hidden 
in it. I do not say that what little psychology there is in the 
plays may not sometimes be sound enough. I only say that 
it is so childishly elementary that to label it with the high- 
sounding scientific term is like calling Peg o f My Heart an 
analytical treatise on love. What is more, there is generally 
not so much of it in any such play as you will find in even 
a run-of-the-mill Broadway comedy. The thrills, further- 

May 14, 1947 11 

more, are usually little other than fabricated feather- 
tickles. They do not operate toward the spine through the 
mind but merely shout "Boo!" at the juvenile sensibilities, 
As drama, they have no more authenticity than the drop- 
ping of a tin tray behind a vaudeville comedian; they are 
fright-wigs pulled by strings attached to typewriters. 

The Messrs. Goffs and Roberts' version of the toy mech- 
anism has to do with a jezebel and her doctor lover who 
conspire to insert a lethal needle into the chronic invalid 
who is the former's husband and thus clear the way for 
their joint passion. An anonymous letter shortly informs 
them that someone else is privy to their misdeed. In their 
dread of being unmasked, they do away with a male visitor 
to the house whose manner seems to indicate that it was he 
who dispatched the missive. But no sooner has he been 
murdered than comes still another anonymous letter. After 
a number of scenes between a pair of comedy servants and 
a pair of young lovers, lugged in to lend the ulcerated pro- 
ceedings some relief and, even more obviously, to kill time, 
it is disclosed that the letters were written by the psycho- 
pathic hussy herself, her explanation being that she feared 
she might lose the love of the medico and sought this means 
to keep him, in his terror, close to her. 

Since, among other things, the woman wrote and sent 
the first letter immediately following the murder of her 
husband and since her accomplice was at the time pro- 
foundly enamoured of her and apparently could not be 
drawn away from her by a team of horses, plausibility gets 
its first blow. Since it is more than obvious that the bed- 
ridden husband, who is stated not to have had married re- 
lations with his wife for almost ten years, could not have 
stood in the way of the lovers, who were demonstratedly 
very hot not only under their collars, plausibility gets its 
second. Since, subsequently, the medico, who is presented 
as a shrewd and observing creature, would readily from the 
jade's actions have quickly seen through her, his long delay 
in using his eyes in that quarter gives plausibility its third. 
And since all kinds of plays like the previous season's Little 
A have instructed audiences in suspecting cheating wives 

12 Portrait in Black 

twenty minutes after the curtain has gone up, interest in 
the whole gets its first, second, third, and knockout. 

The present dramaturgy follows the customary pattern 
of throwing suspicion on a sinister butler, having the fright- 
ened small son o the household intrude upon the scene 
immediately following the crack of a murderous revolver 
("There's nothing wrong, dear; go back to bed") , arousing 
a character's suspicions upon his casual discovery of some- 
thing that has been thrown into a grate fire, introducing a 
ringing of the telephone bell in the midst of the twain's 
second malfeasance and the cautious removal of the re- 
ceiver from the hook, etc. The dialogue is alternately ei- 
ther of a rhetorical elegance ("What love is this that feeds 
on death?") or of the cliche sort sufficiently suggested by "I 
love you" "You don't even know the meaning of the 
word!" and (shades of Mrs. Dane's Defence) "I was young; 
I didn't know; he took advantage of my innocence." A last 
minute change reduced the play from three acts to two, 
which was the only improvement upon the species any- 
where perceptible. 

That the enterprise was doomed to commercial failure 
should have been known to its sponsors, and for a reason 
producers of greater practical experience would have ap- 
preciated. A melodramatic thriller whose general tone is 
depressing, as in this case, is inevitably headed for the store- 
house. The successes have always been those whose mur- 
ders are paradoxically exhilarating. 

The stage direction, while intermittently satisfactory, re- 
lied too greatly on slow motion, long pauses, and dread 
lookings into space to induce a sense of trepidation in the 
audience. Claire Luce, in the hussy role, though an im- 
proved actress, was furthermore permitted such an excess 
of cold postures and refrigerated hauteur that her doctor 
lover, suavely played by Donald Cook, would have had to 
prescribe allopathic doses of yohimbin and mustard plas- 
ters before enjoying relations with her. The rest of the 
company pursued the conventional acting design of such 
plays so closely that they could have stepped without re- 
hearsal into any one o a dozen of them. 


LOVE FOR LOVE. MAY *6, 1947 

A revival of the comedy by William Congreve, with inci- 
dental music by Leslie Bridge-water. Produced by the The- 
atre Guild and John C. Wilson in association with H. M. 
Tennent Ltd. for 48 performances in the Royale Theatre. 










John Gielgud 

Richard Wordsworth 

George Hayes 

Cyril Rttchard 

Adrianne AUen 

John Kidd 

Donald Bain 



Pamela 3rown 


Malcolm Keen 


Marian Spencer 
Jessie Evans 


Robert Flernyng 
Sebastian Cabot 


Mary Lynn 

SYNOPSIS: The scene is London. 1695. Act I. Scene 1. Valen- 
tine's lodgings. Morning. Scene 2. Foresight's house. The same dag. Scene 
3. The same. The same evening. Act II. Scene 1. Valentine's lodgings. The 
next morning. Scene 2. Foresight's house. Later in the day. 

Director: John Gielgud. 


OHN GIELGUD AND co. followed their excellent display of 
The Importance Of Being Earnest with, if not an equally 
excellent production of a shortened version of the Con- 
greve comedy, at least what in major part was a very good 
one. That English actors are admirably adapted to such ar- 
tificial comedy is hardly remarkable and is much like say- 
ing that American actors are admirably adapted to com- 
edies like The Fall-Guy and Is Zat So? Or that Russian 
actors are thoroughly at home in Chekhov, German in 
Hauptmann, Austrian in Schnitzler, and Chinese in Kao- 
Tsi-ch'ing. When a critic puts such thoughts down on pa- 
per, it simply means that he is hopefully marking time un- 
til something a little fresher, livelier and more piquant 
pops into his head. Meanwhile, he consoles himself that 
the statement, which has survived the years, is anyway per- 
fectly safe and uncontradictable, which is something in a 

14. Love for Love 

day when one of the greatest of American indoor sports 
seems to be dispatching letters to critics arguing that they 
are first cousins to the jackass and might profitably be sent 
back to criticizing their sires. 

The next step in the critic's procedure, i he hasn't too 
early a deadline, is to worry out a more or less novel reason 
why the English actors are so aptly fitted for the kind of 
comedy in question* Having several times before written 
that it is because they themselves are often personally of 
an artificial identity with the characters and hence suited 
naturally to their portrayal, he can not well repeat himself, 
because there is nothing his readers like better than to^ de- 
tect such repetitions and to argue from them that he is just 
where he was years ago and should be retired for arrested 
development. Having also observed a number of times that 
it is because the British actors articulate so precisely, are 
possessed of the appropriate brittle personalities, and are 
physically remote from the normal masculine biological re- 
alism (Love For Love was in one period played by an all- 
female cast) , he appreciates that that will not do either. 
True as it may be, it is stale, and the primary business of 
readable criticism is to eschew the stale, or at least so in- 
geniously to garb it in new habiliments that it will not 
seem so. Anyone can write the truth but, when everybody 
already knows it, it takes some nose-scratching to present it 
in a fashion that will make the reader believe he is getting 
it for the first time. Shaw's trick has been defined as stating 
the obvious in terms of the scandalous. An even harder 
one is to state the obvious in terms of the seemingly pro- 

I have sat here now for all of several hours trying to fig- 
ure out a way to flimflam the reader by writing the same 
old thing in a manner to make him imagine that he is get- 
ting something piping hot off the griddle. But I am balked. 
I can't do it, at least not at the moment. I have thought of 
dressing up the reason why these English are better than 
any other at such artificial comedy in the argument that 
the latter is so wholly indigenous to their own land. But a 
second's reflection shows that that is silly, as this Congreve, 

May 26, 1947 15 

though born in England, was since infancy by training, ed- 
ucation and process of thought Irish. It is also silly because 
the finest interpreter of the indigenously English Shake- 
speare was an Italian, the best interpreter of the indelibly 
Russian Tolstoi an Austrian, and the greatest interpreter 
of the French Dumas and Sardou, to say nothing of the 
German Sudermann, an actress born in a railway carriage 
on the road from Venice to Vigevano. I have also thought 
of toying with the observation that the reason may lie in 
the ingrained emotional chill of the Englishman which 
makes him a natural funnel for unemotional comedy. But 
though I have not seen it expressed in just that way be- 
fore, it is a little too manifest and hence unworthy of the 
self-esteemed critical talents of your servant. And I have 
further meditated arguing that the reason may be that the 
affectation and insincerity of artificial comedy find their 
most convincing exponents in Englishmen who themselves 
seem to be constitutionally invested with affectation and 
insincerity, or at least the satisfactory semblance thereof. 
But though that may often appear to be true, it surely is 
not always true, since there have been English actors of a 
different chop who have been thoroughly acceptable in the 
same type of comedy. 

So let us forget the whole matter, at any rate until I can 
think up something better. 

It is rather late in the day to enter into any extensive dis- 
cussion of the familiar, wittily bawdy and diverting, if here 
and there sometimes halting, Congreve play, or of its bril- 
liant author. Though on a level far below his masterpiece, 
The Way Of The World, and materially inferior to his The 
Old Bachelor, and though it occupies third place in his 
canon of five plays, it nevertheless offers a comedy of man- 
ners which, despite its emphasis on plot, has contributed 
notably to the gallery of humorous character. Not humor- 
ous in the generally accepted sense, it should be reminded, 
but, in the author's words, humor which is "a singular and 
unavoidable manner of doing or saying anything, peculiar 
and natural to one character only, by which his speech 
and actions are distinguished from other characters." 

16 Love for Looe 

Though the much finer The Way Of The World was on 
its initial production a failure both popularly and criti- 
cally, Love For Love was a substantial success, which goes 
to show that the public and the majority of critics of one 
century are often much like those of another. Now as then, 
both usually share an affection for plot and are uncom- 
fortable without it. Now as then, both have a disrelish for 
subtle shadings and prefer not the delicate but the more 
highly flavored. Both, too, still today with rare exception 
have a greater taste for direct humor than for sly wit, and 
have difficulty in detecting and appreciating genuine style 
when they come upon it. And both persist in their appetite 
for what John Palmer calls lightly running dialogue 
"written, as it seems, joyously, currente calamo" along 
with the "tumbling comedy" favored by Wycherley, and 
view with less regard dialogue of calmer distinction. 

But if public and critics have not much changed, nei- 
ther have playwrights, at least in one respect. Now as then, 
they still become wroth at adverse criticism. If such as 
Maxwell Anderson, Lillian Hellman and others presently 
give the critics a piece of their minds, so did Congreve 
when they failed to approve of one of his comedies. ''Give 
me leave," he testily wrote in his dedication of the play to 
Charles Montague, "to tell my illiterate critics, as an an- 
swer to their impotent objections, that they have found 
fault with that which has been pleasing to you. . . . They 
were not long since so kind to a very imperfect comedy of 
mine that I thought myself justly indebted to them in all 
my endeavors for an entertainment that might merit some 
little of that applause which they were so lavish of when I 
thought I had no title to it. But I find they are to be treated 
cheaply, and I have been at an unnecessary expense." 

The worst of it was that on this particular occasion > 
the play was The Double Dealer the critics strangely 
happened to be right, as Congreve himself apparently came 
later to agree when he scissored the indictment from his 
literary records* 

Though Gielgud's Valentine, admirable in the earlier 
portions of the revival, tended to become a trifle listless in 

May 26, 1947 17 

the later, most of his support was In pretty trim, notably 
Cyril Ritchard, a capital Tattle; Pamela Brown, one of the 
best of the younger actresses England has lately sent across 
the waters, in the role of Angelica; and, as Miss Prue, Jes- 
sie Evans, a rowdy comedienne of the Joyce Redman cut. 
The settings by Rex Whistler, the costumes by Jeannetta 
Cochrane, and the stage lighting by William Conway 
added further to the satisfaction of the evening. 


ICETIME OF 1948. MAY 28, 1947 

An ice skating show, with tunes and lyrics by James Little- 
field and John Fortis. Produced by Sonja Henie and Ar- 
thur W. Wirtz for 10 months 9 performances in the Center 


Freddie Trenlder, Joe Jackson, Jr., Skippy Baxter, Joan Hyldoft, the 
Bruises, Brandt sisters, James Caesar, Grace and Slagle, Paul Castle, Jim- 
mie Sisk, Joe Shiflen, Buck Pennington, Brandstetter and Berry, Corcoran 
and Kasper, Fritz Died, Claire Dalton, Lou Folds, Nok Fairbanks, Rich- 
ard Craig, and Melba Welch. 

Director: Catherine Littlefield. 

JVERY YEAR at this time when I am called on to review 
one of the chronic ice skating shows, I think of a youth 
whom I first encountered as the janitor of a little summer 
theatre in New Jersey and whose principal duty seemed to 
be scraping the chewing gum off the bottoms of the seats. 
In the autumn of the same year he was drafted into the 
army and it was six months before I ran across him again. 
"How are things going?" I inquired. The look on his face 
was that of one whom the world had robbed of his proud 
birthright as he replied, "They've got me in a camp sweep- 
ing up cigarette butts; think of that for a man of my 

Though noted far and wide for my modesty, I neverthe- 
less feel much the same way when I am asked critically to 
sweep up these ice shows. I did not mind it so much at the 
start, but it has got to be a bit humiliating. In the first 
place, any office-boy could do the job, since the shows are 
always much alike and since, even at their best, which is 
seldom, they no more require any critical ability than a 
three-legged sack race. In the second place, qpce you say 
that the skaters are proficient, there is nothing left but the 
production numbers, which most often are exactly the 
same, except maybe for a little more snow paint on one of 

May 28, 1947 19 

the settings or a little less purple moonlight when the skat- 
ers appear in white costumes. And that hardly calls for the 
virtuosity of a Diderot. In the third place, and finally, it 
would be a simple matter for the office-boy to confect a per- 
fectly acceptable review by copying what one had written 
about all the preceding shows. To wit, that the new show is 
interesting enough for, say, half an hour but that the end- 
less skating thereafter gets to be very monotonous; that 
Freddie Trenkler, the clown, though he still does his same 
old act, is now and then amusing; that a little more imag- 
ination would help the show no end; and that, anyway, 
however anyone else may feel, the kids are sure to enjoy it 

This last statement, however, begins to seem to me to be 
rather too condescending and to need some qualification. 
I have not the slightest doubt that the youngsters are 
greatly entertained by the first one or two or possibly even 
three ice skating shows which they are taken to see. But 
that they continue to be as greatly entertained by the con- 
stant duplications, I have the friendly consideration for 
them to disbelieve, that is, if they are anything like I was 
at their age. Ice shows were not in existence in that prehis- 
toric period, but a fair equivalent in the form of roller 
skating shows was. And, while I accepted the pleasure hy- 
pothetically implicit in them for several years and was po- 
lite enough not to raise hell on subsequent occasions, I re- 
call that I nevertheless always felt pretty glum when the 
old man announced I was to be privileged the rapture of 
attending another. 

The theory that youngsters must hugely enjoy a show 
because their presence at it proves as much and because 
they do not when it is over kick their adult escorts in the 
ribs needs, I think, some overhauling. Aside from the un- 
wonted politesse of the average lambkin when he is dressed 
up, which restrains him, albeit uncomfortably, from giv- 
ing vent to his true feelings, the idea that he is not as im- 
patient of repetition and monotony as older folk is un- 
thinkable to anyone who has taken the trouble to observe 
his reactions in other relevant directions. He complains at 

20 Icetime of 1948 

the daily breakfast oatmeal. He yowls at the imposed regu- 
lar seven o'clock bed hour. He hates the daily demand that 
he wash behind the ears. He protests against the invariable 
Sabbath injunctions as to his week-day divertissements. He 
spills part of his detested daily lunch milk under the table. 
He rebels at length against Sunday School. He cries if he 
finds the same old orange occupying once again the toe of 
his Christmas stocking. And he is disconsolate in the face 
of dozens of other such repeated indignities. To imagine 
that this same darling suddenly acquires an enthusiastic 
admiration for the endlessly repeated and unchanging ice 
skating shows takes a great deal of imagining, and at this 
languid time of the year I am never up to it. 

As for adults, the grind of suffering a long succession of 
the shows is something of a piece with the rapt enjoyment 
to be had in peering for two or three hours into a Frig- 
idaire for a bottle of beer that isn't there. I appreciate that 
the box-office statistics seem to contradict me. The shows 
play to big crowds and make all kinds of money. But to ar- 
gue that because of that fact the customers must naturally 
delight in them is to argue that, because the five-and-ten- 
cent stores do millions of dollars* worth of business, people 
prefer to smell at a dime paper rose instead o the real ar- 
ticle. The principal and correlated reason why mobs of 
people go to the shows is that they are cheap, and a lot of 
people have to take what in the way of entertainment they 
can afford. Many of them make the best of it, as they make 
the best of it with a twenty-five cent hamburger when 
their mouths water for a filet mignon. And, having to take 
the inexpensive skating shows, they conveniently pretend 
to themselves that they are not so tiresome as they really 
are and, anyway, that, even if they are, they are a relief 
from the steady diet of inexpensive movies, which are 
more tiresome still. 

In this latest of these specimens of refrigerated ennui the 
skaters may be said to be as expert as heretofore; Freddie 
Trenkler again scoots like mad around the rink and again 
brings himself up with a supposedly very comical abrupt 
stop, spraying the customers down front with ice flakes; 

May 28, 1947 21 

and the lines of girls and boys skate Rockette-wise, negoti- 
ate the usual pinwheel formations, and try for a laugh 
when one of the boys pretends to miss the end of the whirl- 
ing line and frantically endeavors to catch up with it, or at 
least I take it for granted that he does, though I didn't un- 
necessarily hang around to make sure. Also repeating their 
domesticated performances are the twirling blonde Joan 
Hyldoft, the knockatout team who call themselves the 
Bruises, the gliding Brandt sisters, and the all familiar rest. 
Only Joe Jackson, Jr., may be said in a manner to intro- 
duce a new note with his old imitation of the older vaude- 
ville act of his late pater. 

At this point, I may state that I dislike to boast, but my 
critical influence seems to be enormous. Every year, fol- 
lowing my pronouncement that these shows are as dull as 
yesterday's razor blades and are endless copies of glaciated 
mediocrity, like frozen corn starch masquerading as French 
ice cream, they promptly collapse to the tune of hundreds 
of thousands of dollars, net profit. This has been going on 
now for at least seven or eight seasons and they indicate no 
signs of letting up on my acumen and the resulting reve- 
nue. What it all probably goes to prove is that, while one's 
opinion of what constitutes theatrical art may be perfectly 
sound and enthusiastically endorsed by scholars who have 
not gone near the theatre since Ada Rehan died, it is a con- 
siderable mistake to imagine that one's opinion of what 
constitutes entertainment is of any interest to anyone but 
one's self. 

That, however, is nothing I have just discovered. I first 
began to appreciate it shortly after I started in this busi- 
ness of criticism, which was back in the age when you 
could still get a Martini for fifteen cents, with a free lunch 
of hard-boiled eggs, Virginia ham, bacon rolls, fish balls, 
Cheddar cheese, small hot sausages, smoked herring, lob- 
ster salad, potato chips, pretzels, celery, olives, and concili- 
atory cloves thrown in. It was then and that early that I re- 
viewed a show called The Road To Yesterday and sternly 
promulgated the decree that not only did it default on all 
those qualities favored by the higher drama criticism but 

22 Icetime of 1948 

that you could knock me over with The Red Feather if it 
contained even the germ of the kind of entertainment fa- 
vored by the public. The public, however, was apparently 
either too busy at the moment or too careless properly 
to digest my sagacity and embarrassed me profoundly by 
pouring itself in droves into the theatre where the play 
was showing and having itself a grand time at it. I 
promptly learned my lesson and have forgotten it since 
only at rare intervals, to my sorrow. I now stick to criti- 
cism instead of to sticking out my neck. If I am not enter- 
tained by a bad play or show, I content myself with telling 
why personally I think it is bad, and if the public finds it 
nevertheless entertaining I simply take private refuge in 
Commodore Vanderbilt's old remark and, at least in print, 
shut ma mouf. 

It is thus that the circumstance that countless people 
have disobeyed my critical injunctions as to the ice skating 
shows and have flocked to them and even ostensibly en- 
joyed themselves at them does not in any way discommode 
me. Nevertheless, the public can not stop me from won- 
dering how and why the shows continue to do such dis- 
gustingly big business year in and year out. It must be, 
as I have previously guessed, the relatively low admission 
charges. If a fellow wishes to take his girl to a Broadway 
musical show like Annie Get Your Gun, a pair of good or- 
chestra seats, if he can get them at the box-office, which is 
very doubtful, cost him thirteen dollars and twenty cents. 
A pair for a musical show like this Icetime Of 1948 on the 
other hand cost him only four dollars and eighty cents. 
The Center Theatre is a handsomer one than the Imperial, 
where Annie is playing; the surroundings are quite as gay; 
the "show air" is equally present; and the evening-out feel- 
ing is also there. It is, accordingly, a desirable bargain to 
anyone willing to accept, for the seventh or eighth time, a 
waltzing couple on skates as a substitute for Ethel Merman 
off them, Littlefield and Fortis tunes for Irving Berlin's, 
Edward Gilbert's and Bruno Main's penny postcard scen- 
ery for Jo Mielziner's, and the number in which a girl falls 
asleep under a spangled tree and dreams rapturously of a 

May 2S, 1947 23 

bad vaudeville act for anything at all. But as for me, when 
it comes to entertainment, I fear that I can find consider- 
ably less in a female skater who skates in unison with an- 
other behind a scrim mirror, or in a male who squats and 
kicks out his legs Russian-fashion, or even in fifty of both 
sexes who execute the 1895 pinwheel number than, like 
my friend Somerset Maugham in another direction, in a 
glass of good, cold lager. 



A musical comedy with book by Isaac Green, Jr., and Eu- 
gene Berton, music and lyrics by Monte Carlo and Alma 
Sanders. Produced by Hall Shelton for 4 performances in 
the Century Theatre. 



Kay Jacquemot 


Monica Moore 


Patrick Meaney 


Ken Bond 


Lou Wills, Jr. 


Robert Kimberly 




George Baxter 


Ann Lay 


Charles Judels 




Bertha PoweU 


Angela CarabeUa 


George Roberts 


Patti Kingsley 


Berton Dams 


Edith Fellows 


Francis Keyes 


Howard Blaine 


Victoria Cordova 


William Downes 


Michael Landau 


Ameil Brown 


Bert Wilcox 


Lee Kerry 


Ann Viola 


Isabella Wilson 


Isabella Wilson 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. A levee in New Orleans. April 1830. 
Scene 2, A study in Miss Browne's Finishing School. Sunday afternoon. 
Scene 3. The parlor of the Casino Deluxe of Mme. Corday. The foUow- 
ing evening. Scene 4. A garden. Scene 5. The parlor. A few minutes later. 
Act II. Scene 1. The parlor. Immediately following. Scene 2. A street. 
Scene 3. The Cucacheena Cafe. Scene 4. Canal street. Scene 5. The gam- 
ing room. One hour later. Scene 6. The garden. 

Director: Edgar MacGregor. 



LWENTY YEARS AGO Samuel Shipman and Kenneth Per- 
kins wrote and produced a dreary pornographic play 
called Creoles., which promptly failed. Last year an equally 
dreary musical show called In Gay New Orleans while be- 
ing tried out in Boston failed and closed even more 
promptly. Operating inscrutably, Mr. Shelton bought the 
latter 's scenery and costumes, borrowed the Creoles script 
and hired a pair of mechanics to adapt it to the scenery 
and costumes in lieu of the original book, and called 

June 2, 1947 25 

the concoction Louisiana Lady, which now failed more 
promptly still. 

Items contributive to the immediate storehouse dis- 

1. Plot: The moldering one about the innocent little maiden 
who returns to what she believes is her respectable old fam- 
ily home and finds herself instead in a bordello, in this in- 
stance presided over by her mother who has fallen into the 
power of a blackmailing knave. 

2. Comedy: The kind which consists in the dialect comedian's 
cracking his tongue against the roof of his mouth to indi- 
cate the sound of a pulled champagne cork, along with his 
pronunciation of the word "niece" as "sneeze/' 

3. Music: The derivative kind which is familiar to the point 
of impertinence. 

4. Lyrics: "I Want To Live, I Want To Love," "The Night 
Was All To Blame," "When You Are Close To Me," "No 
One Cares For Dreams," and "It's Mardi Gras!" 

5. Choreography: The kind in which the male dancers every 
few minutes hoist the female dancers into the air. 

6. Performance: The species which brings the singing ladies 
and gentlemen to stand close to the footlights and blink 
their eyes winningly at the audience, and subsequently to 
make their exits with either a merry laugh or an outraged 

7. Direction: The brand which causes the lovers when they 
quarrel to plump themselves down at opposite ends of a 
table, to avert their faces from each other, and irritably to 
tap their feet. 



A comedy by Harry Young. Produced by Rex Carlton for 
7 performances in the Cort Theatre. 



Mary Boland 
John Harvey 
Don Gibson 


Del Hughes 
Dulcie Cooper 
Harold Grau 


Augusta Roeland 
Sammy Schwartz 
Ann Dere 

CHIEF Ben Loughlin 
POLICEMAN Dennis Bohan 


Joyce Mathetvs 
Dave Tyrrell 
Steven Gathers 

MR. PiLstrDSKi 

William David 
Forest Taylor, Jr. 

SYNOPSIS; The action takes place in the living-room of Mrs. Bar- 
rett's home in a small industrial city in the East. Act I. Late one summer 
afternoon. Act II. Early evening. One week later. Act III. 11 a.m. the fol- 
lowing day. 

Time: The present. 

Director: Coby Ruskin. 


T is A SAFE BET that the Rex Carlton who produced the 
gobbler is now going about proclaiming that the theatre is 
such a gamble that, compared with it, investing in New 
Jersey gold mines or even in the shell game is the zenith of 
wisdom. The plaint is a familiar one. Let some such tyro 
ambitiously put on something so bad that the stagehands 
have to hold their noses and he is nevertheless firmly con- 
vinced that, if the public does not flock to it, the fault is 
not his own but that of some mysterious and inscrutable 
element connected with the show business in general. 

If a man were to try to sell freezeless coolers and found 
that nobody would buy them, he would hardly allege that 
you never can tell about the icebox business. If he were 
to hawk wine glasses without bottoms and no purchasers 
showed up, he would not argue that it seemed to indicate 
that a man was a fool to go into the wine glass business. 
But if he puts on a play just as defective and cannot sell it, 

June 3, 1947 27 

he is positive that the state |o affairs is solely attributable 
to the fact that no one can guess what the theatre public 
will like. There have been countless such profound philos- 
ophers in the theatre's history and their number shows no 
signs of diminishing. The theatre is probably no more a 
gamble than many other businesses. But you can not play 
it and win if you haven't the equipment for it any more 
than you can win in the book publishing business if you 
can't read, despite some seeming evidence to the contrary. 
Consider the article which this Carlton had sublime faith 
in as a money-maker and which he hoped the public would 

The plot treated once again of the housing shortage, a 
topic that had already brought grim failure to all but one 
of the plays that dealt with it, and the one exception made 
little more than chicken-feed. In this case, the story was of 
a widow in need of funds who finds herself burdened with 
a large, expensive house. Though the uppish neighbor- 
hood frowns on the renting of rooms to outsiders, she takes 
in a pair of young men whom she has casually met on a 
bus, who can not find a place to live in, and whose rent 
money will come in handy. When the neighborhood raises 
objections, the newcomers profess to be relatives and all 
'seems to be resolved satisfactorily until various question- 
able friends of the twain put in an appearance. The up- 
shot is a police raid on the house in the belief that it is one 
of ill repute, with the chief of the protesting female neigh- 
bors loaded into the wagon with everyone else. The last 
act, as last acts have a way of doing in bad plays if not al- 
ways in life, straightens everything out but the investment 
of Mr. Carlton and his backers. 

In a preceding play called Tenting Tonight, the plot 
similarly had to do with a woman who met the housing 
shortage by taking in several young men who similarly 
pretended, when trouble came, to be relatives. Also, when 
things appeared again to be running smoothly, a number 
of their shady friends similarly showed up and similarly 
caused the chief of the protesting characters to conclude 
that the house was one of dubious morals. Tenting To- 

28 Open House 

night was duly and unanimously belted by the reviewers, 
closed after a short engagement, and lost its alL 

To continue the auditing. Harry Young, the author of 
Mr. Carlton's anticipated mint, may not, for all one knows, 
be a radio or movie writer but he writes like one. His 
dramatic-literary ability is eminently more suited to air 
programs and the films than to the stage. His humor is the 
kind that calls for a radio studio claque for appreciation, 
and his idea of dramatic line and situation the sort that, 
with a wholesale dose of the psychopathology presently 
admired by Hollywood injected into it, should make a 
passable Grade-Z picture. 

Mr. Carlton doubtless further imagined that by casting 
Mary Boland in the leading role he would have a marquee 
name that would rope in the customers. Miss Boland is an 
able and amusing comedienne and did as well as almost 
anyone else could possibly have done. But, with all her vir- 
tues, she is not an audience draw on her own, as was indi- 
cated by the quick collapse of The Greatest Of These, in 
which she had appeared only a few months before. Miss 
Boland, like almost any other actress, big or not so big, 
needs a good, or at least a poor but popularly magnetic, 
play to get people in to see her. And this Open House 
would scarcely have got them in even were she to have ap- 
peared in it along with Katharine Cornell, Sonja Henie, 
and Jumbo. Mr. Carlton, when and if he grows up in the 
theatre, will begin to realize such things. Meanwhile, he 
should have reflected that an actor or actress, however tal- 
ented, can no more bring in the money with a play that no 
one wants to see than a poker player, however expert, can 
rake in the chips with a single king or queen. He should 
have reflected, in short, on various such later day catastro- 
phes. There was Tallulah Bankhead, for example, and 
The Eagle Has Two Heads, which could not have turned 
a profit even had Tallulah done a strip-tease and chased 
Father Divine up and down the aisles, with Gypsy Rose 
Lee in hot pursuit. There was Spencer Tracy and The 
Rugged Path) who for all his potential following could not 
persuade the trade to come in. There was, in another di- 

June 3, 1947 29 

rection, even the great Bobby Clark Himself who could 
not do much, for all his popularity, with The Would-Be 
Gentleman. There was, too, Mr. Carlton should have med- 
itated, James Mason and Bathsheba, which could not draw 
even the actor's screen worshippers. And there were Mady 
Christians and Message For Margaret, Billie Burke and 
Mrs. January And Mr. Ex 3 Pauline Lord and Sleep My 
Pretty One, Ethel Barrymore and Embezzled Heaven, and 
many others. 

The theatre, in conclusion, will always be not only a 
gamble but a certain loss to men who do not approach it 
with at least the measure of caution with which they ap- 
proach a new barber or a new girl. Those who have thus 
approached it and who have added to caution some experi- 
ence and sagacity have got pretty rich from it, as the rec- 
ords from Palmer and Daly to the Klaw and Erlanger syn- 
dicate and Belasco and from Frohman, Savage, et al. 3 to a 
number of the producers today attest. There are even out- 
siders of some wit and sapience who have not found it to 
be such a dangerous investment: Howard Cullman, the 
tobacco tycoon, for one, whose shrewd guessing has picked 
three or four winners for every loser and who has derived 
goodly profits from putting his money into the box-office 
kind of plays and even the more risky musical shows. 

Mr. Carlton in the future should consult either a good 
fortune-teller or someone like Rodgers and Hammerstein. 


NO EXIT. JUNE 9, 1947 

A revival of the play by Jean-Paul Sartre. Produced by the 
On Stage group for 38 performances in the Cherry Lane 


VALET Glen Alvey 

GARQN Alexis Solomos 

ESXELLE Sally Sigler 

INEZ Brenda Ericson 

Scene: A living-room in Second Empire style. 
Director: Frank Corsaro. 


AHE PERSISTING PASSION of those mental giants who hold 
that drama is grossly unendurable save it be packed with 
profound thought continues to be the Frenchman, Sartre. 
Two specimens of his admired deep thinking had thus far 
been revealed to the local stage: this revived No Exit 
(Huis Clos) and The Flies (Les Mouches) . What, pre- 
cisely, are they like? 

No Exit shows us three persons condemned to spend an 
eternity in Hell in one another's close company. The three 
are a cowardly collaborationist in the last war, a female in- 
fanticide of loose sexual morals, and a distaff pervert. The 
action brings out the psychic torture and despair of the 
trio. The theme is stated in the line, "Hell is other peo- 
ple/' Aside from the facts that the tone and method of the 
play were long ago anticipated by the German Wedekind; 
that the dramatic scheme was subsequently utilized in a 
short Grand Guignol psychological play wherein three sim- 
ilarly ill-assorted people were locked in a dark cellar and, 
as in the Sartre exhibit, were overcome by the hopelessness 
of their plight; and that a more imaginative Frenchman 
might have thought of the greater and crueler irony of 
three extremely witty and too charming people faced with 
the boredom and misery of spending an eternity together 
aside from such points, let us engage the quality of the 
author's touted cerebral luxuriance. 

June 9, 1947 31 

That the play is partly filagreed with Existentialism, the 
pseudo-philosophical theory of human conduct of which 
Sartre is the shogun, has been sufficiently suggested in the 
critical prints. That this Existentialism, which gives into 
the individual's keeping his own freedom and destiny and 
denies the power over him of the various old social, na- 
tional, and upper-story gods, is an obvious brew of Kierke- 
gaard and Heidegger decorated with a Left Bank cherry is 
also sufficiently appreciated. And that, when the boozy ef- 
fect of the tipple wears off, it is seen to be little more than 
a strident recitation of the old maxim, "Man is the master 
of his own soul," embroidered with the platform gestures 
of Nietzsche, Robert Ingersoll and Isadora Duncan, is al- 
most as apparent. So much for that. 

We come to the afflatus of the play as more directly ex- 
pressed. Inquiring into the real motives for certain human 
behavior, Sartre argues that, though a man may find good 
reasons for having done a thing, ''fear and hatred and all 
the dirty little instincts one keeps dark" may also have 
been motives. As to the doctrine that "a man is what he 
wills himself to be," he retorts, "It is what one does, and 
nothing else, that shows the stuff one is made of/* And as 
to death, his philosophy is "One always dies too soon, or 
too late. And yet one's whole life is complete at that mo- 
ment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the sum- 
ming up. You are your life, and nothing else." These 
pearls of wisdom constitute the sum total of the play's in- 
tellectual content. One and all are platitudes, familiar 
from long restatement over the centuries, and no better, if 
as well, put than when "the late lamented Ed Howe, the 
sage of Kansas' Potato Hill, wrote them to fill out the bot- 
toms of his four-sheet monthly newspaper's columns. And 
as to the theme, "Hell is other people," that may be re- 
called from Gogol's (1809-1852) "Hell is not oneself but 

There you have a fair distillation of the rich, fresh men- 
tality of a play which elsewhere occupies itself with such 
brainy topics as the absence of tooth-brushes and bathroom 
facilities in the lower regions, with the hideousness of old- 

32 No Exit 

fashioned wine-red and green sofas, with a woman's lost 
feeling if she hasn't a vanity mirror, and with red faces 
that resemble tomatoes. 

The Flies, considerably the better of the two plays, is still 
another retelling of the Orestes-Electra legend couched in 
modern phraseology and contains what is described as Sar- 
tre's prescription for the deadly psychological malaise of 
such mortals as figure in No Exit. In the prescription the 
playwright's admirers detect an intellectual puissance even 
greater than that demonstrated in the latter play. 

Sartre's prodigiously original brain exercise in this case 
results in the philosophy that "once freedom lights its bea- 
con in a man's heart, the gods are powerless against him/' 
In other words, that when a man, having rid himself of the 
conventional sense of guilt and qualm, appreciates to the 
full that freedom is his birthright, the old forces of social 
and religious intimidation become no longer operative. 
And, as his fellow Existentialist and spokesman, Madame 
de Beauvoir, expands it, "The true use of freedom is to 
help others to freedom. In helping others Orestes helps 
himself as well, because in this way he achieves the tri- 
umph of individual freedom. People often do not accept 
their freedom because they are afraid." The exact nature 
of the virginal profundity inherent in the philosophy es- 
capes this moron. He seems to recall much the same thing 
years ago in the writings of the German-Czech Franz Kafka, 
notably in The Castle, etc., to say nothing of in those of the 
Kierkegaard aforesaid. Sartre's artifice is simply to state 
very positively, and thus impress those who react most 
readily to dogmatic expression, what his predecessors stated 
more moderately. The essence of the philosophy is, fur- 
thermore, scarcely startling. There were sufficient traces of 
it in Eckhart, Engels, Max Nordau, and many others long 
since gone. "He who is free and knows it knows no gods," 
wrote one of Sartre's famous fellow-countrymen more than 
three centuries ago. "Man is man only by his refusal to be 
passive," says Sartre. "Do not say I would, but say I will, 
that it may now be so/* said Eckhart more than six cen- 
turies ago. 

June 9, 1947 33 

That such and similar worn ideas should be regarded as 
noteworthy mental achievements is, nevertheless, not sur- 
prising. Even at their most familiar and obvious they are 
tablets from the mount in comparison with much of what 
passes for mentality in the drama of Broadway. After a 
starvation diet, even a slightly senescent pork chop seems 
pretty wonderful. We should not forget that Ibsen shook 
the claptrap reasoning of the English-speaking stage off its 
feet with ideas which, while strange to the theatre, were 
not materially above the intellectual level of a popular 
novelist. Nor should we forget that Shaw subsequently 
shook Ibsen off his feet in turn by heaving himself into 
the latter's domain and at the very outset staggering audi- 
ences far and wide with, for the first time from a stage, a 
facile parroting of doctrines culled from Schopenhauer, 
Nietzsche, and Marx. 

Sartre, of course, is no remotest, faintest Ibsen or Shaw, 
but he seems to be onto the trick of rubbing one platitude 
against another and producing what the credulous see as 
brilliant sparks. 


LAURA. JUNE 26, 1947 

A mystery play by Vera Caspary and George Sklar based on 
the former's novel of the same name. Produced by H. Clay 
Blaney in association with S. P. and R. P. Steckler for 45 
performances in the Cort Theatre. 





MRS. DORGAN Kay MacDonald 

A GIRL -K. T. Stevens 

OJ-SEN Walter Riemer 

Tom Rutherfurd 

SYNOPSIS; The setting is the living-room of Laura Hunt's apart- 
ment in New York City. Act I. An evening in August. Act II. The next 
morning. Act III. That night. 

Director: Clarence Derwent. 

OHORTLY BEFORE the play opened I came across a short 
story about a young Spanish girl of high birth who fell in 
love with a coachman. I had not got far into it before I 
encountered this further choice cliche: "A lady came up to 
me with outstretched hands and a bright smile on her lips. 
To the best of my knowledge, I had never seen her before 
in my life." This was quickly followed by another: "She 
was a fine figure of a woman, and I could well believe that 
in youth she had been beautiful/' Presently came still an- 
other, describing the young Spanish girl: "She was slim 
. . . with a red mouth and dazzling white teeth. The fire 
in her black eyes, the warmth of her smile, the seductive- 
ness of her movements suggested so much passion/' etc. 
Then another still: "A good many men, rich or noble and 
sometimes both, had asked Dona Pilar's hand in marriage, 
but notwithstanding her mother's remonstrances she had 
refused them/' Then yet another: "It was decided Pilar 
should be sent away to the country and kept there until 
she had recovered from her infatuation." And such others 
as "Nothing that anyone could say would induce her to 

June 26, 1947 35 

forsake the man she loved"; "The Duchess made a final 
appeal to her daughter. In vain"; "I told Pilar that she 
should get nothing from me. They can starve for all I 
care"; and "The Countess gave him a smile that would 
have turned the head of anyone who was not madly in 
love already/' And more. 

Since the author's name, following The New Yorker's 
policy, did not appear until the end of the story, I turned 
the pages to see who he could possibly be, having previ- 
ously concluded that he must be some hack whose manu- 
script had been bought long since in an off moment and 
which was now dug out of the drawer for use in the dead 
summer period when magazines, editors appreciate, are 
used mainly as table coasters for gin rickey glasses. It was, 
accordingly, something of a shock to discover that the 
writer was not the expected nonentity but none other than 
the customarily original and witty W. S. Maugham. 

It was, however, no slightest shock to discover that the 
authors of this Laura,, like the great majority of their kind, 
were given wholesale to the cliches of the standard mystery 
play. Let such evolve a plot of some interest, as in this 
case, and they nevertheless are pretty certain to dull it out 
of interest with repetitions of the routine characters, lines 
and stage business common to the dramaturgical species. 
Duly to be anticipated, for example, is the detective who 
will seize up the telephone on a call from Headquarters 
and monosyllabically ejaculate a startled "What? Where?," 
thus hypothetically agonizing the curiosity of the audience 
as to some new suspect. Duly to be expected is the business 
involving the villain's drawing of a gun to shoot the hero- 
ine, the sound of a shot, the revelation that it was fired 
not by the villain but by the detective warily concealed 
without, and the villain's collapse with a bullet in his arm. 
The comedy-relief household maid, the arbitrary periodic 
dousing of the lights, the vase on the mantelpiece in which 
something or other has been hidden, and in sufficient in- 
stances the walking-stick containing a sword, dagger, or re- 
volver may similarly be looked forward to. Often, also, one 
may anticipate the man-of-the-world character, attired in 

36 Laura 

the ultimate cry and a fellow of pusillanimous charm, who 
will be the repository of what the authors regard as a 
modish and biting wit, which will take such contours as 
defining this or that as the last refuge of a scoundrel and 
that or this as the final essence of barbarism. The phono- 
graph will be economically resorted to to supply anoma- 
lous incidental music to a tense scene; thrown in will be 
tokens of the authors' culture in the form of allusions to 
ceramics, Shostakovich, and the contemporary French 
novelists; and at least one scene will reveal the heroine in 
a silk pajama outfit so elaborate that it will take the audi- 
ence all of ten minutes to get its mind back on the play 

The story here is the murder of one woman in the belief 
that she is another and the disclosure that the culprit is a 
man who once sought to possess her, whose sexual impo- 
tence interfered with the realization o his passion, and 
who has done away with her to prevent any other man 
from achieving her. In more imaginative hands it might 
conceivably have been made into a taut and holding 
twitcher. But in these it has become simply another garru- 
lous and stenciled failure. Nor did the direction and act- 
ing relieve its torpidity. 



A revival of the play made from Washington Irving 9 s story 
by Dion Boucicault, revised by Herbert Berghof,, with in- 
cidental music by Andre Singer. Produced by the Com- 
pany of Twelve for 15 performances in the City Center 


GRETCHEX Grace Coppin 

MINNIE Jimsey Somers 

NICK VEDDER Martin Wolf son 


Byron McGrath 

PETER Edwin Bruce 

COCKLES lack Manning 

RIP VAN WINKLE Philip Bourneuf 
JACOB STEIN Jack Bittner 

TOWN CRIER Del Hughes 

SETH Jack Bittner 

EJV.TTE Haila Stoddard 

MINNTJE (grown up) Frances Reid 
PETER ( grown up ) Arthur Franz 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. The Village of Falling Waters, at the 
foot of the CatskiU Mountains. Scene 2. Inside Rip's house, that night. 
Scene 3. A path in the CatskiUs, later the same night. Scene 4. High up 
in the Catskitts, later still. Act II. Scene 1. High up in the Catskills, early 
morning. Scene 2. The path in the Catskitts. Scene 3. The Vfllage of FaU~ 
ing Waters. 

Director: Herbert BergJwf. 



LHE POSSE of ambitious players who optimistically in- 
stalled themselves in the municipal dramatic hot-spot as a 
repertory project opened up shop with a revised version of 
Joseph Jefferson's famous meal-ticket, and with one Bour- 
neuf in Joe's old role. I confess that I approached the oc- 
casion full of prejudice. Since this is obviously a shameful 
condition in any critic, I ask the reader either to stop read- 
ing at this point or, if he finds himself unable to resist the 
allure of my prose, to proceed at his own risk and doubt- 
less to his own annoyance. 

Rip is one of the most engaging of American legends 
and whatever the version or whoever the actor is bound to 
exercise at least a measure of its spell over an auditor. And 
here once again, despite miserable staging and direction, it 
did so. But while in this projection it may have been ac- 

38 Rip van Winkle 

cepted with some favor by members of the more recent 
generation it failed to enchant this older boy as it did in 
those distant days when Joe was in command of it. 

It isn't that Jefferson was any giant as an actor. Far from 
it. He was, in fact, rather an ordinary one, one whose range 
was notoriously limited and whose eminence was predi- 
cated largely on this single role. His performance as Bob 
Acres in The Rivals., his second most popular role, was a 
negligible one. But as Rip he triumphed for almost half a 
century and anyone who saw him can not see any other ac- 
tor in the part without wincing. There have been actors 
like that, actors whose personality, voice and manner, 
whatever the volume of their talents, have so stamped cer- 
tain roles that the latter become forevermore part and par- 
cel of them and in which subsequent actors seem to be 
gross intruders. James A. Herne in Shore Acres, William 
Gillette in Sherlock Holmes, and Kyrle Bellew in Raffles 
so closely identified the parts with themselves that, if one 
were to view any other actor, however able, in them, one 
would be sorely disquieted. And so, too, was it in the in- 
stances of James O'Neill and Monte Cristo, Denman 
Thompson and The Old Homestead, David Warfield and 
The Music Master, and George M. Cohan and any of his 

It was thus that, watching Bourneuf in Jefferson's shoes, 
I condoned my prejudice by recalling Hazlitt's words: "No 
wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; 
and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as 
if they were aged parents or monitors. They may in the 
end prove wiser than he/' Be that as it may, Bourneuf sim- 
ply was not on that stage so far as I was concerned. The 
years swept back their curtain and, for me, it was Joe who 
was giving his old, grand performance in my memory. 
There, as a youngster, I saw him again in all his long, lean 
lovableness and with all that odd, cajoling croak in his 
voice. There I saw him making off from his testy wife like 
a household dog half-sad to be driven from surroundings 
that, though intolerable, yet remained home. There I saw 
him waking from his long sleep in clothes absurdly tat- 

July 15, 1947 39 

tered, raising himself with those familiar Jeffersonian 
rheumatic calisthenics to his crooked height and squinting 
in disbelief at the Hudson gleaming below him. And there . 
still I saw him, bewhiskered and betalcumed like some 
starved Dutch Edmond Dantes, stumbling back to his 
changed fireside. What Bourneuf was like all this while, I 
do not know and do not much care to know. He may have 
been a good Rip or a poor one. Let the younger generation 
decide for themselves. But my prejudice played another 
Rip in his stead. I wasn't a critic that evening; I was the 
boy who had seen Joe Jefferson a dozen or more times in 
bygone Cleveland and Philadelphia, and that boy was not 
to be disturbed for a minute by anyone else in Joe's place. 

I am not, I think, derogating unduly the actor who 
hoped to wean my recollection and attention from Joe. In 
the years since Joe passed from the world, I have seen 
other actors in the role and they have been no more suc- 
cessful at the job. 

There were some added things I missed in the produc- 
tion. All the modern scenic improvements could not make 
up for that wonderful old scene in the Catskills at least 
it seemed wonderful then with the stage crammed with 
great trees and such a wealth of carpenter work on the 
mound on which Rip slept as under today's prices would 
bankrupt half the producers on Broadway. Maybe my im- 
agination is not what it used to be, but I also missed the 
warming old Dutch atmosphere that hovered over the stage 
in the early and late scenes. And I most certainly missed 
that thrilling old spectacle of the brown dwarfs with the 
thunder of their bowling balls so loud and detonating that 
it used to knock me out of my seat onto my best matinee 

If you think all this is just the sentimental maundering 
of a dodo, you are, I may inform you, in error. There are 
some shows and some actors that never were intended for 
adult criticism anyway, and Rip and Jefferson were among 
them. They were the stuffs of childish diversion and youth- 
ful wonder and as such they simply remain in any man 
worth his salt. Let any of my younger friends who saw the 

40 Rip van Winkle 

show for the first time solemnly assert that Bourneuf was 
Rip to the life and let them have their way and be damned. 
Let any such squirts say that Jefferson could not possibly 
have been better and that anyone who says he was is just 
living foolishly and forlornly in the past and let them have 
their way and be double-damned. They weren't in Car- 
cassonne. But we older fellows were and, whether in the 
peanut gallery or down in the orchestra, it was and it re- 
mains Joe for us. We are a lot of old sentimentalists? 
Twenty-three, skidoo! We are a lot of old fogys? You're 
off your trolley! We are pathetic worshippers of the past? 
Oh, you kid! We are just a lot of dodderers who don't 
know what we're talking about? Skedaddle! 

P.S. Judging from report, Bourneuf must have been 
pretty bad, since the show was forced to close after less than 
two weeks' performances, and the company's repertory 
project with it. 



A comedy by Charles Raddock and Charles Sherman. Pro- 
duced by John Morris Chanin for 12 performances in the 
International Theatre. 

P R O G H A M 


Carleton Carpenter 
KEN WHITE Burke McHugh 

CATHY TURNER Sara Anderson 



J. L. THOMPSON Howard Smith 
AMY THOMPSON Frances Comstock 
BAKER Le Roi Operti 

SYNOPSIS: The entire action of the plat/ takes place today, in the 
modest Uttle New York apartment of the Turners. Act I. Early autumn. 
Dinner hour. Act EL A week later. Afternoon. Act HE. An afternoon of 
the following month. 

Director: Herman Eotsten. 


N THE CASE of plays like this, it is the custom of many of 
the reviewers puzzledly to wrinkle their brows and to spec- 
ulate why the producers ever saw fit to put them on. The 
furrowing and speculating always impress me as being an 
unnecessary waste of time and effort. The producers, as 
Mr. John Morris Chanin in this instance, put them on be- 
cause they like them. 

Such bad plays are produced for the same reasons that 
some men marry women who everyone else knows will at 
the very least steal the change out of their trousers* pock- 
ets, and that the men who do not marry them occupy them- 
selves instead in throwing away their money on fixed prize 
fights, ten cent sex stories in the guise of three dollar his- 
torical novels, filet of flounder Marguery, and other such 
whimsical sure-things. They are produced, in short, be- 
cause their sponsors do not know any better, which infor- 
mation should earn me the undying gratitude of those of 
my colleagues who up to now have been frantically scratch- 

42 The Magic Touch 

ing their brains for the explanation and have been de- 
spairful at ever finding the answer. 

The Magic Touch is the kind of play and performance 
which beetleheads every once in a while loftily point to as 
indicating the superiority of the moving pictures to the 
theatre. That there may be some movies very much better 
than such a play I do not doubt, since if there are not, the 
movies would be just where the theatre would be if there 
weren't plays very much better. The movie champions, 
however, seem to be the sort of intellects that pick not the 
best plays to compare with the best pictures but the worst, 
which is much like saying that the food at the Colony is 
not anywhere nearly so good as that in the Metro-Goldwyn 
commissary because one of the rolls was found to be stale. 

But do not imagine for a moment that I am defending 
anything like The Magic Touch at the expense of the 
films. If the films seem to me to be unworthy of my atten- 
tion, The Magic Touch is unworthy not only of my atten- 
tion but of that of everyone else, including those who 
deem the films worthy of theirs. Without a germ of merit 
in any department, the thing deals with a young New York 
married pair who are living on a diminutive amount of 
money and with a publisher who gets the idea that a book 
describing the way they succeed in doing so would make a 
prodigious amount. It is true that ideas not materially 
more sensational have intermittently been the foundations 
of best-sellers* But it is nevertheless a safe guess that any 
book made up of such characters as figure in the Messrs. 
Raddock's and Sherman's contraption, even if they lived 
happily on a nickel a week, would soon find its way to the 
remainder counters. 

The staging of the script suggested that a director was 
dismissed in favor of a wind machine, and the acting tu- 
mult suggested that the wind machine was of cyclone 



A comedy by Joseph Fields and Ben Sher. Produced by 
Herbert H. Harris and Lester Meyer for 4 performances in 
the Cort Theatre. 


SWIFTY Reed Brown, Jr. 

BEENIE David Burns 

RADTKE HalNeiman 

TIMMTE John Conway 

FRANCES Eileen Larson 

GUSSIE Peggy Maley 

MARY Peggy Van Vleet 

MRS. CLARK Edith Meiser 

LARRY Ted Erwin 

DR. PERRIN Edwin Whitner 

CONSTANTS Richard ShanJdand 
STODDARD Harry K. Smith 

ANGEE Kenneth Forbes 


E. A. Rrumschmidt 
JAKE Don Grusso 

STEVE Griff Evans 

HOGAN Mickey Cochran 


JERRY Ralph Simone 

TOM HILL Donald Foster 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. A Bookmaker's poolroom, above a sta- 
ble. Late afternoon. Scene 2. The kitchen of Mrs. Clark's home in Nas- 
sau, Long Island. The next morning. Act n. Belmont Park. Early after- 
noon. Act HI. The kitchen of Mrs. Clark's home. A few hours later. 

Time: The present. 

Place: Greater New York. 

Director: Joseph Fields. 


L.MONG THE PONDEROUS number of American plays deal- 
ing with sports of various kinds, there have been very few 
that have been respectably entertaining. Of the many base- 
ball plays, the only one, aside from a scene or two in Elmer 
The Great, which contained any amusement was the short 
The Bull Pen, and that owed its humor to the same match- 
less Ring Lardner. Of the football plays, only George Ade's 
The College Widow has counted. The rest were mainly 
trash of the Strongheart sort. Plays about track athletics 
Paul Armstrong and Elliott Nugent confected specimens 
have been dismal, and so have plays about tennis like 
Fast Service. Rowing has produced only rubbish like 
Brown of Harvard, and prize fighting but one diverting ex- 

44 I Gotta Get Out 

hibit, Is Zat So? Golf has not attracted our stagewriters, 
though I recall one play years ago Frank Craven's The 
Nineteenth Hole that was something rather sinister. In 
the case of horse racing, the record is not materially better 
and indicates additionally that all sports are generally a 
lot better off out of doors. Of the numerous racing plays, 
Henry Blossom's Checkers was moderately amusing and 
the more recent Three Men On A Horse had its fairly hu- 
morous moments. But from the far-away years of In Old 
Kentucky, Blue Grass and The Whip through those of 
Wildfire and down to the later of The Odds On Mrs. Oak- 
ley and Horse Fever the entries have been chiefly selling- 
platers, with spavin. There is nothing in Mr. Fields' and 
Mr. Sher's contribution to alter the glum picture. Though 
the authors employ enough actors depicting racetrack and 
associated types to overflow a theatre stage and though all 
of them comport themselves with a zeal more appropri- 
ately hoped for in the horses, the show goes lame before 
the first act is half over. 

In the manipulation of plot, involving a trio of bookies, 
the playwrights have fallen back on the old troubled con- 
cern of the sweet young girl for her racetrack boy friend, 
which had served the aforesaid Checkers on its opening ex- 
actly forty-four years and three days before. Mixed with 
this is the business of the shady lot of characters who de- 
scend upon a respectable household and upset its equanim- 
ity, which in turn has served at least two dozen past plays, 
including such recent jewels as Tenting Tonight and Open 
House. And spread thickly over all is a track lingo often 
unintelligible to anyone not brought up in a stable and 
nourished on oats. This lingo, I am informed by close stu- 
dents, is furthermore frequently less an accurate duplica- 
tion of the real thing than a theatricalized and artificially 
colored paraphrase. A little of it, they tell me, is faithfully 
recorded, but more is phony. It is that way, apparently, 
with most of these sports argot plays. Not more than one 
out of twelve catches its vulgar speech with any degree of 
verity. The before-mentioned Lardner was, as everyone by 

September 23, 1947 % 45 

this time knows, probably the only playwright who has 
caught literally the idiom of the eccentric characters he 
dealt with. Ade invented a lingo that subsequently filtered 
into the popular speech. Lardner did not invent; he re- 
corded. (Damon Runyon, with a sharp ear, as his stories 
demonstrate, did not see fit to employ his considerable gift 
in the one or two plays on which he collaborated.) 

To the great majority of writers of sports jargon plays, 
the jargon seems simply to be a racket. Any such speech, 
however bogus, is resorted to by them to supply a charac- 
ter and background flavor which they can not otherwise 
manage. It is, they imagine, their easy way out, since it will 
impress as authentic the nine people in an audience out of 
every ten who know the particular lingo only vaguely. This 
holds true, moreover, not only of sports plays but of most 
plays given to a vernacular supposedly indigenous to them. 
And it holds equally true of a sizeable share of popular fic- 
tion. The playwrights posture as neo-Lardners merely on 
the score of changing every "yes" to "yeah" and every 
"girl" to "broad." They flatter themselves that they have 
hit off character with a beautiful sense of recognition by 
having recourse to such stuff as "pleased tuh meetya," 
"wuz she cold like a clam," or "shake me a hip, baby." And 
they further congratulate themselves on the precision of 
their recording ears with a gangster, sports and other pat- 
ois that no gangster, baseball player, ring pug or racetrack 
denizen would recognize or could possibly understand 
without an interpreter, who in all likelihood would not 
understand it either. 

The present authors, in addition, command no humor. 
When they are not laboring under the delusion that all a 
playwright has to do to achieve hilarious comedy is to have 
his characters endlessly hurl insults at one another, they in- 
dulge themselves in such material as "Let's form a bookie- 
of-the month club"; a female's sarcastic snap to her parsi- 
monious admirer, "I wouldn't give such a fur coat if I was 
an Eskimo"; and the rejoinder to a character's mention of 
the phrase, cum laude, "Come louder and funnier." 

46 / Gotta Get Out 

Among the players, only Edith Meiser and David Burns 
survived the direction, which resolved the evening into so 
athletically declamatory a performance that the stage re- 
sembled an auctioneers' gymkhana. 



A play by Theodore Ward. Produced by Eddie Dowling 
and Louis J. Singer for 41 performances in the Royale 


EDGAR PBICE Irving Barnes 

EMAKUEL PRICE Louis Peterson 
PATSY Ross Theresa Merritte 

JOE Ross Augustus Smith, ST. 


Emory Richardson 
ELLEN Valerie Black 

JAMES Harold Conklin 

DADDY SYKES Service Bell 

ROXANNA Mar go Washington 

DELPHINE Muriel Smith 

BEULAH Dolores Woodward 

RUTH Martha Evans 

MARTHA Paula Oliver 

ALICE Mary Lucille McBride 

FRED DOUGLAS Augustus Smith, Jr. 

MINNIE Blanche Christopher 

SARAH EsteUe RoUe Evans 

JOSHUA TAIN William Veasey 

GEORGANA Virginia Chapman 

DOSIA Edith Atuka "Reid 

Or .T.TF WEBSTER Richard Angarola 
LEM Chauncey Reynolds 

CHESTER Edmund Cambridge 

HANK SAUNDERS Charles Lilienthal 


SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. A cave on a road to Savannah, eve- 
ning, January, 1865. Scene 2. The forge on an island of the coast of 
Georgia an afternoon two days later. Scene 3. The island three months 
later. Scene 4. April 14, 1865. Scene 5. That evening. Act II. Scene 1. 
The island a week later. Scene 2. Six weeks later. Scene 3. Several 
months later. Scene 4. A week later. Scene 5. The following, afternoon. 

Director: Eddie "Dowling. 

J.RODUCED EXPERIMENTALLY the season before down in the 
little Henry Street Settlement theatre and now placed on 
view in a professionally staged and directed presentation, 
the play was to be commended to those many among us 
who, like this recorder, have latterly been inclined to side- 
step the Negro drama which has been ladled out in over- 
dose, which has usually traversed already too well-kenned 
ground, and which has become a little tiresome in its too 

48 Our Lan 

frequent harping on the Intolerance and equality theme. 
There are those of us, indeed, who have thought that one 
more play by a white author stoutly contending that there 
is no difference between a George Washington Carver and 
a George Washington Hill would be rather more than we 
could intelligently bear. And when it came to Negro play- 
wrights, one more despondently deploring the fact that 
whites do not treat Marian Anderson with the same respect 
which they show Liz Billing or Broadway Rose would, we 
felt, have a similar effect on us. For this later day tendency 
in literature and the drama to denounce discrimination 
between the races and to beseech us to accept a Booker T. 
Washington or a W. E. Burghardt Du Bois as the equal of 
a Bugsy Siegel has influenced us considerably less to any 
commiseration than to a derisory guffaw. What most often 
has been lacking in the plays by Negroes has thus been 
self-respect, and in those by whites, sense. And in both, 
poise. Melodrama has taken the place of rationality; indig- 
nation has been substituted for perception; and the the- 
matic game has been played with deuces wild and the 
joker. The result has been mere sound and fury, signify- 
ing nothing but sociological drama in burnt cork. 

Ward, a Negro, and his play about Negroes are, how- 
ever, in a class apart. Commingling power with pity, pride 
with humility, and hope with despair, the story, reinforced 
with song, tells simply and affectingly of the Negroes who 
were given land in Georgia by General Sherman after his 
Civil War operations in that territory, of the subsequent 
decision of the Federal government to take it from them, 
of their struggle to hang on to it and of their final compul- 
sory relinquishment of it, along with their trustful but 
defeated efforts to cultivate it to their economic independ- 
ence. The natural tragic force of the theme is immeasur- 
ably greater and much more impressive than the artificial 
soapbox force of all the recent Negro propaganda plays 
rolled into one. 

One of the relative merits of the play is the manner in 
which the folk songs often have been made to seem a nat- 
ural and integral part of it. In many a Negro play we have 

September 27, 1947 49 

seen, the songs appear to have been incorporated arbitrar- 
ily and have had an unmistakable air of having been fallen 
back upon to fill in gaps in the dramaturgy and to distract 
the auditor from the plays* temporary weaknesses. Ward, 
on the other hand, has utilized them not as such deceptive 
raisins in a half-baked cake but honestly to hearten and 
forward his dramatic action and to color his theme interi- 
orly. In the more usual Negro exhibit, the songs are em- 
ployed much as songs were in the older lesser musical com- 
edies, to break up dialogue in danger of becoming tedious 
and to bridge with a presumptive acceptability the empty 
stretches between the love scenes and the comedian's pratt- 
falls. Whenever in such Negro plays there has been fear of 
plot drooping or of internal color fading, song has been 
rushed into the breach, with the consequent impression 
that one has had some trouble deciding whether one has 
been invited to attend a drama or a minstrel show periodi- 
cally interrupted by a dramatic plot. 

Another of die play's virtues is the author's control of 
emotion. While it is present in plenty, it never is allowed 
to get out of hand and overweigh itself. In the average Ne- 
gro drama, an excess of emotion is merchanted on the du- 
bious theory that it is characteristic of the Negro, and what 
results is only a lot of bad melodrama masquerading as the 
natural expression of Negro character. That the Negro is 
a more emotional person than his average white counter- 
part may be true. But the theatrical notion that he invari- 
ably conducts himself, in both his serious and lighter mo- 
ments, after the manner of a figure in the old-time gallery 
melodramas made up with black greasepaint is surely open 
to question. Any such notion, I think, is a dramatic skin 

A third merit is Mr. Ward's beginning of his play at the 
very beginning and not, as is so frequently the habit among 
our playwrights, dawdling until such a time as the play- 
wright anticipates that the audience will be wholly in and 
that quiet will have settled over the house. As almost ev- 
eryone knows, it is a cardinal article of the American The- 
atrical Credo that an audience never under any circurn- 

50 Our Lan 

stances Is in Its seats on time, and that an opening night 
congregation especially is always so tardy that the second 
act sometimes starts before it is fully assembled. I have 
been going to the theatre for more years now than even a 
venerable elephant can probably remember and I may re- 
port that, while the Credo's article is occasionally true, it is 
in most cases no more accurate than that other of its arti- 
cles which maintains that the Cinderella plot, if handled at 
all well, is always good for money at the box-office. 

The normal audience, when and if the house is full, is 
composed o about one thousand people, and that includes 
the mezzanine, balcony, boxes, etc. Some of these people 
are a little late in arriving, but their number is generally 
in proportion no greater than that which is late in catching 
trains or, surely, for dinner engagements. I should guess 
that about ten to twenty would be a fair estimate. And it is 
the same on opening nights. Since, moreover, the curtains 
on the latter occasions are usually delayed anyway, it makes 
small difference. My casual check of premiere audiences 
last season showed that not more than twelve people on 
the average were not in their seats when the play eventu- 
ally began. But so ingrained is the conviction that at least 
half the audience is still not seated when the curtain rises 
on opening nights, and that at least one-fifth is still out 
gobbling its dinner spaghetti on subsequent nights, that 
playwrights, with their producers* eager concurrence, write 
the first five or ten minutes of their scripts with the notion 
firmly imbedded in their crania. The consequence is that 
one-third of the new plays back and fill in killing time to 
bridge the imaginary period and in the process not only 
ruin what should be their immediate effect but make the 
large majority of folk already in their seats disgruntled to 
the point of cursing. 

Though the practice is not altogether new, it has been 
retained in later years to what seems, in view of an audi- 
ence's increased sophistication, a gratuitous degree. In the 
older era, it may be recalled, playwrights used to tide over 
the audience's theoretical late arrival by having a maid 
character industriously dust off and polish the furniture 

September 27, 1947 51 

which a program note informed us had just been contrib- 
uted spick and span by one of the smart furniture shops of 
the time. Or, if they were persuaded that no audience ever 
conceivably materialized until around nine o'clock, by aug- 
menting the maid with a butler and causing the pair, once 
the extended dusting and polishing were accomplished, to 
enter into a lengthy disquisition on the family's person- 
nel, habits, morals, general idiosyncrasies, and pet canary. 
Though playwrights are no longer quite so obvious, they 
are still obvious enough. Instead of the maid and the but- 
ler solo or in combination, they resort to such manifest 
dodges as a long-held empty stage amplified after a spell 
with the protracted ringing of a telephone, or a radio that 
howls until a character belatedly comes on and turns it off, 
or a character who enters and strolls around the stage look- 
ing at the objets d'art until the mistress of the household, 
who the maid allows will be down in a jiffy, appears all 
of four minutes later, or something equally routine and 

The formula has become stereotyped. First, the empty 
stage. Then, if not the telephone bell or the radio, the but- 
ler who ushers in a caller. "Thank you very much, Perkins. 
I telephoned Miss Daphne. Is she in? 1 * "I believe she is, sir; 
111 see." "Is Mrs. Vanderbatten at home?" "I don't know, 
sir; 111 find out." "Today is her day, isn't it?" "Yes, sir, I 
believe it is, sir. Ah, I see through the window that Miss 
Daphne is sitting in the garden," "But Mrs. Vanderbat- 
ten?" "Yes, I see her sitting in the garden with Miss 
Daphne." "Will you kindly tell them I am here? Say Mr. 
Mosebeam," "Yes, sir, immediately." "Don't hurry, Per- 
kins, they may be consulting on something or other, and I 
hesitate to disturb them until they are finished." And so 
on. By this time, one of two things has happened. Either 
the audience has made up its mind, often correctly, that 
the play is going to be a calf's liver, or it has begun to doze 
off ahead of schedule. 

It is a peculiarity of our relatively better playwrights 
that some of them are frequently the greatest offenders in 
this respect. Convinced that everything they write is so 

52 Our Lan 

priceless that an audience must not miss a single word of 
it, they safeguard their great treasures with a wealth of such 
delaying tactics. The lesser playwrights, on the other hand, 
who are simply out for the audience's money, more often 
get down to business at once, and to the devil with the peo- 
ple who come in late. Owen Davis, in, as I recall, At 8:45, 
thus lifted the curtain with a wild pounding on a library 
door, the smashing into the room of half a dozen charac- 
ters, their headlong rush to a closet door, its pulling open, 
and the tumbling out of a murdered body, all within a 
space of two minutes flat. And I believe it was in some- 
thing called The Donovan Affair he started bang off 
with a scene in which one of the characters seated around 
a table extinguished the lights to display the luminosity of 
a precious stone and without further ado was stabbed to 

I do not say that O'Neill ought to take under advise- 
ment a play in which his favorite dramatic philosophical 
influence, Mother Earth, would assume human form and 
seize all his confused and soul-searching characters to her 
bosom the moment the first curtain goes up. Nor do I sug- 
gest that George Kelly or any of our other more reputable 
playwrights lift the curtain on the spectacle of the husband 
telling off his psychopathically base wife for what she is 
and filling in the rest of the evening with flashbacks. What 
I do say and suggest is merely that they and their col- 
leagues in the art of respectable theatrical fare learn that 
nine hundred and eighty people out of a thousand are usu- 
ally present when a play begins and that to treat the nine 
hundred and eighty as infants and morons until the other 
twenty show up is a not particularly substantial idea. What 
the lesser playwrights do is not, of course, of much critical 
account. But, whether of such account or not, I confess to 
having a lot of good will toward those among them who 
have indicated that they appreciate that when an audience 
pays out its good four dollars and eighty cents for two 
hours and fifteen minutes of entertainment, it is a swindle 
to cheat it out of ten minutes or thirty-seven cents' worth 
of it. 

September 27, 1947 53 

So much for Ward's play's credits. Its debilities lie in an 
over-expansion of and repetitiousness in three of its later 
scenes which, though they have been a bit tightened in this 
production, call for a deal more editing; and in an inter- 
mittent copy-book flavor in the writing. While most of the 
latter avoids stenciled expression, there occasionally ob- 
trude such poetastrical passages as "Pride without love is 
like a body without a soul; it's like a flower without the 
sun; soon turns yellow, shrivels up and dies." The episode 
in which the heroine relates the circumstances of her se- 
duction and the imminence of offspring additionally fol- 
lows the pattern of phraseology conventional to the situa- 
tion over the long years and edges dangerously close to 
comedy. The author, being yet not too expert in drama- 
turgy, furthermore permits his tragedy to end on a dimin- 
ishing note which, while it in more able hands might still 
have managed a sense of purge and spiritual exaltation, 
presently tends to give the audience instead a feeling of 
let-down and dramatic depression. Had he, as counterpoint 
to the despairful duet of his hero and heroine, shown the 
white Northern schoolteacher leading the little Negro chil- 
dren over the high island ridge to the mainland and to the 
possibilities of a Negro future, he might better have served 
both his final curtain and his play. But to all such sugges- 
tions he remained, as is often the habit of novices, ada- 
mant. Yet despite such lapses the drama over-all sounds 
well its eloquent, tragic song. 

Mr. Dowling, who was mainly responsible for giving the 
play its professional hearing, directed it out of a small 
measure of its earlier lack of cohesion and guided it dra- 
matically to somewhat more secure ends, though the stage 
lighting was at times so carelessly handled that some of the 
otherwise apt manipulation lost its effect. Except for Wil- 
liam Veasey in the leading male role, whose performance 
missed all sense of timing and was generally of an unre- 
lieved rigidity, along with an actor or two in minor roles, 
he also improved the performances of those players whom 
he had brought uptown and added a desired professional 
note in the happy recasting of certain other parts which in 

54 Our Lari 

the experimental production were handled in slipshod am- 
ateur fashion. 

There was considerable criticism arguing that the play 
was better in its original simple mounting than in this 
more elaborate production. Just how a play can be better 
or worse than it factually is in any kind of physical pres- 
entation, I somehow can not figure out. It may, true, be a 
better theatrical show in one production than in another, 
but if the play itself is not still the same play I have lost 
what critical sanity I once suspected I had. 



A play, based on Henry James 9 novel, Washington Square, 
by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. Produced by Fred F. Finkle- 
hoffe for the rest of the season's performances in the Bilt- 
more Theatre. 


MARIA Fiona O'Shiel 


Basil Rathbone 

Patricia CoHinge 


Katharine Raht 

MARIAN ALMOND Augusta Roeland 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. An October evening. Scene 2. Two 
weeks later. Scene 3. The following day. Act II. Scene 1. Sir months 
later. Scene 2. Two hours later. Scene 3. Three days later. Scene 4. A 
summer evening. Two years later. 

Time: About 1850. 

Place: The front parlor of Dr. Slopers home in Washington 
Square, New York. 

Director: Jed Harris. 


JLHE RECENT revival of interest in the writings of Henry 
James will scarcely be further promoted by this dramatiza- 
tion of his novel Washington Square under the paper-back 
title The Heiress. It is not that the playwrights have been 
too disobedient to his theme, which is of so commonplace 
a nature that any transgression does not matter much the 
one way or the other; nor is it that they have done any ma- 
jor violence to most of his characters, at least externally. It 
is simply that, through the imagined strictures of their me- 
dium, they have so scissored and scattered his style and in- 
tent that what was literature becomes litter. 

I appreciate that this is the conventional criticism of 
many such efforts to transplant a literary work to the stage. 
I also appreciate that with repetition it has become a little 
wearisome to customers of the critical art. But, though it 
may possibly be tricked now and then into some novelty of 

56 The Heiress 

expression and passed off on the less foxy reader for some- 
thing fairly original, it remains the old simple fact and 
as such is best to be expressed simply and without fancy 

It is the custom of the theatre in periods of disquiet and 
discontent to hark back, not without a commercial gleam 
In its eye, to periods of greater tranquillity. The theory in 
the case is that the mood of tranquillity will be inculcated 
in an audience with such consummate effect that it will be- 
come blissfully oblivious of its earlier unrest. The theory 
most often does not work any better than one which might 
maintain that plays in a period of ease and contentment 
which were full of bloody alarms would make audiences 
feel like committing suicide on the spot. Once in a while 
a play laid in the untroubled yesterdays may, it is true, di- 
vert an audience from its immediate worldly concerns. But 
the play that does so has to have something more than 
handsome old-fashioned stage settings and costumes, wist- 
ful allusions to institutions long since gone their purple 
way or whimsical references to sirloin steaks at ten cents a 
pound, and the emotions of innocent adolescence incor- 
porated into characters of adult exteriors. The average 
play of the species has little more than that and what nos- 
talgia it evokes in its spectators is induced very much less 
by its elaborately contrived echo of distance than by some 
such minor stage property as a humorously recalled hand- 
painted cuspidor or a sentimentally recollected old brocade 

The weakness of The Heiress lies not only in at least 
one such direction but in the circumstance that its story, 
laid in the middle iSoo's, is not, as was that, say, of Life 
With Father y particularly flavorous of its period and might 
just as closely fit 1948 as 1848 or 1850. What it is to all stage 
intents and purposes is merely another version of the old 
plot of the bitter father who breaks up his daughter's love 
affair with a young man on the ground that the latter is a 
fortune hunter, of the desertion of the suitor when he 
learns that the girl may be disinherited, of his eventual 
contrite return, and of her realization of his worthlessness 

September 29, 1947 57 

and her rejection of him. In other words, if stripped of its 
mid-nineteenth century stage trappings, indistinguishable 
from a mid-twentieth century copy laid in a house on Fifth 
or Park Avenue. For the notion that such people as figure 
in the play and period must invariably have spoken with 
a tongue approximating that of Henry James is akin to 
the notion that such as figure in similarly placed plays to- 
day generally speak with one like Harry James'. The moral 
philosophy of the James fiction and of the play freely made 
from it, along with much of the conduct of the chief char- 
acters, finds its counterpart, moreover, in the drama of 
more recent times. And so it is that the exhibit intrinsi- 
cally impresses one as being largely a stale contemporary 
play whose staleness has been optimistically camouflaged 
in the setting and dress of a bygone era. 

Aside from Life With Father, most of the attempts in 
later seasons to recapture the sentimental essence of the 
past, though here and there commercially successful, have 
missed much critical satisfaction. I Remember Mama, 
while it had its pleasant points, amounted in the aggre- 
gate to little more than a box-office shrewdly draped with 
antimacassars, hung with chromos of an old-time San Fran- 
cisco, and perfumed with the smell of homemade cookies. 
Years Ago, though it similarly enjoyed its moments, man- 
ufactured its atmosphere largely with incorporated allu- 
sions to personages and events of its period, and with such 
obvious properties as unfamiliar telephones, two-pound 
gold watch chains, and the like. The Damask Cheek, for 
all some graceful prose, had the aspect of a revival of one 
of Pinero's minor comedies strainfully adapted to the 1909 
American scene with such lines as "She's been to the thea- 
tre Sothern and Marlowe," "She went with Michael to 
the Bioscope and the Judge took her to hear Burton 
Holmes," and "I'd been to see The Easiest Way only the 
week before." The Old Maid> laid in the middle iSoo's, 
was, by the consent of everybody but the Pulitzer prize 
committee, unadulterated dramatic rubbish of "The child 
didn't know who her parents were; only that she was a 
foundling whom a family had taken in" sort. And The 

58 The Heiress 

American Way,, laid in 1896 and the years following, was 
a fabricated eye-wetter larded with the names of Mark 
Twain, Admiral Dewey, William Jennings Bryan, McKin- 
ley, Mark Hanna, etc., with such songs as "I'm Afraid To 
Go Home In The Dark" and "Down Where The Wurz- 
burger Flows," and with references to St. Nicholas maga- 
zine and Lillian Russell cigars. Nor were any of the other 
efforts to melt the trade critically any better. 

It is the same with this The Heiress. All that it sums 
up to is a pair of Raymond Sovey's heavy velour window 
drapes drawn aside to let in a windy love story whose age 
is condoned by laying it in a period when it was theatri- 
cally fresher. Jed Harris' staging, now and then excellent, 
more generally dispirits the evening by sinisterly treating 
the script as if most of its characters were in imminent 
danger of being foully murdered. Basil Rathbone's por- 
trayal of the stern father is ably accomplished, but Wendy 
Hiller in the role of the daughter, while at times valid, re- 
lies too greatly on coy inhalations to suggest the character's 
shyness and on sudden natural breathing to indicate mo- 
mentary assurance. Peter Cookson is smooth as the fortune 
hunter; Patricia Collinge, though given to believing that 
there is nothing like a persistent smile and a head cocked 
slightly backwards to register an enormous ebullience of 
spirit, is at least one of the few actresses on our stage who 
does not pronounce "at all" as if it were a ring-like coral 
island inclosing a lagoon; and the others acquit themselves 


A play by Donald Ogden Stewart. Produced by Ruth Gor- 
don and Garson Kanin in association with Victor Samrock 
and William Fields for 63 performances in the Hudson 



"Raymond Massey 

Everett Sloane 



Carol Goodner 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. After dinner in early June of this year. Act II. 
Six the next afternoon. Act IE. Eight that night. 

Scene: The roof -top of the home of Professor Lemuel Stevenson. 
Director: Garson Kanin. 


Bethel LesUe 

Byron McGrath 

DR. HTT.T.KR John Sweet 

LISA Meg Mundy 



LR. STEWART has been spending the last fifteen years in 
Hollywood as a writer for the moving pictures. It is appar- 
ent that, like many another writer for the moving pictures 
in Hollywood, he has been thinking. Thinking is the fa- 
vorite extra-professional exercise of such literati, particu- 
larly those who before their fall were on the way to doing 
creditable work. 

The thinking uniformly takes a single course. It as- 
sumes the form of a resolve to achieve absolution and 
regain self-respect through a piece of writing, generally 
dramatic, which will attest to the fact that prolonged im- 
mersion in Hollywood has not, as is offensively supposed, 
rotted what brains the thinker may previously have had 
and that, on the contrary, he is still possessed of the upper- 
crust talents which for so long he condescendingly sacri- 
ficed to pecuniary riches. 

The cerebration, flowering, thereupon develops into two 

60 How I Wonder 

bouquets. First, its impresario concludes that his dramatic 
rebirth must take the shape of a performance which will 
be so markedly oppugnant to everything in any manner 
even distantly associated with the screen that people will 
be transportedly set back on their tails by his inner con- 
tempt for the medium and by his re-divulgation of his old, 
real, admirable self, for years so lamentably suppressed. 
Secondly, he cautiously decides, the performance must nev- 
ertheless, despite its immaculate design, have in it elements 
contributing to commercial success, since if it were to fail 
he might not get an invitation to return to Hollywood and 
would find himself with his chemise hanging out. Our cog- 
itator thus frequently becomes the victim of his own con- 
fusion and what he writes is neither fish, flesh nor fowl, but 
only a marinated herring trailed across the road between 
the films and the stage. His cerebral fruit, moreover, 
which in his Hollywood surroundings has impressed him 
as a veritable bolt from the blue and as something intellec- 
tually revolutionary, has long since, he gloomily discovers, 
become a platitude, and a doddery one, in the more cog- 
nizant region of the drama. His dramatic devices, which 
seemed to him so remarkably original and imaginative in 
the stereotyped atmosphere of the pictures, have, he learns, 
been employed time and again in the years he has been ab- 
sent in that incinerator of talent. And even his commercial 
sense, so fully developed in him by his film bosses, is often 
at severe odds with that of the more sophisticated theatre 
box-office. He finds himself, in short, in the position of one 
who has been a prodigy in the films and who, attempting 
to graduate himself from the intellectual low grade, is 
shocked to realize that he is still just a Quiz Kid, without 
the answers. 

Mr. Stewart, who before he allowed Hollywood to pos- 
sess him wrote one or two witty and humorous books and 
even a comedy that contained some fair amusement, is the 
latest example of what happens to many of these doomed 
fellows. 'His apologia pro vita sua is called How I Wonder, 
is labeled a comedy, and reflects his confusion by being no 
comedy at all but, if anything, a fantasy, and as such itself 

September SO, 1947 61 

so utterly confused that it might as well be called anything 
from a travesty to a greased pig chase with no damage 

So far as one is able to penetrate the muddle, it seems to 
concern a professor who champions the brotherhood of 
man in terms of astronomy, who consults with a male char- 
acter representing his mind and with a female from an- 
other planet representing his emotions, and who gets into 
difficulties with his college for his resulting ideas, which is 
not surprising. These ideas, intimated to be of enormous 
weight, are not, however, imparted to the audience, Mr. 
Stewart playing safe by merely assuring the latter that they 
are something pretty special and dropping his curtain 
whenever their mouthpiece is about to reveal them. Mixed 
up with all this are the author's Brown Derby musings on 
the perils inherent in the atom bomb, the advisability of 
trusting one's heart rather than one's brain, the responsi- 
bility of the individual in the restoration of a lasting peace 
to the world, the danger implicit in shirking one's duties 
in that direction, and similar overpoweringly unique top- 
ics. And further churned into the concoction, as the reader 
will have perceived, are such deciduous plot materials as 
the liberal professor in conflict with reactionary authority 
(the last recent example was Parlor Story) , such crumbling 
devices as the personification of mind or conscience (vide 
Overtones, The Great God Brown, Peep Show, etc.) , such 
characters as the mysterious visitor from another planet 
(The Red Light Of Mars, Venus, A Messenger From Mars, 
and a dozen others) , and an attempt at Shavian irony 
which consists in having the hero confidently proclaim the 
opposite of what intelligent people intelligently think. A 
contemplation of Mr. Stewart's mentality, in brief, must 
inevitably recall the old story of the man who had prom- 
ised to bring his friend a parrot on his return to France 
from a visit in America. Arrived home, he suddenly be- 
thought him that he had neglected his promise, went out, 
purchased an owl, painted it green, and presented it to his 
friend. Two weeks later, encountering the latter, he tim- 
idly ventured to inquire how the parrot was and if he 

62 How I Wonder 

talked yet. "Talk? No," answered the friend. "But he 
surely thinks a great deal." 

Garson Kanin, who directed the play, made a valiant ef- 
fort to clarify it and bring it into some intelligible design. 
Though he worked some mild order into the chaos, it was 
far from enough. What we got remained an exhibit whose 
author had pretentiously reached for the stars, both liter- 
ally and figuratively, and who had brought down only a 
bunch of Kleig lights, all burnt out from Hollywood over- 

Raymond Massey and the rest of the company were up 
against a tough assignment. That they did not break out 
with laughter at the absurdity of it was a credit to their 
professional acting training, if not to their, intelligence. 



A play by William Wister Haines. Produced by Kermit 
Bloomgarden for the rest of the season's performances in 
the Fulton Theatre. 



James Whitmore 

BRQCKHURST Edition By an 


Paul Kelly 



West Hooker 

Arthur Franz 


GARNETT Paul McGrath 

The entire action of the play takes place in the office of Brigadier 
General K. C. Dennis at the headquarters of the 5th American Bombard- 
ment Division, Heavy, in England. 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. About 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. Act II. 
Scene 1. About 10 p.m. the same evening. Scene 2. Sunday noon, the fol- 
lowing day. Act HI. Sunday, the same day. About 8 p.m. 

Director: John O'Shaughnessy. 



Stephen EUiott 

John Randolph 

Lewis Martin 

Walter Black 


James H olden 



LHE BEST of the American plays to come out of World 
War II remains Harry Brown's^ Sound Of Hunting. Here 
is three-fourths of an effective runner-up. Drawing on a 
first-hand knowledge of his subject matter, Mr. Haines 
tells the story of a commander of a heavy bomber outfit 
whose single purpose is to wipe out the three potentially 
dangerous jet-plane factories deep in German territory 
and beyond the range of fighter cover and who, because of 

64 Command Decision 

the enormous loss of lives and materiel involved, is op- 
posed by politically minded officials in Washington. These, 
despite his sound and resolute conviction that the sacrifice 
is vital to the winning of the war and the ultimate sparing 
of countless men, contrive his dismissal and the installa- 
tion in his place of a commander who may be more tracta- 
ble. But the latter, persuaded of his predecessor's accurate 
judgment, gives orders to pursue the third of the missions, 
come hell or high water. 

This main dramatic current is handled by the author 
with a firm audacity, with a complete honesty, and with a 
sharp dramatic drive. Three-fourths of his play, which hew 
to his line, are thus consequently not only good theatre but 
alive drama, if of a fundamentally recognizable nature. 
But in the belief that some sentimental relief is essential to 
theatrical success, he drags in for the other fourth a mess of 
moist hokum about solicitous wives back home, the birth 
of a son to one of the fliers, and kindred hearts-and-flowers 
stuff which horns into his drama's forthright quality and 
lends it that greasepaint softness which has been character- 
istic of so many English war plays and which has made 
them appear to be collaborations between a military man 
and a second-rate actress. It is not that the sentiment may 
not in itself be true. It is once again simply that it is not 
made to seem so by the playwright and that it accordingly 
impresses orie as having been mechanically lugged into the 
play much as a torch song is incorporated into a musical 
show to lend contrast and give relief to a succession of 
hotsy-totsy numbers. It produces the feeling that the drama 
has gone off on intermittent furloughs, since on its several 
returns it takes it some time to pick up where it left off 
and to get going again. 

Aside from these unfortunate interludes, however, Mr. 
Haines has written directly, forcibly, and without compro- 
mise. He is tough without being common, and melodra- 
matic without being cheap. He has accomplished, further, 
a realistic duplication of his characters' hard speech with- 
out recourse to the usual extended profanity and pseudo- 
colorful obscenity. When he has need of such expression, 

October l y 1947 65 

it proceeds in both its dramatic and humorous phases from 
what is acceptable as unvarnished character delineation. 
Even when there is a trace of seeming exaggeration, as in 
the case of the pair of Congressmen visiting command 
headquarters, the character drawing is basically true 
enough. The general writing may not have much distinc- 
tion and the play by any scrupulous standard of criticism 
may be amiss, but, apart from its periods of sentimentality, 
it manages somehow to lift itself above critical deprecia- 
tion while in stage action and to seem for the time being 
superior to itself. Which is always a good trick if a play- 
wright can do it. 

The circumstance that a play may be of some recognized 
theatrical merit does not, however, always necessarily guar- 
antee that a critic who properly records the fact will find it 
personally engrossing. This, in my case, is to some extent 
such a play. It is, as I have duly noted, possessed of its un- 
mistakable virtues, but a considerable share of its detail, 
also duly noted as being unquestionably authentic, eludes 
my equipment of appreciation. Professionally, I respect the 
author's extensive knowledge of his subject matter in so 
far as it concerns everything from precision bombing to 
meteorological data and from the nature of targets and 
enemy resistance to aviation mortality statistics. But per- 
sonally I remain a theatre attendant who is not especially 
fascinated by the topics. While bowing to Mr. Haines' edu- 
cation in such directions, I do not find them dramatically 
stimulating. It is the same with books. Give me the ablest 
book ever written on some such subject as the ice-flows in 
the Polar regions or the love life of Zapus hudsonius and, 
though my respect for it may be of unheard of proportions, 
I will give it right back to you. The critic and the man, for 
all the tempting argument to the contrary, are sometimes 
two different creatures. It is one thing to appreciate that 
a play is good; it is occasionally and refractorily another 
thing to enjoy it. 

The acting company, with one exception, is excellent, 
notably Paul Kelly as the Patton of the air forces, James 
Whitmore as his ribald technical sergeant, Jay Fassett as 

66 Command Decision 

his fearful superior in command, Stephen Elliott as a self- 
less colonel loyal to his chief, Lewis Martin as a cynical ma- 
jor of intelligence, Paul Ford as a Congressional stuffed- 
shirt, and James Holden as a youthful flier. The exception 
is Paul McGrath in the role of the ambitious brigadier 
general who succeeds to the command of the Fifth Bom- 
bardment Division. McGrath, as is his habit, so attitudi- 
nizes and so enchants himself listening to the solovox tones 
which he manufactures out of his larynx that one misses 
the entrance of Dorothy Kirsten to serve him in a duet. 
John O'Shaughnessy's direction is fully competent save at 
such times as he indulges the actors in long pauses and 
studious perambulations to suggest their seizures of deep 
and troubled concern. Jo Mielziner's setting and lighting 
are appropriately realistic. 



A "romantic musical play" with Tchaikovsky music 
adapted by Franz Steininger, lyrics by Forman Brown, and 
book by Patsy Ruth Miller. Produced by Henry Duffy for 
124 performances in the Adelphi Theatre. 


MISCHA George Lambrose 


Robert Carroll 


Charles Fredericks 
IVAN PETROFSEC James Starbuck 
NATUSCHA 'Dorothy Etheridge 

GYPSY Jean Handztik 

JOSEPH Robert Hay den 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. Ballet. "The Storm." Scene 1A. Stage 
of Odeon Theatre, St. Petersburg. Scene 2. The Cafe Samovar. A few 
weeks later. Act n. Scene 1. Nikkfs country house. A month later. Scene 
2. Road to St. Petersburg. That night. Scene 3. Foyer of Imperial Opera 
House. A few weeks later. Scene 4. Stage of Imperial Opera House. A 
few minutes later, (a) Ballet. "Beauty and the Beast' 9 (b) Love Song. 
Scene 5. Backstage of Imperial Opera House. 

Director: Hassard Short. 


Delia Lind 

OLGA Pauline Goddard 


Edward White 

SONYA Jeanne Shelby 



Nicholas MagaUanes 



FOREMOST attribute of the show is Tchaikovsky's 
music under his name and not, as has been the practice, 
under that of one or another Tin Pan Alley kleptomaniac. 
While certain of the arrangements of his compositions take 
liberties of Stokowskian proportions, the music in sufficient 
measure is allowed to remain his own, which comes as a 
gratifying relief from the Broadway habit of improving it 
either with passages cabbaged from Harry Von Tilzer and 
Raymond Hubbell or manufactured by the tunesmith gen- 
iuses aforesaid. The virtues of the occasion, however, stop 

68 Music in My Heart 

there. The book is the one common to the species and, as 
usual in many of these exhibits about celebrated compos- 
ers, involves the music master with a fair creature and 
builds up, grossly to misuse the term, to the final scene of 
their separation and the heart-broken return of the master 
to his art. Additionally involved is the consoling episode of 
his belated recognition and the tribute paid to him by the 
reigning royalty of the period. 

The language in which the affecting tale is couched is 
not less stock than the plot. "She is lovely like a flower/' 
sighs the composer upon gazing for the first time on his 
lady-love. "You are a genius," proclaims the latter, "and 
some day everybody will know it." At due intervals, some- 
one or other wistfully ventures a "Do you remember?" 
something or other, which, whatever it is that is summoned 
to memory, is of a tenderly sentimental nature. And in a 
more positive direction, there is, of course, the "Ah, Paris, 
what memories it holds for me!" The humor is scarcely 
richer. "I am mistress of the ballet," laments the elderly 
comedienne. "That's the only kind of mistress I can still 
be." "I might have worn sables and mink," warbles the 
same lady, "but I ended with squirrel and skunk." "Do 
you recall that wonderful night I came to your room and 
we loved each other?" inquires the comedian. "Was that 
you?" returns the comedienne. 

Among the performers, Martha Wright, an understudy 
elevated to the leading woman's role, makes the best im* 
pression. She is attractive physically and offers a very fair, 
if at times over-reaching, soprano, but remains to be in- 
structed in the spoken word and in such pronunciations as 
"modom" for "madame." Charles Fredericks, a meritori- 
ous baritone, is miscast as the lover who weans the heroine, 
the Desire Artot of Tchaikovsky's passion, from the com- 
poser; he is more at home in a Show Boat than in a Czar- 
ist Russian court. Robert Carroll's Tchaikovsky consists 
mainly in playing the piano as if the late Helen Morgan 
were sitting atop it and in bowing from the waist fourteen 
or fifteen times and kissing ladies' hands. Vivienne Segal, 
always amusing if she has the necessary material, on this 

October 2, 1947 69 

occasion hasn't it; and Jan Murray in the comedian role 
would not be amusing even if he had it. A "Beauty And 
The Beast" ballet, abstemiously danced, adds to the eve- 
ning's malaises, as do scenic backgrounds that look as if 
they had been desperately painted an hour before the cur- 
tain rang up. 

While sitting out a variety of these musical plays, musi- 
cal comedies and operettas a thought, peculiarly enough 
under the circumstances, has insinuated itself into my 
head. To wit, that though all sorts of things are admittedly 
wrong with the world we are presently in, matters might 
be a damned sight worse. Consider, for instance, what it 
would be like to live in one patterned after and identical 
with such conjecturally idealistic and romantic shows. 
That they may now and then constitute an escape from the 
troubled world is perfectly acceptable so far as it goes, but 
the escape, if any, ends in and with the theatre. Were life 
to be like one of them, or like a hundred of them operat- 
ing in unison, the sigh for flight back into the world, pox- 
ful though it may be, would be heard beyond interstellar 

A world resembling one great big musical show would, 
it is contrarily imagined, be pretty fine all around: appe- 
tizing girls, lovely songs, soft lights, wonderful scenery, 
champagne and kisses, romantic love, and all the rest. On 
the surface, maybe; but scarcely otherwise. In the first 
place, one would never stand the ghost of a chance with 
the beautiful female upon whom one's heart was passion* 
ately set, the heroine of one's dreams. That is, save one 
were a tenor, which one probably would not admit if one's 
life were at stake. No man, except in the rarest of cases, 
ever gets the lovely lady unless he* has the kind of voice 
that is good for the bum's rush in any barroom this side of 
Piccadilly. If, in any musical comedy or operetta, one with 
a bass voice ever made the slightest headway with the star 
beauty, the records do not indicate it. Think, moreover, of 
starting the day, before breakfast and before one has even 
had a chance to shave, with thirty-two girls smeared up 
with carmine face-paint buzzing coyly around one and din- 

70 Music in My Heart 

ning a song into one's ears about how jolly life is at that 
time in the morning. And then, when the girls have finally 
left one alone, think of a fat comedian getting hold of one, 
who is still rubbing the sleep out of one's eyes and proba- 
bly suffering from a hangover, and bombarding one with 
jokes about marriage, the Dodgers, and Mr. Goldfarb's lit- 
tle son Fitzroy. 

You allow that you agree on the morning agony but, ah, 
you cry, the rest of the day and night! Yet what of living 
constantly in the glare of a sizzling, white, hot spotlight? 
How would you relish having around you at regular half- 
hour intervals a dozen carbon dioxide showgirls six and a 
half feet tall who would haughtily look down upon you as 
a worm? And how would you like to smack your lips at the 
popping of champagne bottles and then get in your glass 
nothing but five-cent ginger-ale? You may be discontented 
with your last year's suit, your frayed shirt and your shoes 
that need resoling, but after a week or so I entertain a fur- 
ther suspicion that you would be pretty uncomfortable 
and ready to call quits when it came to wearing heavy vel- 
vet capes and fancy silk knee breeches, or, God wot, huzzar 
uniforms. And don't overlook the greasy pink makeup. 
What is more, in a world conducted after the pattern of 
operetta and musical comedy, you would get nothing to 
eat. It is a phenomenon of such shows that their inhab- 
itants seem to exist without any sustenance whatsoever. In 
all the operettas and musical comedies of the last fifty years 
the only food that has been visible on the stage at any 
time has been a few bananas and even those few bananas 
were not in The Merry Widow for forty-odd years but 
were allowed into a revival of it for the first time only a 
few seasons ago. ^ 

There is, too, the matter of drink. In a world indistin- 
guishable from musical comedy and operetta you would 
be condemned to celebrate the joys of alcoholic liquor 
and even bourgeois beer with glasses and mugs that 
did not contain so much as a drop of the stuff. Yet you 
would be expected to be as gay as a chipmunk and at 
times to stagger about inebriously as if you had just 

October 2, 1947 71 

emerged from a fortnight's holiday in the Mouton Roths- 
child caves. 

In general hideous illustration, consider New York as it 
would be if this Mr. Henry Duffy, the Shuberts and our 
other impresarios were under the new dispensation to be 
in charge of the city. Either Milton Berle or this Jan Mur- 
ray would probably be Mayor and your breakfast table 
newspaper, in lieu of giving you news as at present, would 
regale you with quotations of His Honor's jokes as of the 
day before. Instead of reading about the municipality's 
various activities, you would get an endless dose of stuff 
like this: 

Mayor: Why did they call former Mayor La Guardia 

Taxpayer: I dunno. Why? 

Mayor: His name was Fiorello, or Little Flower. Bud. 

The New York Times' City Hall reporter's story would 
run as follows: "Mayor Berle informed the Times in an 
exclusive interview yesterday that he heard two chickens 
talking and one said sarcastically to the other, l Listen, Hor- 
tense, I don't like to be an old cluck but I read in the pa- 
per that former Mayor O'Dwyer once laid a cornerstone/ " 

The Herald Tribune story would in turn cover City 
Hall thus: "Asked whether as a baseball player Eisenhower 
could have beaten him around the bases, Mayor Berle re- 
plied, 'He could not! You'll recall he promised not to 
run/ " 

If Jan Murray, on the other hand, were the city's chief 
executive, the Daily News story would probably be: 
"Mayor Murray said yesterday that he was expecting a let- 
ter from the Big Three and that they should have arrived 
at a decision. Asked whether by the Big Three he referred 
to Truman, Attlee and Stalin, the Mayor turned a somer- 
sault and cracked, 'No. Hart, Schaffner and Marx. I owe 
'em three bucks/ " 

The waiters in all the restaurants would be comedians, 
would balance the soup plates on their heads, and would 
scare the daylights out of you for fear of dropping them on 

72 Music in My Heart 

your lap. When you finally got the soup safely in front of 
you on the table, you would find a needle in it and would 
perforce indignantly call the waiter's attention to it. The 
waiter would then invariably reply, "Sorry, sir. That's just 
a typographical error; it should be noodle/' All the head- 
waiters would be directed by George Abbott and would 
gallop madly to and fro, knocking you out of your chair, 
the while the similarly directed bus boys would dash fran- 
tically at two minute intervals to the lavoratory, their 
mouths covered with their hands. 

The city's new buildings would be designed by Oliver 
Smith and other such music show scenic architects and 
would all be lopsided. Mike Todd would be a Commis- 
sioner of Parks and Central Park would be chock-a-block 
with coloratura sopranos howling their heads off. The 
thoroughfares would be full of Agnes de Mille ballet danc- 
ers with calves the size of oil kegs, all jumping up and 
down like kangaroos, and if you tried to crowd your way 
through them to cross the street the Irish cops, instead of 
assisting you, would hail you with a "Begorra, and do yez 
think you're a chicken? Why does a chicken cross the 
road?", thereupon hitting you over the head with stuffed 
clubs. Your head would sprout two small red and green 
balloons, and under the city ordinance it would be incum- 
bent upon you forthwith to execute a prattfall. The traf- 
fic lights, incidentally, would not be simply red and green 
but red, green, purple, blue, mauve, vermilion, yellow, 
peachbloom and chartreuse, and you would become so con- 
fused that you would drive your automobile right through 
the window of Saks-Fifth Avenue and would not be able 
to stop until you landed in the ladies' room, where you 
would be arrested as a Peeping Tom by a platinum-haired 
policeman in a short skirt. When you arrived at the police 
court, the judge, in all probability Bobby Clark, would 
wallop you over the head with a bladder, squirt water into 
your face through his puckered lips, and jump violently 
onto your lap and imbed your nether-section in a tack 
which the court attendant had scrupulously poised on the 
witness chair. 

October 2, 1947 73 

Should you pass a fair creature on the street, should she 
hintfully drop her 'kerchief and should you gallantly make 
to retrieve it, she would snap it back with a rubber string 
and reward your efforts with an arch "Oo-la-la," which 
would be no end embarrassing, since your wife would on 
all occasions necessarily be just coming around the corner 
and would humiliate you by seizing you by the ear and 
leading you cringing from the scene. The Fire Department 
would be manned entirely by dyed blondes who would go 
to fires perched cheesecakewise on cardboard apparatus 
and appropriately singing ."You Can Go To Blazes" in 
voices which would eliminate the need for the sirens. And 
when you died, you would be interred in Cain's store- 
house, with Toplitzky Of Notre Dame. 

You still believe that to live in a world like Gypsy Lady 
would be delightfully romantic? Have you ever smelled 
gypsys? You still think that existence as pictured in La Vie 
Parisienne would be ideal? Have you ever taken a good 
look at nine-tenths of the French midinettes, to say noth- 
ing of at ten-tenths of the French opera stars? You still im- 
agine that if the world were like The Merry Widow it 
would be one constant, unending gala at Maxim's? Have 
you, even in days long before the wars, ever studied those 
female gargoyles smeared with sickly blue-green makeup, 
or been charged twenty American dollars for a dollar bot- 
tle of champagne nature artfully wrapped in a six-dollar 
monogrammed bath towel, or been bamboozled out of five 
dollars for a four-franc bunny toy, or eaten horse kidneys 
slavered with mayonnaise? You envy the romantic world of 
this Music In My Heart? Have you ever been cornered for 
even five minutes by the conversation of a musician, or 
have you contemplated the joys of living with a female op- 
eratic star? 

The world, to repeat, has many things wrong with it but, 
everything considered, the Shuberts be praised that it is not 
run like operetta and musical comedy. It is not demanded 
of one that one arbitrarily stop in one's love-making at ten 
p.m. sharp and go into a waltz with one's best girl, only to 
be slapped in the face by her at its conclusion and to be 

74 Music in My Heart 

told that one is a dog and that she wishes never to lay eyes 
on one again. It is not ordered of one that one burst into 
song every time the moon comes out, or that one joyously 
attend banquets at which nothing is served, or that one go 
wild over ravishing princesses who look like something any 
high-toned cat would decline to bring in. As things are, 
one furthermore is not compelled to look out of one's win- 
dow and go into raptures over the beauty of a Lake Como 
painted by a blob-artist on a piece of canvas; one need not 
kneel and humbly kiss the hand of every frowzy old scare- 
crow nominally a Duchess; one need not go around all day 
with an idiotic grin on one's face; and one doesn't have to 
wear tights. 



A comedy with music, play by Arthur Macrae, music by 
Manning Sherwin, and lyrics by Harold Pur cell. Produced, 
by the Shuberts in association with Lee Ephraim for 27 
performances in the Shubert Theatre. 


EVA WinxfredHindle 


Francis Roberts 

Battard Berkeley 

TIM GARRET Thorley Walters 

Jo Fox Cicely Courtneidge 

MR, BURROUGHS George Street 

SYNOPSIS: The play takes place in Jo Foxs house in London. 
Act I. Monday afternoon. Act II. Scene 1. Wednesday morning. Scene 2. 
Thursday evening. Act HE. Friday morning. 

Director: Jack HtJbert. 


KITTY Ingrid Forrest 


Wtlfrid Hyde White 

R.N.V.R. John Gregory 

MR* APPUEYARD Frederick Farley 

PACK IN THE 1870'$, an American actress-manager, Alice 
Gates by name, found to her surprise that things were not 
going too well with the atrociously bad comedies she was 
offering and brewed the idea of making them seem less 
atrociously bad by incorporating some distracting songs 
into them. The idea worked, and Gates gathered in the 
money. Operating on the same theory, the purveyors of 
this Under The Counter., doubtless realizing that the 
straight comedy in their possession was about as heinous 
as they come, have added tunes to it but have found to 
their dismay that American audiences have in some myste- 
rious manner slightly advanced in the seventy-odd years 
since the Gates era and that the anticipated money-gather- 
ing has not materialized. The circumstance that their show 
ran for two full seasons in its native London conceivably 
might provide a bit of critical comment at this point, but 
politeness restrains me. 

76 Under the Counter 

The comedy, or more accurately farce, which serves as 
the basis of the evening is still another version of the 
ancient business about an actress' involvement with her 
various eager suitors, in this instance optimistically be- 
queathed a modern flavor with references to black market 
activities, the eccentricities of British civil servants, and 
Selfridge's department store. It is, on its own, quite terri- 
ble and is hardly improved by musical numbers composed 
in the key of cold-water flat and lyrics sufficiently suggested 
by such titles as "No One's Tried To Kiss Me," "Let's Get 
Back To Glamour/' and, in the case of a Russian attempt, 
"Ai Yi Yi," to say nothing of by a chorus number in which 
Miss Courtneidge drives the girls with imaginary reins, an- 
other in which she is lifted aloft by the girls and carried off 
in a recumbent position on their bent backs, in that pos- 
ture executing a droll pose with her chin coyly posed on 
her forefinger, and still another in which, as a Muscovite 
ballerina, she finds her large hat constantly falling over her 
eyes and hilariously bumps seven or eight times into her 

Miss Courtneidge, long a London favorite, is on the 
stage from the first curtain to the last and labors so hard 
that, if the current English government had had any sense, 
it would have utilized her to solve the coal problem single- 
handed. There is not a moment when she isn't capering 
about the stage, lustily slapping her thighs, frantically dust- 
ing off the furniture with her handkerchief, making faces, 
rolling around on couches, arching her body far over 
chairs, and conducting herself generally like a chamois giv- 
ing an audition for George Abbott. It is to be regretted 
that the humor which proceeds from her convulsions is on 
the lean side. Her support, except for an Australian siren 
named Glen Alyn, who has little to do but at least does it 
quietly sitting down, and for a Charles Butterworth type 
of comedian named Wilfred Hyde White, is rickety. The 
ladies of the ensemble are, however, rather more comely 
than those usually exported in such enterprises. 



A dramatization by Michael Myerberg of the poem by Rob- 
inson Jeffers, with music by Johann Sebastian Bach ar- 
ranged by Lehmann Engel. Produced by Michael Myer- 
berg for 16 performances in the Mansfield Theatre. 


THE CARPENTER Per di Hoffman 
JUDAS Roy Hargrave 

THE WOMAN Margaret Wycherly 
LAZARUS Harry Irvine 

Scene: The garden. 
Director: Michael Myerberg. 

{PETER Tony CharmoU 
SIMON Richard Astor 
JOHN Betts Lee 



HAT ARE SOMETIMES indiscriminately referred to as 
Biblical plays often suffer from their producers* belief that 
there is but one proper way to stage them and that is with 
an air of extreme solemnity. This solemnity, moreover, is 
defined by them not only as merely of a formal or ceremo- 
nious character but as something closely approximating 
the behavior of paid mourners, all in the agonized grip of 
cholera morbus, at the services for an unidentified small- 
pox victim conducted by Feodor Dostoievski. Enveloped 
by mortuary lighting, the actors are either made to walk 
the stage as if they were carrying two-hundred-pound alba- 
trosses on their backs or, when called upon to indicate ex- 
altation of the spirit, to comport their corpuses as if they 
had suddenly been afflicted with a benign rigor mortis. 
Their features, in addition, are directed into one of two 
patterns: an expression intimating that an acute colic has 
elevated itself into their countenances, or one suggesting 
that they have got a painful cinder in their eyes and are fol- 
lowing the old recommendation that the best way to get it 
out is to throw the head backwards, look hard at the ceil- 
ing, and blink the upper lids ten times in rapid succession. 

78 Dear Judas 

Only on rare occasions, as in the case of Family Portrait, 
are the plays allowed to behave themselves otherwise. And 
the natural result is that people are as depressed by them, 
whatever their possible share of internal merit, as they are 
depressed by dank walls, funeral music, the spectacle of 
pain, or Charles Rann Kennedy. 

This Dear Judas, fashioned from the Robinson Jeffers 
poem, suffers from the pox as seriously as have most exhib- 
its of the species. Nor is the play, which views Judas in a 
more favorable light than the traditional, of sufficient 
strength to triumph over the mopes imposed upon it. It 
isn't that high resolve the mark of Mr. Meyerberg as a 
producer has not gone into the production. From the 
Bach choral embellishments to the incidental choreogra- 
phy, the intention to do well by the dramatic stage is clear. 
It is rather that a script which can not stand up to its pro- 
ducer's faith in it has been further wobbled as theatre by 
the frequent imposition upon it of a misguided, declama- 
tory and too sanctimonious staging and direction. Much 
more simply presented, it would still be very far from a 
good play, but it might possibly seem better than it pres- 
ently does, at least to that liberal portion of an audience 
which blissfully accepts a shrewd stage economy as hintful 
of a recondite and doubtless super-duper dramatic imag- 

Jeffers* retrospective attitude toward the character of Ju- 
das, which so outraged the Mayor and official censor of the 
city of Boston that they indicated they would ban the play 
were it to be booked in that city, is hardly as sensationally 
novel as those who plainly have not read their Gospel since 
childhood seem to imagine. Various celebrated literary fig- 
ures in the past have also treated Iscariot in a manner not 
unlike Jeffers, who rationalizes his betrayal of Christ as an 
attempt to save Him from a course which he, Judas, feels 
will undo Him and weaken His influence over the people. 
The approach to the character, while controversial, has 
some basis in analytical research. It is unquestionably 
rather the character of Jesus, portrayed as being of a vio- 
lence not commonly associated with Him, which emerges 

October 5, 1947 79 

on the stage with discomfiture to the pious, though here, 
too, there is some substantiation in Holy Writ. The fault, 
however, is not so much in the writing, indifferent as it is, 
as in the theatrical presentation of the Christ in the per- 
son of an actor whose previous appearance was as the po- 
tential murderer in the melodramatic thriller Angel Street, 
who proclaims the Jeffers line after the manner of the Jack 
Daltons in the old ten-twenty-thirties, who is clad in a 
plaid shirt and leather booted costume not unlike Bert 
Lahr's in his old Winter Garden wood-chopper song num- 
ber, and who looks very much like a bewhiskered college 
football player of the iSgo's. 

The Jeffers verse, occasionally not without a felicity in 
phrasing, more generally misses the ring of beauty, the vi- 
brance and the silver irony that the drama demands. As it 
stands, it is overladen with monotony and underladen with 
that spark, whether genuine or fraudulent, without which 
Biblical drama languishes, either critically or commer- 
cially, into failure. 

The acting performances are uniformly poor. Hoffman's 
Christ is an uninterrupted succession of hands extended 
with palms upward orchestrated to the kind of vocal boom- 
ing associated with the Marcus Superbuses of the old Chris- 
tian versus Pagan lion-pit plays of the last century. Har- 
grave's Judas, in the dress of a Humphrey Bogart, seems 
just to have stepped out of a gangster film. Miss Wycherly's 
Mary the Mother is resolved into a series of woebegone 
drones, beatific liftings of the face to the flies, and albatross 
underprops. And Harry Irvine's Lazarus intones the role 
into his shoes. The Bach chorals are handled well enough, 
though some shading would help. The choreography by 
Esther Junger is set largely to a single stiff pattern which 
gradually acquires a burlesque effect. And the setting of 
the garden by Albert Johnson includes something supposed 
to be a gnarled fig tree which, like the trees, whatever they 
are, of most scene designers, looks like no tree ever contem- 
plated or produced by nature. I have now seen something 
like four or five thousand trees on the stage and the only 
occasions on which one looked anything like a tree was 

80 Dear Judas 

when the play in which it figured was performed al fresco. 
Beholding the arboreal specimens in the usual stage pro- 
duction, I find myself jingling, "Poems are made by fools 
like me, But only God can't make a tree like Jo Miel- 



A so-called psychological melodrama by Mary Hayley Bell. 
Produced by Robert Reud for 7 performances in the Booth 



FLEITY Ruth Vivian 


Francis L. Sullivan 
STEPHEN CASS Hugh Marlowe 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in Forsinard Castle, the Ork- 
neys. The time is midsummer, 1904. Act I. Scene 1. Sunset. Scene 2. 
Three hours later. Act n. Scene 1. The next morning. Scene 2. That 
night. Scene 3. Dawn, the foUouxng morning. 

Director: Reginald Denham. 



LoNix)N EXPORT is one of the most ridiculous, non- 
sensical and preposterous seriously intended plays beheld 
on the stage in years, and is not so awfully dull at that. De- 
signed as a melodramatic psychological study, it asks us to 
believe that, if the hands of a man wrongly accused of mur- 
der were to be grafted onto the wrists of a poet who had 
lost his own in an accident, the graftee, though as upright, 
moral and circumspect as a church deacon, would suddenly 
feel himself possessed not only of startling amorous pro- 
clivities but of potential homicidal tendencies which, if let 
go, might conceivably exceed those of the curator of Bu- 
chenwald. It further bids us to believe that his release from 
the hellish situation is effected only when he learns that 
the alien hands* twitchings are not bent on miscellaneous 
slaughter but are simply indications that their original 
owner wishes justice be done in the case of the surgeon 
who betrayed him. Nor does the invitation to surrender to 
absurdity stop there. The play is so full of it, in the way of 
character drawing and almost everything else, that so much 
as one second's reflection would make one laugh louder 
than at the spectacle of Bobby Clark's feet grafted on Mau- 
rice Schwartz. But the oddity is that one somehow is nev- 

82 Duet for Two Hands 

ertheless frequently persuaded to remit the wholesale bosh 
and to lend oneself to the moonshine much as one lends 
oneself to a belief in hair growers, California wines, and 

Because of the histrionic physiology of the play, it is not, 
moreover, too hard. Surely no harder than believing, as the 
late lamented James Agate noted, in the ghost in Hamlet, 
Bottom's metamorphosis into an ass, or the pretence that a 
young female has only to put on doublet and hose to be- 
come completely unrecognizable to her lover. Or, as the 
still miraculously extant Nathan has from time to time ob- 
served, in at least one-third of the stuff on the contempo- 
rary stage. At plays like Miss Bell's, one no more asks em- 
barrassing questions of oneself than again to quote Ag- 
ate one asks in a loftier quarter why Sophocles first 
warns CEdipus that he is going to slay his father and marry 
his mother and then makes him kill a man old enough to 
be his father and marry a woman old enough to be his 

Hoping to assist the poppycock into some acceptability, 
the producer printed this note in the program: "The New 
York World-Telegram of September 9, 1947, published a 
report to the American College of Surgeons of an opera- 
tion that equipped a fingerless hand with thumb and large 
finger. The reporting surgeons Drs. James B. Brown, 
Bradford Cannon and Walter G. Graham said that the 
thumb and finger retained the sense of touch, muscular 
power and prehensility." The producer unfortunately 
failed to include with the note another relevantly explain- 
ing just how the transplanted thumb and finger might in- 
fluence the acquisitor's mind to the point where it would 
make him a shoplifter or dealer of aces from the bottom of 
the deck. 

Francis L. Sullivan's first-rate performance of the scoun- 
drelly surgeon did much to lend some bogus credence to 
the play's asininity, as did Joyce Redman's intelligently ex- 
aggerated, third-rate performance of his psychically tor- 
tured daughter. Wynne Clark, as the latter's perplexed 
aunt, helped further by reading her senseless lines so in- 

October 7, 1947 83 

distinctly that one could not make out what she was talk- 
ing about. In this she was ably assisted by Ruth Vivian in 
the role of the old household servant. Hugh Marlowe char- 
acterized the sensitive poet mainly by making up his face 
with a heavy layer of whitewash and not having had his 
hair cut for a month. Reginald Denham's staging included 
a wind machine that ferociously blew the Orkney coast 
outside the French windows but somehow peculiarly re- 
frained from mussing in the least the coiffures of the actors 
who ventured out of doors. 


A revival of the forty-four year old comedy by George Ber- 
nard Shaw. Produced by Maurice Evans for the rest of the 
season's performances in, initially, the Alvin Theatre. 


MAID Miriam Stovatt 


Chester Stratton 

JOHN TANNER Maurice Evans 



Josephine Brown 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Roebuck Ramsden's study, Portland Place, 
London,. 1905. Act II. The coachyard of the Whitefield Residence, near 
Richmond. Act HI. The patio of a viUa in Granada 9 Spain. 

Director: Maurice Evans. 

Miss RAMSDEN Phoebe Mackay 

Carmen Mathews 

HECTOR MALONE, JR. Tony Bickley 

Victor Sutherland 


.T is THE FATE o the Whig in drama to be converted by 
time into the semblance of a Tory, and that is what has be- 
fallen Shaw, at least in the case of such of his plays as this 
Man and Superman. Originally regarded as something 
quite philosophically saucy, despite its obvious ideational 
derivation from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Co., it pres- 
ently with the passing of the years seems to be as respectably 
tame and conservative as an elderly ex-playboy who, though 
fond of recalling himself as a hell-raiser, has married and 
wryly settled down. Its wit, once shocking to the easily 
shockable, suggests now a frock coat at a wienie roast, and 
its theme of the pursuit of the male by the female, once 
viewed as boldly venturesome, seems as audacious as the 
Prince's wooing of Cinderella. 

It is an 61d story, of course, that what has appeared dra- 
matically insurgent to one generation frequently takes on 
the sound of whimsical popgunnery to a later one. Ibsen, 
who slammed a door to open it and who startled a dra- 

October 8, 1947 85 

matic world sitting prettily on the gilt chairs of Pinero and 
his contemporary interior decorators, in due course so 
came to be looked upon as a sedate, if less parochial, vil- 
lage schoolmaster, Wilde's epigrammatic derisions, re- 
garded as exceptionally impertinent and unblushing, be- 
came the favorite quotations of precocious bobby-soxers. 
Sartre in a very much briefer space of time has already this 
soon found his Existentialism spelled without the first s. 
And so, in the instance of his plays like this one, with Shaw. 

The great man's whip-cracking disquisitions on the Life 
Force, socialism, free love and the like, which in earlier 
days earned him a reputation for intellectual courage and 
impudence neck-and-neck with that of Brieux for his own 
against social disease, race suicide and the defects in the 
system of criminal justice, present today, as do the latter's, 
the appearance of lame platitudes attempting a jig. Such of 
his nip-ups as "That's the devilish side of a woman's fas- 
cination: she makes you will your own destruction" and 
"It is the self-sacrificing women that sacrifice others most 
recklessly," once esteemed as themselves pretty devilish, 
are belatedly recognized, with a pang, as having been that 
long ago already belated paraphrases of Rochefoucault et 
Cie. Lines like "No man is a match for a woman, except 
with a poker and a pair of hobnailed boots; not always 
even then," of old thought very nifty, and others like "Mar- 
riage is to me apostasy, profanation of the sanctuary of my 
soul, etc.," earlier considered the height of iconoclasm, 
have acquired the ring of penny cynicism on the one hand 
and of Greenwich Village on the other. And all such cart- 
wheels, originally generative of oh's and ah's, as "We live 
in an atmosphere of shame; we are ashamed of everything 
that is real about us, ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, 
of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our ex- 
perience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins" all 
such, and they fill the play, seem as dated as the bravado of 
Frank Wedekind or the moral philosophy of Henry Arthur 

It is, in summary, not what Shaw says that gives his play 
what remaining measure of interest it may have; it is how 

86 Man and Superman 

he says It. For his uncommon drive and force in the art of 
pure writing are still amply evident, and it is this quality 
that, like the propulsive reserve of wheels no longer driven 
by fuel, keeps the play in some motion. Platitude is mo- 
mentarily refreshed by a swig of alcoholic ink, and stale- 
ness inspirited with a squirt of belletristic turpentine. 

Listening to the admirable phrasing of the Shavian line, 
whatever its content, we are haplessly reminded how seri- 
ously the ability of most of our more conspicuous contem- 
porary American playwrights is disabled by the infirmity 
of their literary style. With slight exception, any trace of 
distinction is lacking in even the case of the relatively bet- 
ter plays, and the result is a drama that, however com- 
mendable it may be in other directions, has about it an 
air either of spurious cultivation or of downright com- 

It isn't that the playwrights do not strive for style. The 
striving is often only too clammily obvious. It is that by 
and large they seem to be either incompetent to achieve it 
or mistake for it a prose which suggests rented white tie 
and tails or a poetic expression which weds a Tin Pan Al- 
ley lyricism with a hamburgered verse form. As examples 
of the one and the other we may take such figures as S. N. 
Behrman and Maxwell Anderson. Some years ago, Behr- 
man's writing seemed to be on the point of developing a 
style both graceful and witty, and in one or two instances 
was even successful in realizing it. But presently what had 
borne tokens of some authenticity tended more and more 
toward the manufactured botanical variety and soon pro- 
duced any number of such fancy little blossoms (I quote 
from Dunnigan's Daughter) as "I was thinking a multi- 
tude of thoughts little winds of thoughts, springing up 
and dying down," and "A slim, golden column; you could 
be a caryatid holding up the roof of some exquisite Greek 
temple." Let alone such exalted titbits as "I sense in you 
tonight a singular mixture of allure and threat"; "The con- 
stant hazard rather piques me"; and "A heart-murmur, he 
said. I was enchanted with the phrase. A murmur. Sounds 

October 8, 1947 87 

like a berceuse. Should be set to music, don't you think? 
By whom? Debussy, if he were alive . - ." 

Worse still, what earlier was simple, fluid and unaffected 
became transmuted into such jerks and rattles as "The 
function of the platitude. Very useful. As useful as the 
coins in a shop. No matter how worn, they serve. If not 
for platitudes, we should have to bare our hearts. Would 
one care, in general conversation, for all that nudity?" Or 
into such starched phraseology as "Surely, Feme you 
are intelligent surely you don't believe in this universal 
love-myth hypocritically promulgated by the vested reli- 
gions." Or into bubble-gum like "The serpent in the gar- 
den of Eden he is coiled around us. We have to throw 
him off, some way. Evil is mobilized. Goodness not. Good- 
ness is like you, mixed up, not resolute. Yesterday, Feme, 
I saw a chance to play God; everybody likes to play God a 
little bit; but that is dangerous. The other God has seized 
me. The blind God . . ." 

Anderson's gestures toward lyric expression, as has come 
to be appreciated, have frequently led him into a style not 
less phony. Though now and again he may capture a pretty 
phrase, a telling line, the bulk of his later writing amounts 
to little more than a cotton fancy draped in imitation tulle. 
In illustration: 

"Nothing but just to be a bird, and fly, 
and then come down. Always the thing itself 
is less than when the seed of it in thought 
came to a flower within, tat swch a flower 
as never grows in gardens.** 

In even more touching further illustration: 

"You should have asked the fish what would come of him 
before the earth shrank and the land thrust up 
between the oceans. You should have asked the fish 
or asked me, or asked yourself, for at that time 
we were the fish, you and I, or they were we 
ajMl we, or they, would have known as much about it 

88 Man and Superman 

as I know now yet it somehow seems worth while 
that the fish were not discouraged, and did keep on 
at least as far as we are/' 

Compare the pseudo-polished comedy style of a Behr- 
man with, for example, the simple, finished product of an 
English comedy writer like Maugham. A speech or two 
from The Circle will do. "For some years/* remarks Cham- 
pion-Cheney, "I was notoriously the prey of a secret sor- 
row. But I found so many charming creatures who were 
anxious to console, that in the end it grew rather fatiguing. 
Out of regard to my health I ceased to frequent the draw- 
ing rooms of Mayfair." Or the same character's "It's a mat- 
ter of taste. I love old wine, old friends, and old books, but 
I like young women. On their twenty-fifth birthday I give 
them a diamond ring and tell them they must no longer 
waste their youth and beauty on an old fogy like me. We 
have a most affecting scene, my technique on these occa- 
sions is perfect, and then I start all over again." 

Or, finally, Teddie's all too familiar, "But I wasn't offer- 
ing you happiness. I don't think my sort of love tends to 
happiness. I'm jealous. I'm not a very easy man to get on 
with. I'm often out of temper and irritable. I should be 
fed to the teeth with you sometimes, and so would you be 
with me. I daresay we'd fight like cat and dog, and some- 
times we'd hate each other. Often you'd be wretched and 
bored stiff and lonely, and often you'd be frightfully home- 
sick, and then you'd regret all you'd lost. Stupid women 
would be rude to you because, we'd run away together. 
And some of them would cut you. I don't offer you peace 
and quietness. I offer you unrest and anxiety. I don't offer 
you happiness. I offer you love." 

Or contrast the synthetic poetic expression of an Ander- 
son, with the true singing line of an Irish playwright like 
O'Casey. "Ashamed I am," proclaims O'Killigain in Pur- 
ple Dusty "of the force that sent a hand to hit a girl of 
grace, fit to find herself walkin* beside all the beauty that 
ever shone before the eyes o' man since Helen herself un- 
bound her tresses to dance her wild an' willin' way through 

October S, IMt 89 

the streets o* Troy." Or, to choose from half a hundred 
speeches at random, AvriTs reply: "It's I that know the 
truth is only in the shine o* the words you shower on me, 
as ready to you as the wild flowers a love-shaken, innocent 
girl would pick in a hurry outa the hedges, an' she on her 
way to Mass." 

In the case o playwrights who elect to abjure the chichi 
rhetoric of a Behrman or the rhythmic calisthenics of an 
Anderson, any chance for style goes aground on their pe- 
culiar theory as to the spoken word. It is apparently their 
conviction that the latter can under no circumstances bear 
any resemblance to the written or so-called literary word, 
and that, as a corollary, it can have verisimilitude only if it 
lacks grace. The consequence is dialogue which often not 
only bears small relation to human speech above the grade 
of that employed by the lower order of morons but which 
is ugly and painful to the critical ear. 

The notion that the spoken word is dramatic only if it 
departs sharply from what may be called the literary word 
is responsible for night after night of such sore lingo as 
the following: 

a. "Don't fling that at me, Mr. Caldwell you'll get nowhere 
with that. That's my wife's attack. 'I didn't take a lover. 
You took a mistress/ Well, I don't consider that a virtue, 
see? But to hell with that now. Get this through your heads 
all of you. It's not just because my wife's going to live in 
California that I'm fighting for Christopher I wouldn't 
care if she was going to live on the next block. I want my 
son with me all the time. I want him to live with me 
to be part of my life. I want him." (Christopher Blake, 
Moss Hart.) 

b. "I knowl I know! Why bother to step outside and look at 
life, when it's so cozy indoors and there's always a shelfful 
of books handy? For God's sake, hasn't anything ever hap- 
pened to you? Have you never been drunk? Or socked a 
guy for making a pass at you? Or lost your panties on Fifth 
Avenue?" (Dream Girl, Elmer Rice.) 

c. "I once set up a travel booklet about them. I was a lino- 

90 Man and Superman 

typer after I had to quit college. You learn a lot of crap 
setting up type. I learned about the balmy blue Pacific. 
Gome to the Heavenly Isles! An orchid on every bazoom 
and two bazooms on every babe. I'd like to find the gent 
who wrote that booklet. I'd like to find him now and make 
him come to his goddam Heavenly Isles !'* (Home Of The 
Brave, Arthur Laurents.) 

The apology that such language is perfectly in key with 
the characters who merchant it does not entirely hold wa- 
ter. It may approximate the characters' speech to a degree, 
but only to a degree. It amounts merely to a fabricated ap- 
proach to the exact speech. Among other things, it misses 
a fully accurate ear and is simply a paraphrase, and a poor 
one, of factual speech in terms o stage speech. It is, in 
short, no truer and infinitely less effective than so-called 
literary speech. 

Compare in this connection, whether for verisimilitude 
or dramatic effect it need not, obviously, be added for 
beauty such otomyces with dialogue like Carroll's for 
his Canon Skerritt: 

"And since when has the Sacred Heart of our 'Redeemer, 
that kings and emperors and queens like Violante and 
Don John of Austria and the great Charles V and the sol- 
dier Ignatius walked barefooted for the love of since 
when has it become a sort of snap door chamber where 
dolts and boobs come to to kick ball and find them- 
selves tripped up on an altar step instead o a goal post?" 

Or like Shaw's for his Candida: 

"Ask James* mother and his three sisters what it cost to 
save James the trouble of doing anything but be strong 
and dever and happy. Ask me what it costs to be James* 
mother and three sisters and wife and mother to his chil- 
dren all in one. Ask Prossy and Maria how troublesome 
the house is even when we have no visitors to help us slice 
the onions. Ask the tradesmen who want to worry James 
and spoil his beautiful sermons who it is that puts them 
off. When there is money to give, he gives it; when there 

October 8, 1947 91 

is money to refuse, I refuse It. I build a castle of comfort 
and indulgence and love for him, and stand sentinel al- 
ways to keep little vulgar cares out. I make him master 
here, though he does not know it, and could not tell you 
a moment ago how it came to be so . . ." 

Or like Synge's for his Conchubor: 

"There's one sorrow has no end surely that's being 
old and lonesome. But you and I will have a little peace 
in Emain, with harps playing, and old men telling stories 
at the fall of night. I've let build rooms for our two selves, 
Deirdre, with red gold upon the walls and ceilings that 
are set with bronze. There was never a queen in the east 
had a house the like of your house, that's waiting for 
yourself in Emain." 

Dramatic art in America for the greater part has become 
simply a playwriting business, and its practitioners are 
largely racketeers with a dramatic sales talk, devoid of any- 
thing remotely resembling literary taste, literary ability, 
and literary education. Most of them read and act like 
pulp writers crossed with telegraph key-men. Their style, 
so to speak, follows set tracks and is readily recognizable. 
It consists in the wholesale use of dashes, as in such dia- 
logue as "Oh, God if they don't come back if they 
don't come back ." It hopes to conceal the obvi- 
ousness of its content in such apologies as "What I've said 
I know it's old hat and that you've heard it many times 
before ," etc. It relies upon crew-cut dialogue with its 
monosyllabic replies as a substitute for both suspense and 
humor, as, for example: 

"Answer yes or no. You live downstairs, I take it? 


"Oh, you don't live downstairs? 


"Say, what the hell? Do you or don't you? 


"Yes, what? 

92 Man and Superman 

"Yes, no. 

"Wait, Sergeant. I think I understand her. You mean, 
yes, you do not live downstairs? 

It further cuckoos its own style endlessly: "Everyone's a 
murderer at heart. The person who has never felt a pas- 
sionate hankering to kill someone is without emotion, and 
do you think it's law or religion that stays the average per- 
son from homicide? No it's lack of courage the fear 
of being caught, or cursed with remorse. Our murderer is 
merely a rational animal with the courage of his convic- 
tions." Profanity and obscenity are regularly resorted to 
for a strength of expression that otherwise seems to be be- 
yond the playwrights' competences, and "Jesus!/' "Christ!," 
"God damned," "bastard," and "son-of-a-bitch" are scat- 
tered through dialogue like toadstools. "Yeah?" is the mark 
of vulgar character; "Indeed?" of polite. "Wonderful" is 
the adjective common to most emotions, whether love or a 
relish of kidney stew. And the habitual "I mean " is the 
refuge less of character than of playwright inarticulateness. 

Passion is writ by rote: "But I need you. You know that! 
And you need me. It's too late. We are helpless now in 
the clutch of forces more potent than our little selves 
forces that brought us into the world forces that have 
made the worldl Whether you will it or not, this binding 
power is sweeping you and me together. And you must 
yield!" The Pulitzer prize is given for authentic Yankee 
speech to playwrights who confect such lines as "Let a man 
get miserable and he is miserable; a woman ain't really 
happy no other way," and as "It 'us then that the scales 
dropped from my eyes! An' I seen the truth! An' when I 
did, everything in the whole world 'us changed fer me! I 
loved everybody an' everything! An' I 'us so happy I felt 
jist like I 'us afloatin* away on a ocean o' joy!" 

The "punch" style, miscellaneously indulged in, also has 
its pattern: "The whole damn government's a gang of liver 
flukes sucking the blood out of the body politic and 
there you sit, an honest liver fluke, arranging the graft for 

October 8, 1947 93 

everybody else and refusing to do any blood sucking on 
your own account! God, it makes me sick!" Cousin to the 
punch style is the heroic-romantic style: "The important 
man, George, is the man who knows how to live! I love 
Hocky, I think an awful lot of him. But, he's like my fa- 
ther. They have no outside interests at all. They're flat 
they're colorless. They're not men they're caricatures! 
Oh, don't become like them, George! Don't be an impor- 
tant man and crack up at forty-five. I want our lives to- 
gether to be full and rich and beautiful! I want it so 
much!" And cousin to the heroic-romantic is also the he- 
roic-scientific: "There is not a man in medicine who has 
not said what you have said and meant it for a minute 
all of us, Dr. Nussbaum. And you are right, my friend. We 
are groping. We are guessing. But, at least our guesses to- 
day are closer to the truth than they were twenty years ago. 
And twenty years from now they will be still closer. That 
is what we are here for. Ah, there is so much to be done 
and so little time in which to do it that one life is never 
long enough . . . It's not easy for any of us. But in the 
end our reward is something richer than simply living . . . 
(Sighs) Gome, Dr. Nussbaum, a little game of chess, 
maybe, or (winks) a glass of schnaps?'* 

The melodramatic style generally fits into a mold some- 
thing like "For the love of God, listen to me! While you 
sit here quietly eating and drinking, tonight, enemy planes 
dropped seventy thousand kilos of bombs on Paris. God 
knows how many they killed! God knows how much of life 
and beauty is forever destroyed! And you sit here drinking 
and laughing! Are you worms? Are you lice? Get out of 
your soft chairs and off your soft tails and do something, 
do something! If you don't, you bastards, as God is my 
judge I'll bust the jaw of every God damned one of you!" 
And the "cultured" style, when not in self-protection 
crossed with a touch of banter, one something like this: 
"There is in your psychological composition, my dear, a 
touch of the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt, of the livid gaunt- 
ness of El Greco, 6f the stark realism of Goya, of the spring- 
time freshness of Botticelli. You are, my dear, in other 

94 Man and Superman 

words, an orchestration of that occasional color monotone 
in Brahms and that flowery ornamentation in Rossini." 

The style is not only the man; the style is the play. 

And the style is this Man And Superman. Give your ear, 
for example, to this: "Oh, they know it in their hearts, 
though they think themselves bound to blame you by their 
silly superstitions about morality and propriety and so 
forth. But I know, and the whole world really knows, 
though it does not say so, that you were right to follow 
your instinct; that vitality and bravery are the greatest 
qualities a woman can have, and motherhood her solemn 
initiation into womanhood; and that the fact of your not 
being legally married matters not one scrap either to your 
own worth or to our real regard for you." 

Or to this: "I solemnly say that I am not a happy man. 
Ann looks happy; but she is only triumphant, successful, 
victorious. That is not happiness, but the price for which 
the strong sell their happiness. What we have both done 
this afternoon is to renounce happiness, renounce free- 
dom, renounce tranquillity, above all, renounce the ro- 
mantic possibilities of an unknown future, for the cares of 
a household and a family. I beg that no man may seize the 
occasion to get half drunk and utter imbecile speeches and 
coarse pleasantries at my expense." 

Mr. Evans and most of his company serve the beauti- 
fully written play fairly well. It is, however, his evident be- 
lief in its persistent philosophical modernity that brings 
forth the critical reflection, O temporal O Mauricel 



A musical comedy with book by Stephen Longstreet, mu- 
sic by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Sammy Cahn. Produced by 
Monte Proser and Joseph Kipness for the rest of the sea- 
son's performances in, initially, the Century Theatre. 



MR. PONTDUE Joey Faye 



Jack McCauley 


Johnny Stewart 

FRAN Lois Lee 

NANCY Helen Gallagher 


Mark Dawson 

ELMER SIMPKINS Nathaniel Fret/ 

Donald Harris 

COACH Tom Glennon 

MR, ANDERSON William David 


Arthur Partington 

His PLAYMATE Sonora Lee 

A POPULAR GIRL Jacqueline Dodge 
A BETTING MAN George Spelvin 

Howard Lenters 

SYNOPSIS; Act I. Scene 1. Kokomo and points east. Scene 2. Liv- 
ing-room of the Longstreet home,, New Brunswick, N. J. Early autumn, 
1913. Scene 3. Redmond Street. Scene 4. Near the stadium. Scene 5. The 
Longstreet living-room. Scene 6. Road to the picnic. Scene 7. "Long- 
streetvttte" Act II. Scene 1. Atlantic City the bathhouses. Scene 4. Red- 
mond Street, New Brunswick. Scene 5. The Longstreet living-room. 
Scene 6. The road. Scene 7. The stadium. Scene 8. The Longstreet garden. 

Director: George Abbott. 

AN THE last five seasons, twenty-seven of the musical exhib- 
its, including revivals, have dealt with past and hypotheti- 
cally nostalgic years. This is the twenty-eighth. Since an old 
saying has it that there is something good to be found in 
even the worst of things if only one will look hard enough 
for it as, doubtless for example, in bird's-nest soup and 
athlete's foot we obediently look for what is good in this 
otherwise inferior show. Looking, we find an original and 
very amusing ballet travesty of the old Mack Sennett Key- 
stone pictures by the talented Jerome Robbins; a funny 

96 High Button Shoes 

act out o burlesque by Phil Silvers and Joey Faye which 
follows the homosexual comedy pattern of that bygone art 
and which has been severely criticized as highly objection- 
able by members of the audience who have burst then- 
sides laughing at it; the presence of the attractive Nanette 
Fabray in the leading feminine role; and agreeable per- 
formances by Jack McCauley, Lois Lee and Helen Gal- 
lagher, the last named in a comical tango number. An- 
other item on the credit side is the haphazard nature of 
the show, at least in my book. What with so many of our 
contemporary musicals straining for so-called integration 
and in the process losing that quality of abandon so wel- 
come in the species of entertainment, it is pleasant to get 
one for a change, let its languors be however manifold, 
that does not give a hoot for strict, logical form and just 
throws itself carelessly around. 

The aforesaid integrating business, which has lately 
spread over our musical stage in alarming proportions, is 
despite the seeming current conviction approximately as 
new as a Grover Cleveland button. If such shows as Briga- 
doon, Oklahoma!, Carousel, Allegro, etc., are integrated, 
as their press-agents proudly assert, in the departments of 
music, dancing, pantomime and the spoken word, equally 
integrated was the Music In The Air of fifteen years ago, 
not to mention The Merry Widow of forty, the Robin 
Hood of more than fifty, the Billee Taylor of more than 
sixty, and various such long-ago others as Madeleine, or 
The Magic Kiss, Dorothy, The Chimes Of Normandy, et al. 

All this, however, is just by the way. The immediate 
point is that, while the integrating business is quite all 
right critically, I am a bit worried over its future. It be- 
gins to look as if it may go too far and as if the time will 
come when the integrating may become so excessive that 
our musicals will be as inscrutable to the average customer 
and as difficult for him to decipher as Pirandello. The 
time may come, indeed, when the integration may be car- 
ried to such an extreme that a Broadway audience will be 
so confused it will not know when the ballet lets off and 
when the heroine jilts the archduke for the cowboy. And 

October 9, 1947 97 

when that day comes Michael Todd can make a million 
dollars reviving Star and Garter. 

From this distance, I confess that I am scared. My trepi- 
dation may turn out to be baseless, but in my frightened 
mind's eye I can see the shows so integrated that my re- 
views will probably get Agnes de Mille mixed up with 
Boris O'Rourke, the comedian, and both confused with 
the locket which the tenor gives the soprano and which is 
stolen by Richard Rodgers, the baritone, plotting in ca- 
hoots with Agnes de Mille's two pretty serving maids, Os- 
car Hammerstein and Jo Mielziner. 

I may at times be a little tired of the unintegrated shows 
in which the ballet dancers suddenly enter the hero's fa- 
ther's steel factory and interrupt a meeting of the board of 
directors by performing Gaite Parisienne. I may also at 
times be rather sick of the coloratura who promptly bursts 
into song about the beauty- of love under the Venetian 
stars upon observing that Porfirio Katz, the inn-keeper, has 
ripped his breeches in the rear. And I may no longer be 
delighted beyond all bounds when a team of acrobats, cos- 
tumed as the heroine's butler and footmen, come on and 
do their act in her boudoir. I may, in short, be ready to 
call it a day for all such shows which apparently have been 
written and staged by a vaudeville agent in collaboration 
with a discharged carpenter. But I am not so sure that I 
will not soon also be ready to call it a day for these others 
which substitute an equivalent of the exact dramaturgical 
technique of a Pinero for the old nonsensical abandon of 
Pixley and Luders, Henry Blossom and Alfred Robyn, and 
Harry B. Smith and Ludwig Englander. The danger is that 
the musical stage may come to the point where, except for 
the incorporated tunes and dancing, it will too closely re- 
semble the dramatic stage. The straws are increasingly in 
the wind. The current tendency toward rigidity in form 
may convert what should properly be a carefree gypsy art 
into more or less sedate bastard drama. 

It seems, in brief, that as the technique of the drama 
grows freer, that of the musical shows becomes more con- 
fined and restricted, and that the shows are taking over the 

98 High Button Shoes 

old, outmoded dramatic technique. The change is for the 
worse, and in two ways. In the first place, the shows make 
too much sense. And, in the second place, no one any 
longer feels like taking them out to supper, much less for 
a hansom ride around the Park afterwards. They are pretty 
and attractive, but they are a little too intelligent and too 

George Lederer, who in the pre-Ziegf eld period produced 
some of the happiest shows our theatre has known, had a 
recipe which he resolutely adhered to, and with large suc- 
cess. ''Let a show start out with some sense," he once ex- 
plained to me, "and then let it gradually lose it." Any show 
that persisted in being logical to the end, he felt, did not 
belong on the musical stage but on the dramatic. And 
somehow I think he had a lot there. These strictly inte- 
grated and logical shows may be to the taste of such critics 
as approach the musical form of entertainment with the 
same solemnity they approach the dramatic, but they are 
sometimes a little disturbing to those wiser ones who look 
upon it as a potential gay holiday from lofty and sacro- 
sanct standards. It is these possibly more acceptable fellows 
who, like Thomas Hardy and Max Beerbohm, like Archer 
and Walkley, and like Huneker and Chief Justice Holmes, 
rescind their intellectual quotient when the occasion is 
one of song and dance and pretty girls and deck out their 
critical heads with cap and bells. What they want is not 
artistic symmetry but wild folly, not reason but cajoling 
imbecility. Since even the most perfectly integrated and in- 
telligent show is perceived to be pretty ridiculous when 
closely analyzed, why not put the horse before the cart in 
the first place? 

What we ask for, in a word,, is not a return to the shows 
of merry village maidens, the princess disguised as a lieu- 
tenant of Black Huzzars, and the comedian who comes on 
with a beer spigot attached to his seat. What we ask for, in 
another word, is not the old, silly, romantic hokum inter- 
rupted by dialect comedians with chin whiskers and pil- 
lows stuffed into their pantaloons. What we ask for is just 
some of the old natural and easy and wonderfully enter- 

October 9, 1947 99 

talnlng absurdity, some of the old happy-go-lucky inconse- 
quence, and less of the studiously ordered and determined 
diversion which we are doubtless due to be in for. That we 
will not get it is more or less certain. That what we will get 
will probably in some cases be critically worthy is equally 
certain. But I have a feeling that however critically worthy 
it may be, it won't be much real fun. 

But if this High Button Shoes enjoys such virtues, its 
over-all lapses tend to make one largely oblivious of them. 
The book is a vaudeville's-eye view of its author's family 
in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1913, and has all the lit- 
erary merit of the old Keith-Albee skit in which the bag- 
gage-man who came in to remove the trunks was mistaken 
for an English lord, and all the humorous merit of the one 
in which the piano-mover was mistaken by the young soci- 
ety girl for her millionaire fiance who had been absent for 
a year in Asbury Park. The music is the kind that the wait- 
ers in the night clubs hum on their way to the service 
kitchen, and the wit consists in alluding to Henry Ford as 
Hank, in such repartee as "How's crops?** "I haven't shot 
crops for a long time/* and in remarks about selling 
swampy real estate by the gallon. The lyrics narrate that, 
while love may be desirable, it is security that a girl should 
keep her eyes on, and that getting away for a day in the 
country is wonderful. At the conclusion of the song num- 
bers the principal singers throw their arms wide open and 
the chorus raises its in turn in military salute. Tap dances 
and dances in which the boys lift the girls into the air also 
are not missing. And the d&xxr and costumes, by Oliver 
Smith and Miles White respectively, both often commend- 
able fellows, are on the visibly economical and unattrac- 
tive side. 



A musical play by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammer- 
stein II. Produced by the Theatre Guild for the rest of the 
season's performances in the Majestic Theatre. 




Annamary Dickey 


DR. JOSEPH TAYLOR William Ching 


MAYOR Edward Plait 

Blake Ritter 



Muriel O* Motley 

Susan Svetlik 

_, T f Ray Harrison 
F>S OF JOEY [ FfatlkWestbrook 

Ray Harrison 


MOLLY Katrina Van Os 

PRINCIPAL Robert Bryn 

BEULAH Gloria Wills 

MABEL Evelyn Taylor 

MINISTER Edward Platt 

BICYCLE BOY Stanley Simmons 

MILLIE Julie Humphries 

GEORGIE Harrison Mutter 

DOT Sylvia Karlton 

HAZEL Kathryn Lee 

ADDIE Patricia Bybett 



JOSEPH TAYLOR, JR. John Battles 

Lawrence Fletcher 

Miss LIPSCOMB Susan Svetlik 

MRS. MtrLHOusE Frances Rainer 

^_ T f Charles Tate 


\ Sam Steen 

JARMAN , BUI Bradley 

COACH Wilson Smith 

MAID Jean Houloose 


EMELY Lisa Kirk 




BUCKLEY Wilson Smith 

William UcCutty 

SYNOPSIS: The story starts in 1905 on the day Joseph Taylor, Jr., 
is born and follows his life to his thirty-fifth year. The three major loco- 
tions of action are: Act I. His home town and his college town. Act II. A 
large city. 

Director: Agnes de Mitte. 


REVIEW of a musical show is entertaining in the de- 
gree that the show itself is not. Little is more difficult than 
getting the flavor and spirit of a really good show onto pa- 
per. But with a bad one the job is easy. You can amuse the 

October 10, 1947 101 

reader with such critical monkeyshines as professing to ad- 
mire its great wit and recording as prime examples some of 
its deadlier jokes, or arguing with a straight face the aes- 
thetic superiority of its batty p'ot to that of Ariadne Auf 
Naxos. You can describe its lifted synthetic tunes in terms 
of the criminal statutes covering kidnapping and bigamy, 
and parallel its lyrics about the stars, the moon and thou 
with verses composed by the latest child prodigy unearthed 
in Jackson Heights or Brooklyn. You can, in short, cut up 
and, if you happen to be in any sort of form that day, give 
the more blase of your customers a reasonably diverting 
time, especially since many of them eccentrically view the 
stage as a bull-ring and the critic as a matador, and are un- 
derstandably disappointed if the bull isn't knocked off: and 
its ears and tail tossed to them. The trouble in this case 
is that the show under review, though a pronounced let- 
down from its authors 1 previous works, is not in its entirety 
quite dreadful enough to warrant such bloodthirsty treat- 
ment and that as a consequence the remarks on it may not 
be of the slaughterous nature seemingly so enchanting to 
the jaded and bloodthirsty reader. 

While the show produced the night before, whatever 
else may be said against it, has a conciliatory unpreten- 
tiousness, this Allegro is as pretentious as artificial jewelry, 
and just about as valuable. In the case of their previous big 
successes, Oklahoma! and Carousel, the Messrs. Rodgers 
and Hammerstein leaned on plays by Lynn Riggs and 
Ferenc Molndr for their inspiration. Here, they have gone 
it on their own, or at least on Hammerstein's own, and 
with scarcely salubrious results. What their book amounts 
to is a pompous combination of the poorer elements of 
Andreyev's The Life Of Man, which form the earlier parts 
of their exhibit, and of Wilder's Our Town, which in para- 
phrase form the later, and with an old D. W. Griffith go- 
ing-forth-to-meet-the-dawn ending tacked on for extra de- 
pressing measure. Mixed with the vermicelli, furthermore, 
is not onl/such hokum mush as the time-honored wedding 
scene and the ghost of a mother who returns at intervals 
to counsel her son from error, but a cocktail party chatter- 

102 Allegro 

box number paraphrased from an old Noel Coward show, 
a college boy number dittoed from an earlier George Ab- 
bott one, and various other elements hardly rivalling the 
daisy in freshness. In an effort to lend the sentimental old 
stuff an appearance of freshness nonetheless and to camou- 
flage the general lack of imagination there is recourse to 
enough stage machinery to equip Drury Lane for a decade: 
sliding platforms, hydraulic curtains, loud speakers, flights 
of steps, Royal Navy regatta lighting, lantern slides, and al- 
most everything else but a buzz-saw and a Ben Hur tread- 
milL What undoubtedly started out in the authors' minds 
as a simple story simply told and simply sung has accord- 
ingly taken on a sufficient physical rowdydow to serve 
Strindberg's Dream Play as it might have been staged by 
Piscator in his Berlin heyday. 

The alleviating interludes are few. Agnes de Mille has 
provided some fair choreography, though I for one might 
wish that she would call quits on the mesozoic business of 
female dancers derricked into the ether by their male com- 
panions and on having pairs of dancers intermittently fly 
madly across the stage and kick their right legs backwards 
just as they reach the wings. There are several passable 
songs by Rodgers, though none up to his former standard 
and though the ordinarily ingenious Hammerstein has 
tumbled lyrically into such themes as "Money Isn't Every- 
thing," "What A Lovely Day For The Wedding," and a 
variant of "The Lady Is A Tramp" called "The Gentle- 
man Is A Dope." And, to continue the brief catalogue of 
purely relative merit, there are attractive performances by 
Roberta Jonay as the wife who deserts the hero bent on a 
medical career, John Conte as his cynical friend, and Lisa 
Kirk as the steadfast nurse with whom at the finish he 
walks soulfully toward the movie sunrise. There is, too, Jo 
Mielziner's initiatedly contrived setting to substitute for 
the authors' absent fancy. But, though the show has been 
acclaimed by some of my colleagues as a rare masterpiece 
and as marking a tremendous advance of the* American 
musical stage, I otherwise can not see it. All that I can see 
is an attempt to break away from the more conventional 

October 10, 1947 103 

pattern and achieve a show of affecting simplicity which 
has wound up so complexly conventional and so complexly 
simple that it turns turtle. A lot of time and money have 
gone into the undertaking. A little more time and less 
money might have improved things. The impression of the 
whole as it stands Is of a little yokel girl in a cheap calico 
dress and with a rhinestone tiara on her head optimistically 
riding a rocking-horse in a race with Whirlaway. 

The show, which begins in 1905 with the birth of its 
protagonist and follows his career to his thirty-fifth year, is 
the twenty-ninth in a five year span which has set itself to 
evoke sentiment out of the past. The sentiment which is 
evoked in this instance is closely identified with that of an 
inebriated adult melting at the sight of a kiddie-car in a 
toy shop window. Its well-spring is in the projected theo- 
ries that the city is ruinous to a serious career and that 
only in the small town may a man develop his resources, 
that people in a metropolis are dipsomaniacs and neurotics 
whereas those in the hinterland communities are possessed 
of all the healthy virtues, and that true love is doomed in 
an environment where the buildings are more than three 
stories high and can flourish only in one whose lavatory fa- 
cilities are idyllically situated in a back-yard. The show is 
also another of the integrated species. All its elements, 
save one, have been integrated with painstaking care. That 
one is entertainment. 


MEDEA. OCTOBER 20, 1947 

A free adaptation of the Euripides tragedy by Robinson 
Jeffers. Produced by Robert Whitehead and Oliver Rea 
for the rest of the season's performances in 3 initially > the 
National Theatre. 




Florence Reed 
Don McHenry 
Bobby Nick 
Peter Moss 

Grace Mitts 

Kathryn Grill 

Leone Wilson 
MEDEA Judith Anderson 

The entire action of the play occurs before Medea's house in 

Director: John Gtelgud. 

CREON Albert Hecht 

JASON John Gielgud 

AEGEUS Hugh Franklin 

JASON'S SLAVE Richard Hylton 

ATTENDANTS TO ( Martha Dowries 
MEDEA \ Marian Seldes 

Ben Morse 
Jon Dawson 
Richard Boone 
Dennis McCarthy 



THEATRE PUBLIC that esteems something like an All 
My Sons for the power of its tragic purge must plainly be 
a bit abashed in the presence of anything like the Medea. 
A catharsis satisfactorily obtained from rhubarb surely 
finds dynamite a little superfluous and discommoding. It is 
for this reason that a producer who hopes to keep any such 
Greek tragedy going beyond the next Saturday night nec- 
essarily has either to coat it with appetizing marquee names 
or bring it into some modern acceptance with an adapta- 
tion of one kind or another. Anyone who imagines the con- 
trary must believe that the JEschylus trilogy from which 
O'Neill derived Mourning Becomes Electro, would have 
matched the long run of the latter,^ or that the two day en- 
gagement of Euripides' The Trojan Women some seasons 
ago might not have been extended for at least a few days 

October 20, 1947 105 

more if the cast had included Helen Hayes, Gertrude Law- 
ence, the Lunts, and Joe Louis, in whiteface. 

It is thus that the Messrs. Whitehead and Rea have 
wisely seen to it that the Euripides drama has been filtered 
through the fluent modern verse of Robinson Jeffers and 
brought into the appreciation and convenience of the con- 
temporary theatre through such devices as giving the origi- 
nal Messenger's speech detailing the horror of Jason's 
bride's cremation to the Nurse character with whom the 
audience has been acquainted throughout the play, an in- 
tegration of the disturbing chorus into the body of the 
drama, a more congenial imagery in the general treatment, 
and, among other things, an ending in which the impossi- 
bly spectacular dragon-drawn chariot with the dead chil- 
dren is supplanted by Medea's more practical barricade of 
her house against Jason and the baring of his sons* corpses 
within the doorway and within range of his grimly pun- 
ished vision. The producers have astutely further seen to it 
that the acting company includes such names as Judith An- 
derson, John Gielgud, and Florence Reed, and that the 
costumes and scenery will please an audience with the 
thought that they cost a lot of money. 

But should anyone regard this preamble as a reflection 
on the presentation,, let him promptly be disabused. Jef- 
fers' free, de-goded rendering of the great tragedy is a more 
than acceptable performance much superior theatrically 
to the Gilbert Murray translation; and the delineation of 
its leading role by Judith Anderson in all save the last mo- 
ments suffices it handsomely. It is an occasion to be recom- 
mended to that share of our audiences whose theatrical 
stimulation is somehow not entirely accomplished by mu- 
sical show sliding platforms, the startling philosophy that 
women frequently pursue men, and celebrated literature 
that is made into plays by deleting its literary quality. It is 
only, as noted, in the later portion of the drama that Miss 
Anderson, like an otherwise Ail-American fullback who 
has exhausted his resources in the three earlier periods of 
the game, misses. Up to that point, she is excellent. But 
thereafter her power seems partly to wane and her vocal 

106 Medea 

projection partly to weaken, and the mounting climax of 
the play consequently fails to explode. Gielgud's Jason is 
Ivor Novello in whiskers and gives the effect of a tenor 
Siegfried cast as a bass Hagen. Florence Reed's Nurse, ex- 
cept for the articulation of "them" as "thum" and a too 
unrelieved Bela Lugosi facial expression, is satisfactory. 
And the rest serve. 

While commending anew the fluid grace of Jeffers' treat- 
ment, it may incidentally be observed that the drama 
vouchsafes him luxuriant opportunity to indulge himself 
in the grisly, for which he has ever indicated a quenchless 
fancy. I submit a few gory samples: 

"They would indeed be happy to lay their hands on my 
head: holding the very knives and the cleavers that carved 
their sire." 

"If I could tear off the flesh and be bones; naked bones; 
salt-scoured bones . . ." 

"The unburied horror, the unbridled hatred, the vultures 
tearing a corpse." 

"If I should go into the house with a sharp knife to the 
man and his bride, or if I could fire the room they sleep 
in, and hear them wake in the white of the fire, and 
cry to each other, and howl like dogs, and howl and 
die . . ." 

"A young mare broke from the chariot and tore with her 
teeth a stallion/' 

"I'd have your bony loins beaten to a blood-froth/' 

"White-hot, flaying the flesh from the living bones; blood 
mixed with fire ran down, she fell, she burned on the 
floor writhing." 

'The fire stuck to the flesh, it glued him to her; he tried 
to stand up, he tore her body and his own; the burnt 
flesh broke in lumps from the bones . . . They lie 
there, eyeless, disfaced, untouchable; middens of smok- 
ing flesh . . ." 

"The harsh tides of breath still whistled in the black 

"If he were my own hands I would ait him off, or my 

October 20, 1947 107 

eyes, I would gouge him out ... I want him crushed, 
boneless, crawling . . ." 

Coming again to the quality of Miss Anderson's per- 
formance, we may also reflect that one of the supplemen- 
tary functions of the theatre is the providing of its patrons 
with the opportunity to become wroth with one another 
over their personal estimates of its actresses. The oppor- 
tunity is no new dispensation; it has been a boon for 
years. Nor has it been taken full advantage of by the laity 
only; the critics, those theoretical cocks of jurisprudence, 
have no less exercised their gala rights and privileges, Long 
before the arguments over Bernhardt and Duse shattered 
the rafters, no actress, however eminent in her craft, was 
spared her share of artistic disparagement, which on occa- 
sion approached the obscene. And the battles, which often 
have edged toward fisticuffs, continue unabated to this day 
and hour. 

They are understandable. For not only, apparently, in 
any appraisal of an actress must the appraiser's insuppress- 
ible personal prejudice for or against her visually and cor- 
poreally be taken into the referee's consideration, but the 
appraisal itself is founded upon the inexactness of just 
what it is that constitutes or does not constitute histrionic 
virtuosity. Many people, of course, can recognize abso- 
lutely bad acting when they see it. But it is doubtful 
whether they are quite so proficient in assaying the middle 
ground, and more doubtful still whether they can recog- 
nize the real thing for what it is. It isn't that they may not 
feel that the performance is a good one; it is simply that 
they do not know, and could not for the life of them ex- 
plain, why it is. 

Margaret Anglin, for example, is in the opinion of 
many one of the most expert actresses that the modern 
American stage has offered. Yet, because many, many more 
have not taken to her stage-wise in propria persona, not 
only has she been a less than popularly endorsed one but 
has not been drafted for a play in some years. Maude Ad- 
ams, on the other hand, was in the opinion of just as many 

108 Medea 

an actress of very considerably less stature. Yet, because 
many, many more were pleased with her as a stage figure, 
she reigned in the popular favor until her voluntary re- 
tirement. Today, in further example and confusion, the 
popular esteem in which Katharine Cornell is held materi- 
ally outmeasures that which is the portion of this Judith 
Anderson, though it would be hard to believe that the lat- 
ter is not the superior in every departm'ent of the craft save 
alone looks and personal magnetism. I shall not be so 
unchivalrous as to mention names in another and more 
severe direction, but at least one current actress whose 
knowledge of the calling is wholly superficial is neverthe- 
less pretty generally accepted as the genuine article by lay- 
men and many professional critics, while one who could 
give her cards and spades, and even a pair of aces on sleeve 
elastics, is amiably but nonetheless firmly dismissed. The 
former simply happens to be blessed with a striking per- 
sonality, whereas the latter was neglected in that attribute 
by the good fairies at cradle-time. 

It is that way often. The only actress on the present 
American stage whose proficiency has not suffered critically 
from any such external physical considerations is Helen 
Hayes. But there are others who have found themselves 
victims and whose measure of talent has in turn found it- 
self up against the hurdle. 

Several seasons ago, a young novice, Barbara Bel Geddes, 
was acclaimed as a surprisingly adept actress for her per- 
formance in Deep Are The Roots. Her performance was an 
appealing and charming one and, further, her personality 
fitted the part and her pretty looks enhanced it. That much 
freely granted. But of acting, except in the most elemen- 
tary and obvious sense, there was little. And so with all but 
two of the various lauded girls who have played the role of 
Sally Middleton in the popular comedy success, The Voice 
Of The Turtle. 

There is the matter, too, of direction. That many an ac- 
tress has received credit which properly belongs to a skilful 
director is an old story. And that many an unskilful direc- 
tor has not received blame for an actress' poor performance 

October 20, 1947 109 

is an equally old one. But there are very few people, and 
that includes a fair number of the professional critics, who 
are able to discern where the director begins and the ac- 
tress lets off, or vice versa. There have been and there are 
actresses who on rare occasions have managed first-rate per- 
formances in spite of their directors. But there are very 
many more whose abilities at times have been hamstrung, 
distorted and botched by them. 

The late Henry Miller, one of the best directors of act- 
ing our theatre has known, was able to make an only pass- 
able actress seem for the time being to be one of high com- 
petence, and to make a really good one seem even superior 
to herself. And the same held true of David Belasco, em- 
piric in other dramatic departments though he may have 
been. In the case of both, it sometimes happened that when 
an actress left the fold and came under other direction her 
audiences could not understand why one previously ven- 
erated by them as something of a histrionic genius had so 
suddenly deteriorated and gone to pot. 

There is probably no actress on our stage at the present 
time who knows more about the technical aspects of acting 
than the German-born Elisabeth Bergner. But most of her 
performances are bad for the reason that her husband, 
Paul Czinner, who has long directed her, permits her so to 
overlay and lacquer her essential competences with per- 
sonal tricks and mannerisms that the abilities are buried 
and made mock of. There is, in turn, an actress contempo- 
rary with Miss Bergner who obviously knows little more 
about her craft than a moderately talented amateur. Yet 
shrewd direction now and again has been successful in 
palming her off on audiences, along with many of the crit- 
ics, as an actress of some authentic position. In this, she is 
helped of course by a considerable physical attractiveness 
and a flair for comporting herself with an interesting dash. 

A canny director sometimes succeeds in covering up an 
actress' deficiencies and embellishing her better qualities 
through one chicane or another. If her walk is on the un- 
graceful side, he sees to it that she either does considerable 
sitting or moves behind obscuring chairs, sofas, pianos, and 

110 Medea 

what not. If she is graceful, as Gertrude Lawrence is, he 
takes every advantage of a script to work in as much move- 
ment for her as he can, short of converting the occasion 
into a semblance of Les Sylphides. An actress who may be 
awkward in gesture is protected by a constant interruption 
of gesture on the part of her acting vis-a-vis. One who is ex- 
pert in it is allowed to go to it with a cast directed as if it 
were afflicted with paralysis of the arms. There is no actress 
so poor that she can not be made to appear better by direct- 
ing the others on the stage to seem as poor as she herself 
factually is. There is hardly one so good, on the other 
hand, that she may not be made to appear less so by direct- 
ing another in her most important scene either quietly to 
underplay her or convincingly to pretend to a winning hu- 
mility in the presence of the august one. 

Duse became at least in a measure the figure she was be- 
cause D'Annunzio, during his reign over her, not merely 
wrote roles exactly fitted to her but, more importantly, 
saw to it that the woman as woman was never too much 
superseded by the woman as actress. Rejane triumphed 
when she slapped any director who sought to elevate 
greasepaint over inner composition and spirit. "I am for 
nature and against naturalism/' said Coquelin. He also 
said what is in large part the sharpest commentary ever 
written on acting, "The two beings which co-exist in the 
actress are inseparable, but it is the one who sees who must 
be the master. It is the soul, the other is the body. It is the 
reason, and its double is to the other as rhyme is to reason: 
a slave who must obey. The more it is the master, the more 
the actress is an artist/' 

The nature of a role is frequently another item in the 
confusion of appraisal. A wrong role, as should be suffi- 
ciently known but frequently is not, may give to what is 
critically very good acting the effect, in the minds of many, 
of very poor. Helen Hayes' performance in Mr. Gilhooley 
in a role quite unsuited to her, for example, was at bot- 
tom as expert as many of her other performances, but sim- 
ply because her personality was at variance with the role 
most of her audiences charged the jpoor effect to her act- 

October 20, 1947 111 

Ing. Ina Claire was every bit as proficient in an ill-suited 
dramatic role in Children Of Darkness as she has been in 
comedy roles, but the objection to her by tryout audiences 
was such that she saw the way the critical wind would blow 
if she appeared in it in New York and abandoned the part. 

The late Charles Frohman was sagacious enough not 
to allow his stars, with rare exception, to take any such 
chances with a chuckleheaded public and its critical 
guides. He accordingly almost always saw to it that they 
played much the same role, whatever the play and what- 
ever the role may have been called. One of the few chances 
he ever took was with Ethel Barrymore in Galsworthy's 
The Silver Box and, though she was first-rate in it, her au- 
diences still admired her talents more greatly in her pre- 
vious pretty little nothings. He said that he should have 
learned his lesson in the case of Maude Adams in The 
Pretty Sister Of Jose. The relative virtue of her perform- 
ance was lost sight of because of the strangeness of the role, 
and she was charged by the opaque, both lay and profes- 
sional, with shortcomings which mostly and actually were 

A more recent illustration. Three seasons ago, the late 
Laurette Taylor's portrayal of the mother role in The 
Glass Menagerie was hailed, and deservedly, as one of the 
finest examples of the acting art that our contemporary 
stage had seen. But I wonder how many of her eulogists 
knew why it was what it was, that is, aside from its readily 
to be discerned and appreciated aspects. Did they know, 
for instance, that she on this occasion profited herself by 
rejecting Coquelin's dictum, "The first duty of a player is 
respect for his text; whatever he says must be said as the 
author wrote it"? Far from doing any such thing, she threw 
a lot of the Tennessee Williams text to the winds and 
adapted and rephrased it, very ingeniously, to her own per- 
sonal acting ends. Did they further know that her perform- 
ance varied markedly from night to night, that it was never 
the same, and that die skilfully maneuvered it to the dif- 
ferent reactions of successive audiences? 

Did they appreciate her dexterity in timing her laughs so 

112 Medea 

that they would not suffer from what coughing there might 
be in the audience? Did they know that what seemed "nat- 
ural" in her performance was frequently the result of au- 
dacious ad libbing? Did they understand that seldom was 
her articulation and modulation of a line of dialogue the 
same, and that in this regard she followed her instinct as to 
a particular audience's character and receptivity? Did they 
comprehend, in short, that what they regarded, and cor- 
rectly, to be the top acting performance of its year was not 
one performance but successively all of a dozen or more, 
that its entrepreneur had directed herself in it without out- 
side aid, that she created a character -out of bricks and 
straw supplied only meagrely by the playwright, and that 
she literally acted the woman who was Laurette Taylor 
into a role which itself did not in any way even faintly re- 
semble her and which in sum, for all its embroideries, re- 
mained Laurette Taylor from first to last? She did not, as 
the expression goes, lose herself in the part. She lost, and 
with uncommon beauty and effect, the part in Laurette 

Where, in such a case, do the stern critical principles re- 
garding the art of acting find themselves? 



A play by J. B. Priestley. Produced by Courtney Burr and 
Lassor H. Grosberg for 95 performances in the Booth 


ARTHUR BIRUNG Melville Cooper 
GERAU> CROFT John Buckmaster 


EIXNA Patricia Marmont 

EBIC BIRUNG John Merivale 


Thomas Mitchell 

It is an evening in spring, 1912. 

AH three acts, which are continuous, take place in the dining- 
room, of the BirUngs' house in Brumley 3 an industrial city in the north 

Director: Cedric Hardwicke. 


OF THE most overdone plots in the modern drama 
is that in which a strange individual insinuates himself 
into a household of hypocritical, uncertain and bewildered 
folk and eventually awakens them to a recognition of their 
true inner selves. The visitor is sometimes a male, some- 
times a female, but in either case is invested with a more 
or less mysterious and inscrutable presence. If a male, he 
may vaguely be hinted to be of divine origin, as in The 
Passing Of The Third Floor Back, The Servant In The 
House, etc., or, if the playwright be of waggish bent, may 
be ultimately revealed, for all the stir he has wrought, as 
something of a loafer, as in A t Mrs. Beam's, etc. If the 
caller be female, she most often is either one about whom 
little is known save that she has led what may politely be 
termed a worldly life, as in A Strange Woman, Outrageous 
Fortune, etc., or one about whom slightly more is known, 
including the impolite fact that, unlike the other and 
despite her comparative inscrutability, she has accepted 
money for it, as in Passersby, The Outcast, etc. So appar- 
ently irresistible is the theme, indeed, that sometimes the 
role is even reduced to ingenue status and its incumbent 

114 An Inspector Calls 

presented with no enigmatical rigmarole but simply as a 
chick whose wide-eyed artlessness and natural frankness 
charm the previously unsweet household into an affinity 
with angel-cake, as in Peg o' My Heart, et al. 

A variation of the plot shows up once again in Mr. 
Priestley's play. In this case the visitor is intimated to be a 
creature possessed of a divination approaching the super- 
natural, though what he seems rather to be is simply Con- 
science out of the old morality plays dressed not in the 
usual black and white nightshirt but in a brown mufti 
number. As is customary in plays of the kind, the intima- 
tion is conveyed to the audience by having a sensitive fe- 
male character suddenly pause from time to time, permit 
a look of perplexity to cross her features, and gaze at the 
other characters with an expression suggesting that her 
scanties have got loose from their moorings. The caller's 
business similarly follows the familiar basic pattern and 
the household, come eleven o'clock, is duly brought to 
realize the error of its previous ways. 

Priestley, as is his wont, here and there writes intelli- 
gently and agreeably but, as is also frequently his wont, 
does not sufficiently convert the intelligent and agreeable 
writing into satisfactory drama. There is the feeling about 
most of his plays that they are first drafts, impatiently re- 
leased to clear his desk for the next one. At the rate he has 
been going, he will probably toss off more before he fin- 
ishes than even Lope de Vega or Owen Davis and, unless 
he takes greater care with them, they will not be any better 
than the great majority of those artisans*. There are one or 
two tolerable scenes in this, his latest, but on the whole it 
repeats itself with the embarrassing insistence of spaghetti 
marinara, and with the same disturbing taste. 

Cedric Hardwicke's direction is first-rate, and the better 
performances are those of Melville Cooper, Rene Ray and 
John Buckmaster, though surely not that of Thomas 
Mitchell, who brings to the role of the occult caller only 
that kind of studied, mechanical underplaying which 
passes with uneducated audiences for extraordinarily ex- 
perienced emotional control and inner understanding. 

October 21, 1947 115 

The play in several directions indicates the haste in 
which it was written. Since it makes motions, however 
awkward, toward some quality, one may fairly ask ques- 
tions in its presence which would be foolish in the case of 
frankly cheap box-office goods. Why, for instance, do the 
characters who suspect the visitor to be no inspector at all 
but an impostor not demand to see his credentials or call 
up police headquarters at once instead of delaying until 
the very end of the play? Why did the presumptively sym- 
pathetic heroine, declared as being not of easy virtue, fre- 
quent a bar for promiscuous women after her first experi- 
ence with illicit sex gained there? Is there not considerable 
coincidence stretching in the circumstance that the pro- 
spective son-in-law of the household and the son thereof 
have enjoyed directly successive affairs with the girl with- 
out either, though intimately associated, being aware of 
the fact? And so on. 

In another direction, had Priestley taken the time to 
scrutinize his manuscript more closely, would he not have 
deleted the surplusage of its sermonizing on the responsi- 
bility of the individual for the acts of others? It presently 
obtrudes like a pastor at a cocktail party, though cocktail 
party is scarcely a term to be employed in connection with 
so teetotalitarian a play. And would he have allowed him- 
self a trick ending, which in any dramatic case is scarcely 
appropriate to a play which asks one to submit seriously to 
the body of its argument? Mr. Priestley, in short, is a care- 
less craftsman, and careless craftsmen are certain to foun- 
der in any such dramaturgical attempt to dovetail mysti- 
cism and reality. 



A play by John van Druten. Produced by Alfred de Liagre, 
Jr., for 69 performances in the Morosco Theatre. 


TOM LLOYD-ELLIS Walter S tarkey 
MEGAN LEWIS Susan Douglas 

Neva Patterson 
Ethel Griffies 

Miss DAGNALL Lilian Bronson 

Noel Leslie 
MADDOX Boyd Crawford 

TOBIN Aidan Turner 



Miss TREVELYAN Merle Maddern 


Cherry Hardy 

SYNOPSIS: The action passes in the early twenties in a small 
university town near the borders of England and Wales. Act I. Scene 1. 
The senior common room. Mid-morning, Wednesday. Scene 2. The Mad- 
denes' -flat. Late the same afternoon. Act II. Professor Whites flat. Satur- 
day afternoon. Act III. Scene 1. The senior common room. Tuesday morn- 
ing. Scene 2. The Maddoxes' flat. Tuesday evening. 

Director: John van Druten. 


N THE INSTANCE of this latest play by the talented van 
Druten, I feel much like the juryman in the old story. 
After long and exhausting days, opposing counsel in a case 
were able to find only one juror upon whom both could 
agree. Putting their despairing heads together, they finally 
concluded, with the court's permission, to dispense with 
the other eleven and to trust the issue to the single selec- 
tion. When the trial was finished, he was bidden to retire 
and to meditate his decision. After some hours he re- 
turned, took his place in the box, and was asked by the 
judge if he had arrived at a verdict. He nodded that he 
had. The judge instructed him to face the court and to 
state it. "I disagree/' he announced. 

Like that juror, I disagree with myself over The Druid 
Circle. On the one hand, it approaches its subject matter 
intelligently but, on the other, does not sufficiently resolve 
the intelligent approach into consistently engaging drama. 
On the one hand, it is interesting in separate episodes but, 

October 22, 1947 117 

on the other, fails to maintain that interest in its entirety, 
On the one hand, it is ably written if considered scene by 
scene but, on the other, is less ably written if considered as 
a whole, since its dramaturgical design has too little cohe- 
sion. It is effective in part, but in general too languid and 
dawdling. It proves again its author's sharp sense of char- 
acter, but the characters do not always serve toward the 
necessary dramatic vitality. It is, in brief, to be respected 
for its honesty and periodic skill, but in the end it does 
not satisfy. 

It is the author's purpose to indicate, through the per- 
son of a sterile college professor long bogged down in the 
academic groove, that a pathological hatred of youth and 
youth's ways may develop in such a man, and to such a de- 
gree that his overt acts may bring tragedy to the objects of 
his aversion* After a tedious first act in which the ground- 
plan is laid with the painstaking of a one-armed landscape 
gardener, van Druten brings his theme into direct focus in 
a second, but there is yet a third which backs and fills and 
gets less than an inch or two beyond what the preceding 
act has seated and accomplished. It is an act arbitrarily 
made to kill time until its final three minutes wherein is 
suggested the professor's mild seizure of doubt over his an- 
tecedent malicious conduct in torturing a boy and girl stu- 
dent with a passionate love letter written by the former 
which has fallen into his possession. 

By far the best scene, a fresh and initiatedly written one, 
is that in the middle act between the dried-out, hidebound 
professor and his liberal-minded and sharp-mouthed old 
mother. It is in van Druten's most original and most ad- 
mired comedy vein, and I hope that I do not too greatly 
exceed the accepted limits of criticism in regarding an au- 
thor's work when I allow that I wish he might abandon 
these not altogether successful excursions into serious 
drama and devote himself to the comedy form in which he 
has demonstrated himself to be so pleasantly accomplished. 

The author's direction of his play is, as usual, of a high 
proficiency, and several of the acting performances, espe- 
cially those of Leo G. Carroll as the protagonist and Ethel 

118 The Druid Circle 

Griffies as his maternal parent, are laudable. There is a 
nice bit, also, by a promising novice, Neva Patterson, in 
the role of the wife of a younger professor whose sympa- 
thies are with the oppressed and tormented youths. The 
play in its tryout stage was laid in 1912 and the dress of 
the characters was of that period. Just before the New 
York opening, the period was advanced to the early igso's 
and, with little time for new costuming, the actors were 
left largely to their own devices. The consequence was a 
sartorial hybrid of high-buttoned jackets, pleated trousers 
and sports sweaters that made most of the male characters 
look as if they were their own fathers wearing parts of their 
sons' wardrobes at a reunion of the class of 1940. 



A fantasy by G. M. Martens and Andrd Obey, with inci- 
dental music by Claude Arrieu. Produced by the Black- 
friars' Guild for 24 performances in the Blackfriars* Guild 












Kate Gibbons 

Gertrude Murphy 



Margaret Mohan 

Charles Metten 

Tom O'Connor 

Warren Burmeister 

Alan Mazza 


Nappy Whiting 
Alan Glendening 
Kate Gibbons 
Michael O'Casey 
Nappy Whiting 
Tom O'Connor 

Rose Mary Mechem 

SYNOPSIS: Act L A tap-room. Act H Scene 1. Ante-room to 
Hades. Scene 2. Gate to Heaven. Act III. The tap-room. 
Director: Dennis Gurney. 

L NDRE OBEY, known to American audiences only 
through his Noah, Lucrece, and his collaboration with 
Denys Amiel, The Wife With A Smile (La Souriante 
Mme. Beaudet) , is a witty Frenchman whose other plays 
have been considered too unsubstantial for the American 
stage by producers of such exceptionally substantial drama 
as Laura, I Gotta Get Out,, How I Wonder, Duet For Two 
Hands, and similar refreshments. In this case, he is repre- 
sented merely as an adapter, since the play is the product 
of the Flemish Martens. Exactly what he did or did not 
contribute to it I can not say, the original being unknown 
to me. Ignorance is further complicated by the circum- 
stance that his adaptation has been readapted by local am- 
ateur hands. The end-product is a garble of fantasy and 
farce which in no detail suggests anything resembling the 
Obey we know and which is altogether rather undeiicious. 

120 Hoboes in Heaven 

There may have been a theme of some point in the orig- 
inal but, if there is one in this mangled version, I do not 
seem to be able to ferret it out. All that I can exhume is a 
confused and duncish to-do about a pair of tramps who are 
run down by an automobile and declared dead, who find 
themselves alternately in Hell and Heaven, who are offered 
a Liliom-ltke chance to return to earth and redeem them- 
selves, and who are eventually found not to have died but 
possibly to have dreamed their adventures. 

The acting, direction, and staging were more hellish 
than heavenly; and the incidental music only aggravated 



A play by Terence Rattigan. Produced by the Theatre 
Guild, H. M. Tennant, Ltd., and John C. Wilson for 215 
performances in the Empire Theatre. 



Michael Kmgsley 

DESMOND CURRY George Benson 
Miss BARNES Dorothy Hamilton 
FRED Leonard MicheU 


VIOLET Betty Sinclair 

GRACE WINSLOW Madge Compton 


Valerie White 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in Arthur Window's house in 
Kensington, London, shortly before the frst World War. Act I. Scene 1. 
A Sunday morning in July. Scene 2. An afternoon in April ( nine months 
later). Act IE. Scene 1. An evening in January (nine months later). 
Scene 2. An afternoon in June (five months later). 

Director: Glen By am Shaw. 



PLAY, based on the celebrated Archer-Shee case, 
treats of a British father's long battle to clear his fourteen- 
year-old son of the charge of having stolen a small sum of 
money while a cadet at the Osborne naval academy. The 
fight becomes a national issue, is debated in Parliament, 
and wrecks the father's health and fortune, but eventually 
succeeds in freeing the boy from suspicion and in establish- 
ing the rights of private citizens against bureaucratic arro- 
gance. The exhibit is, of course, at bottom the familiar one 
in which a person wrongly accused of a crime is finally, 
after more vicissitudes than an audience can shake a stick 
at, declared innocent and falls again, exhausted but tri- 
umphant, into the arms of his loved ones; and by making 
the accused a youngster, the theme naturally gains an added 
theatrical value. 

Back in the iSgo's, particularly in England, which is the 
birthplace of the specimen under scrutiny, it was the cus- 

122 The Winslow Boy 

torn to center the plots of such plays on a big cross-exam- 
ination scene, usually in those days concerned with uncov- 
ering an illicit sexual episode in the past life of the female 
protagonist. Mr. Rattigan here again borrows it from the 
long ago and presents it in variation as one in which a cel- 
ebrated lawyer confronts the accused boy and over a con- 
siderable period tries to break down his profession of inno- 
cence. It still, despite its age, makes for a good scene, and 
as played by Frank Allenby and young Michael Newell, 
momentarily induces one to suspend critical cynicism and 
interestedly to accept it much as a child similarly accepts, 
with an eye on the potential two-bits in his grandfather's 
hand, one of the old gaffer's oft repeated stories. The play 
on the whole, indeed, though its mechanism is always vis- 
ible and ticks loudly and though some of its scenes are ar- 
bitrarily written into it rather than, as the German musical 
phrase goes, composed through it, amounts to very fair 
theatrical goods. There are even times when it is a little 
better than just that, since its author, though operating in 
what is generally a journeyman box-office style, shrewdly 
strains what might readily become crude melodrama 
through a sieve of humor. Some of the latter, emanating 
from character, falls nicely into the pattern. But at other 
times his all too evident effort to cadge the groundlings 
brings him to such passages as the elegantly reserved coun-* 
sellor's stylishly superior objection to the bad English in 
the phrase "nation-wide laughing-stock" and, a moment 
later, his observation that he can not abide the House of 
Commons because of "the cold drafts and the hot air/' 

Any such play obviously stands or falls on its acting and 
this one gets the benefit of some able, which by virtue of 
the precise British accents accompanying it persuades an 
American audience that it is much finer than merely that % 
Of the players, the best are Webb and the before men- 
tioned Allenby, the latter of whom enjoys that elaborate 
poise and air of high address which were the property of 
Alexander, Faversham, Hawtrey and other such grandees 
of a bygone stage and which, criticize as hamminess if you 
will, are all the same immensely effective. 

October 29, 1947 123 

Unlike the monolingual American traveling in Ger- 
many who, looking upon the numerous signs Autobahn, 
was puzzled by the many tributes to America's foremost 
ornithologist, I do not find it at all difficult to understand 
why the Ellen Terry award, England's equivalent of the lo- 
cal Pulitzer Prize, was bestowed upon the play. It is simply 
that most awards in any country designed to recognize 
plays of real merit are most often given to plays largely 
without it. I sometimes believe that if only an annual 
award were to be instituted for the worst play we might 
very possibly be gratified to find in th play at least some 
of the quality which the various boards of award presently 
profess to see in their choices of best. Mr. Rattigan's play 
is very far from falling into the category of worst; it is, as 
has been said, fairly impressive showshop material; but if 
it was the best play of its English year, God save the Eng- 
lish drama. 


OCTOBER 30, 1947 

A vaudeville bill Produced by Clifford C. Fischer for 48 
performances in the Playhouse. 


Edith Piaf, Les Compagnons de la Chanson, Les Canova, George and 
Tim Donnonde, Alma and Fleury, and George Andr6 Martin. 



LHE SHOW, including its star, is the kind encountered in 
the past in one or another of the little music halls on the 
Paris Left Bank, admission to which was a few francs or, in 
some cases, merely the appearance of having enough sous 
in one's pocket to pay for a beer. At a theatre price of four 
dollars and eighty cents, it is in an anomalous position, 

The first part of the bill consists in a pair of alleged 
Greek dancers, male and female, who perform less well 
than any pair of chorus dancers in a local Jerome Robbins 
or Agnes de Mille show. The couple is followed by a male 
duo who perform, as God is our judge, on unicycles, one 
of them seemingly being of the opinion that homosexual 
conduct is amusing. Now still another male couple with 
nude, thickly powdered bodies who, after the routine prin- 
ciples of the many vaudeville equilibrist acts which, like 
this one, are invariably billed as "Poetry In Motion," alter- 
nately lift each other slowly and with a great deal of mus- 
cle quivering off the floor and then slowly and with a 
great deal of muscle quivering again deposit each other on 
it. Follows a portly Gaul who fits miniature costumes to his 
right hand and mimics various dancers with his fingers. He 
is expert at the trick. And, finally, nine young Frenchmen 
who call themselves "Les Compagnons de la Chanson/' who 
give their impressions of an American jazz band, American 
microphone crooners, Russian Cossack choirs, etc., and 
who on the opening night were cheered, by what was ap- 

October 30, 1947 125 

patently a copious claque, with considerably more volume 
than would be the portion of the nine members of the Su- 
preme Court if they unanimously rendered a decision that 
the legal limit of personal taxes was henceforth fifty cents 
a head. The young men, it seemed to me, were only moder- 
ately entertaining, since I can no longer find much exhila- 
ration in the old-time two-a-day comedy act in which a 
man exercises himself frantically in trying to lift the lid of 
a grand piano and in which after a great flourish on the 
keyboard he pauses a moment and then hits a high note 
with his little finger, or in imitations of the contortions of 
jazz musicians and, at this late hour, of the March of the 
Wooden Soldiers. 

The second part of the evening is devoted to Mile. Piaf. 
The Mile. Piaf is a small, chunky woman with tousled red- 
dish hair, heavily mascara'd eyes, and a mouth made up to 
look like a quart bottle of metaphen. According to a quo- 
tation from one Schoenbrun in the playbill, "She is the 
particular favorite of the midinette, the charwoman, the 
poor student, the factory worker, the millions of pale, thin 
girls who live gray, toil-worn lives. Piaf is each one of them. 
When *La Mome" (as she is known) sings of her cold-water 
flat, her 'cracked walls and gondola bed/ she is moaning 
for all of them. When Piaf finds a lover who holds her in 
his arms and turns her miserable room into a palace, you 
can hear the sighs of happiness from the crowded music 
hall as each Parisienne finds escape with Piaf." * 

Very probably. For there can be small doubt that our 
chanteuse has the forlorn appearance and melancholy 
mien, sedulously accented by shabby dress and the other 
accepted stage concomitants of poverty, which always com- 
panionably impress the emotions of counterparts in life. 
And that impression is automatically deepened by a voice 
which, whatever the nature of the song, cultivates the pitch 
and tone of gulpy despair. So much may be granted Piaf. 
But, for all the fact that she seems to have been very suc- 
cessful in liquefying her French clientele, not quite so 
much may be granted her on the score of any real artistry. 
She sings all songs much alike. There is scarcely any change 

126 Edith Piaf and Company 

in emotional pattern, or in expression, or in projection. 
One and all begin in a low key and mount gradually into 
a terrific abdominal, chest and laryngeal explosion, accom- 
panied either by the pointing of the index finger at the au- 
dience or by the extension of the arms laterally. And all 
are sold with the same set woebegone look, the same set air 
of heartbroken but brave defeat. 

The repertory, as has been intimated, is, furthermore, 
largely the standard boulevard one: the song about Va- 
mour, the song about the married woman retracing the 
joys and sorrows of her tragic life, the one about the little 
merry-go-round in the park in the days when the singer 
was happy, the other one about the forsaken prostitute, 
and so on. 

That returning American voyagers often go overboard 
in their testimonials to such singers is an old story. It is 
also an understandable one, in a manner. The impulse to 
overrate a performer whom one has heard in some out of 
the way little spot in a foreign country and whom one feels 
one has one's self surprisingly discovered is common to 
most travellers, particularly those who have wandered out 
into the Paris night with a few drinks under their belts 
and, possibly, with a pretty girl to hold hands with while 
the singer is sighing of love. Under such circumstances 
Piaf would undoubtedly do. But on the stage of a cold- 
sober theatre and in a colder and more critical land I sus- 
pect that her appeal misses something. 



A farce-comedy by Conrad S. Smith. Produced by Harry 
Rosen for 8 performances in the Royale Theatre. 


DR. TRUMBULL Stapleton Kent 

IRENE SMITH Eileen Heckart 


ELSIE Mildred Mtmroe 



Jack Fletcher 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. Bungalow No. 9, Hotel Del Rey, near 
Los Angeles, noon on a June day in 1946. Scene 2. Late afternoon. Act 
II. Scene 1. That evening. Scene 2. Later tiiat evening. Act Iff. The next 

Director: Edtoard Ludlum. 


PRODUCT of the summer theatre circuit, the play is of 
the sort which too often provokes sarcastic comment on 
the rural playhouses in toto. It is, true enough, an oppro- 
brious little thing, with its amateurishly written story of a 
couple whose marriage ceremony is delayed and who go 
away on an impromptu honeymoon, but to believe that it 
represents the summer theatre stages in the aggregate is 
scarcely the fact. The latter, it seems to me, have been get- 
ting an unfair deal for some time now. It is not, certainly, 
that they haven't their several shortcomings say about 
forty or fifty but, along with them, they also have their 
virtues, and it is these that are generally lost sight of. They 
provide, first, both individually and collectively a reper- 
tory theatre that meets the requirements of those who en- 
dorse repertory as one of the desirable items of the dra- 
matic stage. They secondly keep the spirit of the theatre 
alive in the municipally dead summer season and bring 
the drama to many people in towns and villages remote 
from the theatrical centers. They thirdly afford employ- 
ment and a livelihood to many actors and actresses. They 

128 Trial Honeymoon 

fourthly give the latter valuable added training and expe- 
rience. And they fifthly provide a testing ground for new 
scripts. That they also in the general process occasionally 
provide some audience pain is, as has been intimated, per- 
fectly true. But pain is often the handmaiden of ultimate 

One of the most effective means of ridicule is to attach a 
catchy derogatory label to a person or an object. Such la- 
bels as "cowsheds/* "barn theatres," etc., promiscuously 
pasted on the bucolic playhouses, have accordingly brought 
them into disrepute. Probably not more than one out of 
every five of the playhouses was originally a cowshed or 
barn, but such is the power of the labels that most people 
expect a cow or a horse to amble out onto their stages at 
any moment. The first step the theatres should take is to 
band together and form a committee of defence and at- 
tack after the technique of the city of Grand Rapids, Mich- 
igan. Let anyone write and any editor print a facetious al- 
lusion to that city in terms of the furniture which has 
made it famous and not only stern demands for retraction 
but grim threats of lawsuits involving millions of dollars 
are the immediate consequence. The next time anyone re- 
fers to one of the summer theatres' converted town halls or 
churches or especially constructed edifices as a mule garage 
or a pig salon, let the manager set up a Grand Rapids howl. 
He may, true enough, not be able to collect any monetary 
damages (though I don't see why he shouldn't) , but he 
will at least get some very good publicity, which is always 

The trouble with big city critics of the rural theatres is 
that they criticize them from the big city viewpoint. This 
is quite meet so far as the craft of criticism goes, but it is 
considerably less meet otherwise and practically. The little 
rural theatre is simply the big city theatre on vacation in 
slacks and sports shirt, and to expect it or ask it to behave 
city-wise is unjust and senseless* What is more, to imagine 
that that liberal share of its audience which is recruited 
from residents in the adjacent hamlets is as knowing in the 
ways of drama and acting as city folk are supposed to be is 

November 3, 1947 129 

equally foolish. And what is still more, to hope to train it 
overnight into any such knowledge and appreciation is 
doubly so. Yet this seems to be the attitude of those urban 
critics who travel out into the countryside or motor from 
their woodland retreats to appraise the little showhouses. 
They do not expect the small country fairs and carnivals to 
be Coney Island or Ringlings' Circus, but they appear to 
expect the small summer theatres to be the counterparts of 
those on Broadway. 

All this is not to say that I have recanted and regard the 
pastoral houses with a rich and beaming eye. If some of 
them now and again are deserving of pleasant words, a lot 
more are scarcely the stuff on which critical dreams are 
made. That is not the point. The point is that, however 
I personally may or may not feel about them, they serve 
a rather valuable purpose and that to dismiss them with a 
superior shrug isn't cricket. There are a number of things 
that do not enchant me, yet, like the rural theatres, they 
nevertheless are hardly on that score to be condemned, and 
thus to condemn them would be the mark of a grandiose 
half-wit. I am not, for example, impressed as many others 
are by the tonal art of George Gershwin, the literature of 
Andre Maurois, the humor of P. G- Wodehouse, the paint- 
ing of Braque, or the Italian cuisine. But they surely are 
not to be summarily deposited in the ashcan on that 
ground. And so it is that, while the rustic drama may not 
inspire me to throw my hat into the air and myself along 
with it, I am still bountiful enough to allow that it has its 
place in the theatrical scheme of things. 

I will not go so far as to say that any theatre is better 
than no theatre. No theatre would be a great deal better 
than the kind of Broadway theatre which heaves at us stuff 
like The Magic Touch, Heads Or Tails, and this Trial 
Honeymoon. And no theatre would be a lot better than 
the kind of rural summer theatre which offers their equiv- 
alent, with equally bad acting. But even a fair rural thea- 
tre is much better than no rural theatre at all, and that is 
the sum and substance of the argument. 

The previous summer, with more than one hundred of 

130 Trial Honeymoon 

the little houses in full flower, proved that there is a place 
for the out-of-season drama, and a rather big place at that. 
It also proved that more and more people are becoming 
interested in the living drama and perhaps less rapturously 
interested in its filmed counterpart, which promises well 
for the theatre's future. After all, people have to go through 
kindergarten before they can enter grammar school and 
through grammar and high school before they achieve col- 
lege. The little theatres are, variously, those earlier schools. 
The spitballs, pigtail pulling, and bent pins on their seats 
are a part of their being, and as such are paternally to be 
overlooked and forgiven. 

As to the performance of the unseemly example of sum- 
mer dramatic art under consideration, silence is not only 
golden but is set with a large ruby. 



A play by Jan de Hartog, originally called Death Of A Rat. 
Produced by the Theatre Guild for 32 performances in 
the Barryrnore Theatre. 


WILTS John Archer 

KAKEXS Tyler Carpenter 

YOLAN Ruth Ford 


SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. A dissecting room in the Amsterdam 
Institute of Scientific Research, prior to the Nazi invasion, Scene 2. The 
deck of a ferry boat on the Zuyderzee, prior to the Spanish Civil War. 
Scene 3. A room in Dr. Wouterson's house, Amsterdam, some weeks 
later. Act IE. Scene 1. The dissecting room. Scene 2. A room in Dr. Wou- 
terson's house. Scene 3. The same 9 one week later. Scene 4. The dissect- 
ing room. 

Director: Paul Crabtree. 

L.SHTON STEVENS reports that at the fall of the final cur- 
tain on the opening night of the play's Chicago tryout, Mr. 
Justice Robert H. Jackson of the United States Supreme 
Court turned to him and exclaimed, "I give up! Now I re- 
alize what Mark Twain meant when he said, 'The more 
you explain it, the more I don't understand it/ " May I dis- 
sent from the learned Justice's opinion? I boast that I un- 
derstand it perfectly, and without need of any explanation 
whatsoever. It is, I may confide to the eminent jurist, gassy 
balderdash pretentiously offered as profundity, and with 
little more sense than a pack of mousehounds. 

It may be, however, that de Hartog is a slick young Hol- 
lander who possibly appreciates that there is no better way 
to put over a play on any pseudo-highbrow producer than 
that employed by the meat-market chiselers. Which is to 
say, the palming off of a small pork chop as of surplus heft 
by fixing the scales with a false weight. And when it comes 
to false weight, our Dutch brother is one of the best flim- 
flammers the theatre has laid eyes on in a long time. His 

130 Trial Honeymoon 

the little houses in full flower, proved that there is a place 
for the out-of-season drama, and a rather big place at that. 
It also proved that more and more people are becoming 
interested in the living drama and perhaps less rapturously 
interested in its filmed counterpart, which promises well 
for the theatre's future. After all, people have to go through 
kindergarten before they can enter grammar school and 
through grammar and high school before they achieve coL 
lege. The little theatres are, variously, those earlier schools. 
The spitballs, pigtail pulling, and bent pins on their seats 
are a part of their being, and as such are paternally to be 
overlooked and forgiven. 

As to the performance of the unseemly example of sum- 
mer dramatic art under consideration, silence is not only 
golden but is set with a large ruby. 



A play by Jan de Hartog, originally called Death Of A Rat. 
Produced by the Theatre Guild for 32 performances in 
the Barrymore Theatre. 


WELTS John Archer 

KABELS Tyler Carpenter 

YOLAN Ruth Ford 


SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. A dissecting room in the Amsterdam 
Institute of Scientific Research, prior to the Nazi invasion. Scene 2. The 
deck of a ferry boat on the Zvyderzee, prior to the Spanish Civil War. 
Scene 3. A room in Dr. Wouterson's house, Amsterdam, some weeks 
later. Act EL Scene 1. The dissecting room. Scene 2. A room in Dr. Wou- 
terson's house. Scene 3. The same* one week later. Scene 4. The dissect- 
ing room. 

Director: Paul Crabtree. 

LSHTON STEVENS reports that at the fall of the final cur- 
tain on the opening night of the play's Chicago tryout, Mr. 
Justice Robert H. Jackson of the United States Supreme 
Court turned to him and exclaimed, "I give up! Now I re- 
alize what Mark Twain meant when he said, 'The more 
you explain it, the more I don't understand it/ " May I dis- 
sent from the learned Justice's opinion? I boast that I un- 
derstand it perfectly, and without need of any explanation 
whatsoever. It is, I may confide to the eminent jurist, gassy 
balderdash pretentiously offered as profundity, and with 
little more sense than a pack of mousehounds. 

It may be, however, that de Hartog is a slick young Hol- 
lander who possibly appreciates that there is no better way 
to put over a play on any pseudo-highbrow producer than 
that employed by the meat-market chiselers. Which is to 
say, the palming off of a small pork chop as of surplus heft 
by fixing the scales with a false weight. And when it comes 
to false weight, our Dutch brother is one of the best flim- 
flammers the theatre has laid eyes on in a long time. His 

132 This Time Tomorrow 

play is one-ounce drama passed off for an intellectual, phil- 
osophical and scientific ton by loading it up with solemn 
bosh about everything from hypnotism to symbolic astrol- 
ogy, from cancer research to metaphysics, and from psy- 
cho-therapeutics to what well may be the most revolution- 
ary theory heard of in the world since Genesis, to wit, that, 
if a woman of nymphomaniac tendencies pines for love 
and gets it, her contentment will be so great that it will 
kill her. 

There are, of course, people who, like the minds respon- 
sible for the production, are inclined to accept nonsense 
obscurely stated as something doubtless invested with a 
rare and remarkable significance. De Hartog is in this di- 
rection the kind of dramatist who is their true beloved. Ex- 
ercising an elaborate species of double-talk, he contrives to 
persuade them that he has so much to say that the very 
volume of his ideas must inevitably crowd out any coher- 
ence of expression. What he really amounts to, at least on 
this occasion, is an intellectual soft-shoe dancer executing 
his intricate steps on a wet featherbed. He has not only ob- 
viously bitten off more than he can chew but, fuller to the 
point, has ostentatiously chewed more than he has bitten 
off. The consequence is that his mouth performs some very 
violent motions and that what comes out of it approxi- 
mates zero. 

This is one case where seeing is not believing, since what 
goes on on the stage would drive Ripley to drink. There is, 
for example, a parallel between the death of a clinical lab- 
oratory rat from cancer and the death of a young woman 
from a lover's kiss, which certainly is going to scare the day- 
lights out of a lot of hitherto amiable girls, dammit. There 
is, for another or at least it sounded that way to me 
the idea that unanticipated rain is somehow associated 
with the transmigration of souls, which in the best inter- 
ests of coming generations caused me charitably to go out 
and buy a heavy raincoat. And there is also, after two hours 
of complicated psychical argument, the announcement that 
the moribund heroine, who is already dead from tubercu- 
losis but doesn't seem to know it and who has visions, is 

November 3, 1947 133 

proof of an after-life. In other words that, if a human be- 
ing is dead, a second death will indicate that she did not 
die either the first time or the second but that she is still in 
some mystical way alive, a philosophy obviously derived 
from Joe Cook's Four Hawaiians. 

It is all reminiscent of a day years ago when Harry 
Kemp, the Greenwich Village poet, came into Mencken's 
and my editorial quarters and declared that he had writ- 
ten a one-act play which we would be proud to buy and 
publish in our magazine. "What's it about?" we asked. "It's 
about a tornado that destroys an oil-well," he informed us. 
"A flood follows, and then a thunderstorm, and a horse 
breaks loose, upsets a lamp, and sets fire to a house in 
which an old grandmother is nursing her baby. A dis- 
tracted cow dashes madly into the burning oil-well and the 
old grandfather jumps up from his wheel-chair and chases 
the cow half a mile down the road into another house that 
has been uprooted by the cataclysm. In the uprooted house 
lives a family of ten and in which three of the children are 
dying of starvation. The horse reappears in the uprooted 
house and seizes up the children in its teeth, but at that in- 
stant is killed by a bolt of lightning." 

"What happens then?" we politely inquired. 

"Then," proclaimed the author, "he tells her that he 
loves her!" 

I will not accuse de Hartog of having plagiarized Kemp's 
masterpiece, since he undoubtedly never heard of it, but 
he certainly in some way has managed to duplicate very 
closely its technical lucidity. 

Whenever any such play shows up, it induces people 
who are bored stiff by it nevertheless flatteringly to remark 
that it took courage to produce it. What it takes, of course, 
is not courage but dumbness. Which recalls the late Helen 
Westley, who for many years was a member o this same 
Theatre Guild's board of directors. On the Guild's open- 
ing nights, the grand old girl, begauded as ever like the 
gypsy queen in a 1890 comic opera, always deposited her- 
self in a seat on the aisle in one of the rear TOWS of the the- 
atre. On the various occasions when her Guild associates 

134 This Time Tomorrow 

saw fit to put on plays like this de Hartog exhibit, it was 
her pleasure to hail me on my way out at the first intermis- 
sion and loudly to assure me that if I didn't think the play 
was a polecat I was crazy. At the second intermission, she 
would lean over as I went up the aisle and beamingly yell, 
"See, I told you! It's getting even lousier!" And at the eve- 
ning's end she would grab me by the arm and gleefully 
shout, "My God, did you ever see anything like it?'* 

I miss her. 

Adding to the cramps of the present offering was the pre- 
historic kind of direction, by Paul Crabtree, which made 
the actors face the audience when they were addressing 
each other, bend wistfully over the various articles of fur- 
niture, throw open doors to determine whether anyone 
was eavesdropping, and recite such haplessly undeleted 
lines as "the stars are like cold diamonds." The acting of 
John Archer as a Dutch medical scientist resembling one 
of the pugs in Is Zat So?,, Ruth Ford as the female zombie 
with a face made up with three parts borax to one part to- 
mato juice, and Sam Jaffe as a combination Freud and 
Swedenborg in an Elbert Hubbard wig and the usual in- 
tellectually baggy pants, was, to put it chivalrously, at least 
appropriate to the script. 



A comedy by F. Hugh Herbert. Produced by Barnard 
Straus for the rest of the season's performances in the 
Henry Miller Theatre. 



Vicki Ctanmmgs 

MBS. EARLY Maida Reade 

QUEENIE Elizabeth Brew 

WILBUR Grocer Burgess 

MBS. TREMAINE Paula Trueman 
MR. TBEMAINB Kirk Brown 

JANET BLAKE June Lockhart 

SYNOPSIS; The entire action takes place in the drawing-room of 
Preston Mitchell? s home at Port Washington, Long Island during Decem- 
ber, 1946. Act I. Scene 1. Late Monday afternoon. Scene 2. Several hours 
later. Act LI. Scene 1. The folfawing morning. Scene 2. The following 
Sunday. Act m. Scene 1. Later that evening. Scene 2. The following 

Director: Harry EUerbe. 


JLHE PLAY may be a rubbishy affair and unworthy of the 
attention of fastidious criticism, but there is nevertheless 
one thing about it that appeals to a man of my advanced 
years. My satisfaction, indeed my rapture, is derived from 
its theory that very young and very beautiful girls enter- 
tain an admiration and even passion for us old boys which 
they do not share for our youthful rivals, and are ready at 
the snap of a finger to drop the latter where they stand for 
the overwhelming joy and privilege of sharing our exciting 
company. Not, mind you, that I believe it for a moment 
a conviction perforce imposed upon any old fellow with 
any experience in the matter but it is pleasant and 
soothing dope just the same, I can't imagine any finer es- 
cape to be found in the whole theatre. It may make the 
young of the species derisively laugh their damned heads 
off, but with me it's grand. There I sit, my features envel- 
oped in a superior smugness, and in my gratified mind's- 
eye vision myself, despite my sciatica, arteriosclerosis and 

136 For Love or Money 

hundred or so other malaises, amorously pursued by the 
choicest of ingenues, soubrettes and debutantes, all of an 
inordinate loveliness, and all rich. There I sit and bask in 
the fancy of innumerable voluptuous affairs of the heart 
with such fair young creatures, all of whom literally force 
themselves upon me despite my gruff reluctance. There I 
sit and have the vicarious time of my life, at least until a 
little sense unwelcomely intrudes itself upon me and makes 
me wish that playwrights like this Herbert would before 
they manufacture such moonshine study plays like Davies* 
A Single Man and van Druten's The Mermaids Singing 
and learn to appreciate that what they imagine is flattering 
to us old goats would, if it were a fact, bore the life out of 
us in no time. But, being what they naively are, they con- 
tinue peddling their May-December mush year upon year. 
So far as I remember, the business began as far back as the 
last century with Barriers The Professor's Love Story. And 
it has since spread its pall in dozens of plays like Daddy, 
Longlegs, Accent On Youth, Apple Of His Eye, etc. 

Jenkins, my slippers and my pipe. 

In this version, the young one again one night rushes 
into the house of the middle-aged hero (he is a celebrated 
actor this time instead of the more usual playwright or 
novelist) to escape the attentions of the customary auto- 
mobile Lothario. It is, of course, raining and the hero of 
course again instructs her to remove her wet clothes and to 
encase herself in one of his dressing-gowns, lest she perish 
of pneumonia. While thus presumably semi-nude, the lit- 
tle one is subjected to the habitual successive entrances of 
the divers neighbors, along with the lady who has been the 
hero's inamorata, and all, naturally and with the proper 
amount of shock and indignation, place the worst construc- 
tion on the situation. All, that is, save the neighbor's usual 
young son, who is sentimentally fetched by the little one 
and whose fetch seems for the time being to be recipro- 
cated. But it is the elderly hero, obviously, who really at- 
tracts the little one she finds him so understanding, so 
generous, so decent, so awfully handsome and since, as 
she says in the face of his magnanimous remonstrances, he 

November 4, 1947 137 

will only be one hundred when she is an old lady of forty 
or so, a connubial embrace logically terminates the eve- 

The author, being a product of the Hollywood moving 
picture studios, relates the plot in the literary style indige- 
nous to those ateliers and further mechanically falls back 
upon scenes and situations out of the dusty dramatic cata- 
logue. There is, for example, the one from David Garrick 
in which the hero pretends to be a bounder in order to dis- 
illusionize his young admirer. And the one paraphrased 
from Clarice in which, to the same end, he tears up the pa- 
pers on which she has been sincerely and hopefully work- 
ing. And the "What's your name?'* curtain tag from Sa- 
lomy Jane. And the man's mistress who pops in upon his 
tryst with his new love from The Voice Of The Turtle. 
And a half dozen others. 

In the role of the little heroine, despite dialogue that 
imposes upon her comments that all men are beasts, that a 
woman above all dislikes pity, and that one feels very 
drunk after a sip of brandy, a novice named June Lock- 
hart is excellent. She manages a part that might easily be 
repellently cute with no cuteness whatever; she reads her 
dishonest lines with a convincing honesty; her expression 
is fitted admirably to the role's varying moods; and she is 
personable and all in all the best comedy ingenue the sea- 
son has uncovered. And she has been a screen actress at 
that. As the elderly lover, John Loder, another screen ac- 
tor, on the contrary proves decisively that stage acting is 
beyond him; his performance enjoys all the attributes of a 
shop window dummy other than the latter's ease in fancy 
clothes. Vicki Cummings is, as always, agreeable in her 
usual role of the other woman. The rest are neither the 
one thing nor the other, excepting Mark O'Daniels, as the 
wooing young man, who runs Loder a neck-and-neck race 
for the bad acting cup. 

Two questions occur to me. In the first place, why do 
the authors of these love and sex comedies so generally se- 
lect trite titles like this For Love Or Money, which must al- 
ready have been used many times and which doubtless is 

138 For Love or Money 

to be found in the "Plays For Amateurs" catalogues by the 
dozen? Why don't they occasionally take a cue from the 
French and hit upon something a little more lively? For 
instance, something like Georges Feydeau's But Don't Go 
Around Without Your Clothes; Achard's Can You Plant 
Cabbages?, Attier's and Rieux's Lobster American Style, 
Avoir's Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, Brieux's The Cockchaf- 
ers (Les Hannetons) , Coolus* Mirette Has Her Reasons, 

Secondly, when these Hollywood authors with eyes 
solely on the box-office concoct their plays, why don't they 
go the whole hog and even more shamelessly than at pres- 
ent, if a little more sagaciously, resort to some of the oldest 
and apparently safest items in the American hokum tradi- 
tion? As it is, they take altogether too many unnecessary 
chances and frequently fail to swindle the theatre out of 
so much as a dollar. (It was only June Lockhart that saved 
this specimen from prompt collapse.) I suggest to them, for 
example, that, when next they write a play, they make sure 
that it contains a bell other than merely door or telephone. 
Do not ask me why, but the records of the American stage 
for the last sixty or more years indicate that nine out of ev- 
ery ten plays with such bells figuring conspicuously in 
them have been box-office successes. The bells may be of 
almost any kind ship, locomotive, fire, church, or what 
not but whatever they are they seem to be instrumental 
in fascinating audiences. To enumerate the bell plays and 
shows that have kept the ticket-sellers busy would call for 
an entire chapter. Since any long list of names is inevitably 
tiring to a reader, I put down just a few: Eight Bells, A 
Midnight Bell,, The Still Alarm, The Bells, A Bell For 
Adano, The Old Homestead, The Eternal City, The 
Sunken Bell, Under The Gaslight, The Heart Of Mary- 
land, The Miracle, The Chimes Of Normandy, The 
Monks Of Malabar, The Yeomen Of The Guard, Via 
Wireless, The Two Orphans, Ten-Minute Alibi . . . 
These will suggest many others. Moreover and on the 
other hand, unless iny statistics are faulty, not even one 
failure among the hundreds of failures in the last ten sea- 

November 4, 1947 139 

sons had cagily safeguarded its chances through the inclu- 
sion of any such tintinnabulum as figured in the hits above 

There is still another variety of play that appears to be 
born under a lucky star. That is the play which has a rail- 
road train in it, particularly a railroad train crawling by 
night across the backdrop. So far as memory serves, I can 
recall only one play produced in many years, Fulton Of 
Oak Falls, which had such a crawling train and yet foun- 
dered. The successes generally would choke a chapter 
equally with the bell plays. They have ranged from Bed- 
ford's Hope to Forty-five Minutes From Broadway, from 
The Ninety And Nine to The Fortune Hunter, and from 
The Fast Mail to Life. Their number is legion. And just 
as Fulton Of Oak Falls has been the only failure contain- 
ing the spectacle of a miniature train crossing the rear 
scenery, so if I am not mistaken have Casey Jones and 
Heavenly Express been the only failures containing a lo- 
comotive and/or train of more ample size. And in the case 
of musical shows, the only fizzle that comes to mind is Or- 
son Welles* Around The World. All sorts of others from 
The Defender to Olsen and Johnson's Sons o' Fun have 
been profitable. Even the plays that have shown the inside 
of railway coaches seem for the most part to have been 
prosperous. Reflect, for example, on all such as Excuse Me, 
Twentieth Century., A Little Journey, etc. As to musicals, 
the sole exception that occurs to me at the moment, aside 
from the Welles show, was St, Louis Woman. 

It all surely does not appear to make much sense, but it 
is not sense that we are talking about. What we are talking 
about is the show business. And since the show business is 
probably more increasingly eccentric than anything else 
under the sun, the authors may be warned that, though 
ship bells have been good for the box-office in the past and 
while they still possibly may be, it seems to be advisable 
nowadays to keep the ship or boat scene itself out of a play 
and to sound the bells from the wings. Again, please do not 
ask me why, but in later years, aside from the revival of 
Outward Bound, every new play, excepting only three, 

140 For Love or Money 

containing a ship or boat scene has lost money. To give 
but a short list, I ask you to recall in this regard A Passen- 
ger To Baliy False Dreams, Farewell, The Innocent Voy- 
age, Lifeline, The Rugged Path, Wingless Victory, Sea 
Dogs, Blow Ye Winds, A Ship Comes In, Western Waters, 
How To Get Tough About It, The Gentle People, Be- 
tween Two Worlds, Battleship Gertie, Hidden Horizon, 
and This Time Tomorrow, among many others. The only 
deviations from the rule were Excursion, Skipper Next To 
God, and of course Mister Roberts. It may be otherwise 
with musicals, at least in the case of a revival like Show 
Boat though even that did not make any money in its 
substantial New York run but it is hard to tell, since 
Memphis Bound and various others proved to be duds. 

To sum up, it might be a wise bet for any of the Holly- 
wood hacks who have recently lost money on their plays to 
fashion a script in which a bell prominently figures and in 
which at one point or another an illuminated papier- 
mache train moves by night across the backdrop. It prob- 
ably will not matter much whether the play is good or bad. 
Even if the critics dislike it, the public, if the records count 
for anything, will prize it. Just to make doubly sure, how- 
ever, let the hacks work in a scene in which a detective 
closing in on his unaware prey leaves his tell-tale hat in 
the room upon making a momentary exit. If the play in- 
conceivably then should fail the hat business at least is, 
as always, sure to get enthusiastic critical notices I shall 
be prepared to- believe that I have wasted innumerable 
years of theatrical experience and shall get busy at once in 
instructing the hacks to convert the script into a certain 
and resounding success by adding to it that character who 
regularly enchants audiences: a genial drunk. 



A revival of the comedy by St. John Ervine. Produced by 
Cant Gaither for 39 performances in the Shubert Theatre. 


ALICE PHASER Emily Lawrence 


MABEL Hazel Jones 


PHTTTP LOGAN Reginald Mason 

MURIX> FRASER Kendall Clark 


ELSIE FRASER Frances TannehiU 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Late afternoon. Act II. Two weeks later. Act 
in. Six months later. The action of the play takes place in Janet Eraser's 
apartment in Knightsbridge* London. The time is the present. 

Director: Harold Young. 


_R. ERVINE describes the heroine of his comedy as an 
extremely attractive and appealing woman. While I have 
few objections to the manner in which Miss Jane Cowl 
plays her, I am nevertheless afraid that I do not react to 
the role as I probably should under normal circumstances. 
It is not my fault that I do not; it is Miss Cowl's. Shortly 
before the play opened, she gave out a newspaper inter- 
view. In the interview, she confided to the world I quote 
literally that "I perspire like a fish-wife/' The horrified 
interviewer, Mr. Rice, was about to exclaim, "Oh, no, Miss 
Cowl, not that!" when she reaffirmed her statement. "Oh 
yes, I do!" she emphasized. "This summer my peasant side 
came out. I perspire like a fish-wife." 

I tried professionally to forget it while reviewing the ac- 
tress* impersonation of Ervine's supposedly captivating 
heroine, but I couldn't. Instead of the charming and de- 
sirable character the author had intended, what I kept vi- 
sioning in my confusion was a creature damp with sweat, 
and not very appetizing. If only, I said to myself, Miss 
Ckwl had informed the interviewer that she perspired like, 
say, a mint julep or even a Chihuahua's nose, it would not 

142 The First Mrs. Fraser 

have been so disturbing. But a fish-wife, no. I couldn't 
take it. 

There is not too much illusion left in the theatre as 
things stand these days, and actresses of Miss Cowl's posi- 
tion should not help to destroy what little remains. But 
somehow a sufficient number of them seem bent on doing 
that very thing. Doubtless under the impression that frank- 
ness is both disarming and the mark of a winning person- 
ality, they interview themselves out of all those romantic 
qualities, however theoretical, which the theatre has a right 
to expect of them and which it must sustain if it is to pros- 
per. The Buses and the Ellen Terrys, the Maude Adamses 
and the Ethel Barrymores and their counterparts have 
served wisely in their ex-officio persons the theatre's main 
business of cloud-borne fancy. They have not de-winged 
the stage of its romance by expounding to reporters on 
fallen arches and gallstones, on a taste for raw meat and 
garlic, or on the excessive personal excretion of liquid by 
their sudoriparous glands. Yet it is just such confidences 
that some of our actresses, who should know better, now- 
adays spread swinishly in the public prints. And with what 
result? With the result that, unless the roles they appear in 
are of a relevantly unpleasant nature, an audience has trou- 
ble in accepting them for the women their playwrights 
have sentimentally created. It is not easy, as audiences 
have duly indicated, to read in the papers an actress* ad- 
mission that she eats like a horse, has an awful time with 
dandruff, and is never so comfortable as when she is slop- 
ping around in an old Mother Hubbard and on that same 
evening to visualize her as the object of a passionate and 
overwhelming admiration on the combined part of a duke, 
a poet, a one-time lover of Lily Langtry, and maybe even 
a dramatic critic. 

My colleagues have written that the Ervine comedy has 
dated badly in the eighteen years which have passed since 
its original production. They are right; it has. But it was 
not less dated at the time of that production. Jts story of 
the wife abandoned by her husband for another and* 
younger woman, of his tiring of the latter, and of his con- 

November 5, 1947 143 

trite return to the old fireside had already then long since 
been told in one form or another by numerous playwrights 
like Maugham in England, Bahr in Austria, Capus in 
France, Bracco in Italy, Buchanan in America, and yet oth- 
ers. And their plays in turn were all familiar thematic ech- 
oes of the very much earlier Sardou's Divorgons. Ervine's 
characters, in addition, had already sprouted goatees when 
his play first appeared. The vain Scot husband uncon- 
scious of the value of his wife was seen to be Barrie's John 
Shand. The understanding wife was, among two dozen 
others*, Bahr's Mrs. Arany. The faithful old admirer of the 
wife was Pinero's Cayley Drummle. And the Other Woman 
shown up by the wife was, among four or five dozen oth- 
ers', Eugene Walter's Eleanor Lathrop. The sense of Old 
Home Week continued in the situations: the scene in 
which the wife and other woman confront each other, the 
one in which the returned husband displays his jealousy of 
his former wife's admirer, the other one in which the wife 
pretends that her humbled ex-spouse's protestations of 
love are too late, etc. 

Though the writing is here and there satisfactory, the 
play suffers further and for the greater part from, first, its 
author's indignation in certain directions and, secondly, 
his rather cumbrous doses of sentimentality. An example 
of the latter is the scene in the last act wherein the hus- 
band wistfully allows that he is growing old and wherein 
then the wife whom he is re-courting enters into a sweetly - 
tristful monologue on the profound beauty of facial wrin- 
kles and, generally, the wonderful visual improvements 
wrought by age. The indignation in turn centers chiefly 
and collaterally on the utter worthlessness of the young. 
When it comes to youth, Ervine sees red. His ire is so in- 
discriminate and consuming that he would in all likeli- 
hood hiss June Lockhart off the stage, throw empty beer 
bottles at Johnny Lujack, and believe that Love For Love 
and The School For Scandal, written by Congreve and 
Sheridan in their twenties, were stinkweeds compared with 
The First Mrs. Fraser. There have been other dramatists 
who have regarded the young of the species with some mis- 

144 The First Mrs. Fraser 

givings. But they have realized that indignation is the thief 
of persuasion, not to say of sense, and have said their piece 
with a convincing irony or a facetious charity. Ervine did 
not learn and has not learned his lesson. After he has had 
at youth for some time with hammer and tongs, there isn't 
an octogenarian in his audience who doesn't feel like rush- 
ing out of the theatre and giving a big hug to the first little 
cutie he sees on the street, supplemented by a couple of 
dollars to her kid brother. 

Miss Cowl's performance, accompanied by her custom- 
ary wealth of manual byplay which suggests the gestures of 
accomplished acting less than the comportment of a fran- 
tic deaf-mute, is a cross between the light comedy interpre- 
tation of the role earlier offered by the matchless Marie 
Tempest and the tenderly lugubrious interpretation sub- 
sequently offered by Grace George. It is not always clearly 
resolved, though the net effect serves the play well enough. 
As the husband, Henry Daniell seems to be in some doubt 
of the character until the later portions of his performance, 
when he manages to get it in hand. His Scotch accent, how- 
ever, only contributes further to my old discomfort when 
within earshot of any such speech. I am, I must state, far 
from prejudiced against many things Scottish. I am, in 
fact, and long have been an admirer of Scotch whisky, but- 
terscotch, Hazel Scott, Scot tissue, Scott Fitzgerald, hop- 
scotch, Scotch terriers, Sir Walter Scott, Scotch woodcock, 
Antonio Scotti, and the popular ditty, "My Man's Scot 
Rhythm." My prejudice is simply against Scotch dialect on 
the stage, and even then it has been inoperative in the face 
of a play as good as A Highland Fling or a show as good as 
Brigadoon. More often, however, it prevents me, and not, 
I think, without cause, from cottoning to the kind of- play 
or show in which the characters pronounce "did not" as if 
they were Pullman porters announcing the evening meal, 
"have" as if it were food for horses, and the other parts of 
English speech as if seven out of every ten of its words were 
spelled entirely with r's. Just why such Scotch, dialect is 
supposed by authors and producers automatically to influ- 
ence us to believe that its mouthpieces are lovable and 

November 5, 1947 145 

charming, or at least quaintly entertaining, I dinna ken. 
When I, for one, have to listen for two hours to a lot of 
characters talking as if their tongues were dentists' drills 
encased in fur, I am even prepared to enjoy the prospect of 
turning on the radio dial to Lew Lehr, God have mercy on 
us all. It is for this reason that various plays which have 
met with favor from others have failed in fascination where 
I have been concerned. Bunty Pulls The Strings, which 
everybody else seemed to admire, did not do a thing to me. 
Neither did The Little Minister and some of Barrie's other 
burr-mills. And so, also, with Beside The Bonnie Brier 
Bush y Kitty MacKaye, etc. Maybe I need some scoto- 

Of the other members of the acting company, Reginald 
Mason, with his experience in polite comedy, was far the 

Though the drawing-room setting by Charles Elson had 
a reasonable look about it, the stage direction by Harold 
Young was less drawing-room than pool-parlor. 



A play by Dorothy Gardner. Produced by Nancy Stern for 
15 performances in the Royale Theatre. 



Beatrice Mariley 

MAGGIE Kate Tomlinson 

LUCY PLUM Barbara Ames 

HELEN FISKE ( Hunt Jackson ) 

Emma Knox 

SUSAN GILBERT Penelope Sack 
GERRY HOOD Don Peters 

BEN NEWTON Ernest Gaves 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. The Dickinson parlor, Amherst, eve- 
ning, 1852. Scene 2. Pastor's church study, Philadelphia, 1854. Act II. 
Scene 1. Same as Scene 1, Act I. Afternoon, several years later. Scene 2. 
Same. December afternoon, a year later. Scene 3. Same, three days later. 
Night. Scene 4. A cottage. Act III. Dickinson parlor, Amherst, Sunday 
afternoon. Twenty years later. 

Director: Etten van Volkenburg. 

EMILY DICKINSON Beatrice Straight 

Onslow Stevens 

Miss SIMPSON Mary Jackson 


Robin Humphrey 

John D. Seymour 


J-HE HERO of Brewster's Millions, you may recall, had 
desperate difficulty in squandering a fortune within a stip- 
ulated space of time. Had he consulted me, I might have 
instructed him how to do it with the greatest of ease. All 
he would have had to do was to invest it in a play about a 
famous poet. When it came to plays about famous states- 
men, soldiers, harlots, composers, kings, queens, or even 
actors, he would, I might have counselled him, be taking 
too big a chance, since altogether too many of them have 
made rather than lost money. But the books show that he 
could readily have solved his problem and gone happily 
bankrupt by backing one about a celebrated rhymester. In 
the last half -century or more, only two out of all the many 
plays dealing with any such figure have turned a notice- 
able profit at the box-office. One was Omar The Tent- 

November IS, 1947 147 

maker whose central character was Omar Khdyydm, and 
that one succeeded mainly because of Guy Bates Post's las- 
civious spouting of the popular illustrated drugstore cal- 
endar's "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou," to say 
nothing of on the score of what was advertised to the yokels 
as "A stupendous, spectacular, daring production." The 
other was The Barretts Of Wimpole Street, which took not 
one but 2-poets-2 to put it over and which of course bene- 
fited enormously from the presence of the popular favor- 
ite, Katharine Cornell, as one of them. 

All the rest that I can think of would have been right up 
Brewster's alley. When he got through with them, he 
would have been lucky if he had both his shoes left. There 
was, for example, Bobby Burns and Robert Burns, which 
lasted for just one performance. There were Poe and Ed- 
gar Allan Poe, Plumes In The Dust, and The Raven. 
There was the Bard of Avon in a number of bogies, among 
them Will Shakespeare and Second Best Bed. There were 
Keats and Aged 26, Chatterton and Come Of Age, Byron 
and Bright Rebel, and also Villon in // / Were King, which 
did not make any real money until tunes were added to it 
and it became a musical comedy under the title, The Vaga- 
bond King. And there were various others, all of which 
would have driven Brewster to borrow a quarter for lunch. 

Poets in the theatre, it appears, should be heard, not 
seen. And even if they are merely heard and not seen, the 
commercial results are not luxuriant, as Susan Glaspell 
found out with her play about Emily Dickinson, Alison's 
House, and as Martha Graham learned in another direc- 
tion when she staged a talking ballet about the same poet- 
ess. Emily in particular, indeed, has never fared too well 
in, the theatre. Not only in the case of the two exhibits 
mentioned did the Treasury Department's agents find it 
unnecessary to hurry around and scrutinize the producers* 
income tax returns, but another called Brittle Heaven, by 
the Messrs. York and Pohl, was forced to cry quits after 
only twenty-three performances. 

Now comes still another Dickinson play and it, as well, 
has turned out to be Brewster-bait. It is not that it is a 

148 Eastward in Eden 

wholly undeserving play; one or two things in it are com- 
mendable. It is simply that, as with the other failures, 
whatever they were like, it is apparently hard to interest 
the paying public in a distinguished lute-strummer un- 
known to nine-tenths of it and which, even if it had heard 
of her, would still be considerably less interested in her 
than in such of its great versifying pets as Robert W. Serv- 
ice, Joyce Kilmer, and Edgar A. Guest. With a public, in 
short, the majority of which on any radio quiz program 
would lose its last chance at the Buick if asked to distin- 
guish between Emily Dickinson and Babe Didrikson, any 
such play has to stand or fall on its interest as one about a 
largely fictitious character. And the fact appears to be that 
most minnesingers, including Emily, whatever share of ro- 
mantic quality they may have possessed, somehow do not 
seem to be prehensile enough to be regarded apart from 
themselves and to serve effectively as heroes or heroines of 
fiction. Once you have named the exceptional Villon and 
Byron, you will, I believe, be put to it to think of a poet 
anywhere nearly as dramatically interesting as, say, Jeeter 
Lester, Lightnin' Bill Jones, or even the Winslow boy. 

The present offering has to do with the ill-starred love of 
Emily and the Rev. Dr. Charles Wadsworth, a family man, 
and of his highly moral retreat when he feels that things 
may go too far. When, twenty years later, he returns, he 
learns that her tender passion for him has never faded and 
has found its release in verse which she has held close to 
her bosom. It is commonly argued that such plays are too 
literary, and hence not to the general public's taste. The 
fact of course is rather that they are not literary enough. 
They take a literary figure and, except for allowing him to 
quote fragments from his works, by and large subject him 
and particularly those around him to that routine econ- 
omy of stage dialogue which often resembles literature in- 
finitely less than it does an Author Meets The Critics ra- 
dio program. 

The play was scarcely helped by the performance of Bea- 
trice Straight in the leading role. Miss Straight seemed to 
have just two expressions: a wide-eyed smile to register the 

November 18, 1947 149 

character's spiritual rapture and a sudden erasure of it to 
register an inner melancholy. And it was not only not 
helped but devastated by a dream scene, introduced by 
stereopticon clouds on a scrim curtain, which in the way of 
wholesale sentimentality made Peter Ibbetson look in com- 
parison like The Lower Depths. The whole was to be 
summed up as a two and one-half hour sighing discourse 
on the immortality vested in love between an actress archly 
hopping and pit-a-patting around in a hoopskirt and an 
actor in clerical garb standing apart and gazing at her ad- 
miringly. And the evening was further intimidated by the 
kind of stage direction which had the household maid in- 
termittently flounce off the stage indignantly slapping her 
apron, which made the sound of sleighbells identical with 
that of the bell on the Dickinsons' front door, and which 
caused the chief characters rapturously to fasten their eyes 
on the windows leading to the garden every time they were 
called upon to mention birds, flowers, the sun, the moon, 
or the joy of living. 

Donald Oenslager's period settings were basically good 
examples of realistic designing but were contradicted by 
mirrors conventionally soaped to eliminate the reflection 
of stage lights, electric-logged fireplaces, pea-greenish Mae- 
terlinck moonlight, and single candles that suddenly 
flooded the stage with a powerful illumination. The play 
itself in turn periodically violated its poetically spiritual 
atmosphere with such Broadway dialogue stereotypes as 
"You are in a strange mood today/' to say nothing of with 
an audience's disturbing reflection that it was at bottom 
little more than the old Hall Caine-Henry Arthur Jones- 
Robert Hichens holy man-earthly woman materials attrib- 
uted to a pair of factual persons and dressed up with chit- 
chat about Emerson, Henry Ward Beecher, and the Atlan- 
tic Monthly. 

Various additional things, Brewster might have been as- 
sured, usually conspire against the success of such a play as 
this Eastward In Eden. or any other kind which, like it and 
regardless of quality, does not meet the prejudices of the 
Four Horsemen of the contemporary American drama. 

150 Eastward in Eden 

These are, In order, Timeliness, Journalism, Cynicism, 
and Laughs. The mounts are critics, and the quartet is in 
large part responsible for much of the desolation in which 
that drama is finding itself. 

Consider the marauders in order. The first, Timeliness, 
places a premium on the immediate chronological interest 
of a play's theme. A touching example of the degree to 
which the attitude goes was to be had in the New York 
Critics' Circle's award for last year's best play to the negli- 
gible All My Sons. The citation's most significant line read, 
"Because of the frank and uncompromising presentation 
of a timely and important theme." O'Neill's infinitely 
more important and superior The Iceman Cometh was 
dismissed by the awarders because, apparently, timeliness 
is considered a greater dramatic asset than timelessness. 
The O'Neill play deals with the spiritual needs of man- 
kind unending; the Miller play with the corrupt war-time 
sale of some defective airplane parts and the consequent 
killing of a number of army fliers. It was therefore es- 
teemed to be the finer specimen of dramatic art. If it was 
not esteemed principally on that score, we must believe 
that the awarding critics consider the novice Miller more 
expert in dramaturgy than the O'Neill who, by the same 
critics' paradoxical consent, is the foremost dramatist of 
the American theatre; that, for all its freely admitted 
faults, The Iceman Cometh is not more expert in character 
drawing than a play whose chief figure owns a factory that 
"looks like General Motors" yet who dresses, looks, acts 
and talks like a foreman's helper and who lives in a cheap 
little frame house with no servant to help his ailing wife 
ran it; and that, because the O'Neill play consumes four 
hours and is not as compact as the two and one-half hour 
Miller play, the Miller play presumably for that reason is 
ipso facto more admirable in artistic economy than even 
the uncut four-hour Hamlet. 

The veneration of timeliness is also clearly to be per- 
ceived in the case of other recent plays and has been in- 
strumental, at its most preposterous, in according high crit- 
ical favor to such a paltry example of dramatic writing as 

November 18, 1947 151 

State Of The Union, which carries timeliness to the ex- 
treme of altering nightly its references to the newspaper 
political headlines. A glance at last season's exhibits offers 
additional evidence of the tendency. Though On Whit- 
man Avenue produced some critical qualms in other di- 
rections, the timeliness of its theme injustice to the Ne- 
gro met with almost unanimous critical endorsement. 
In the same way, the opportuneness of the various themes 
of A Flag Is Born, Temper The Wind, The Big Two, The 
Whole World Over and other such poor plays was greeted 
in the main with warm commendation, even if the plays 
themselves here and there were greeted with less. The same 
held true of experimental misfires like The Wanhope 
Building, The Great Campaign, O f Daniel, et al. And Sar- 
tre's The Flies got such notices partly because or its philo- 
sophical identification with the moment as had not been 
read locally since Watch On The Rhine similarly inflamed 
the critical enthusiasm some half dozen years ago. In the 
present season, plays like Skipper Next To God and The 
Respectful Prostitute continued to emphasize the general 

All this, of course, is a consequence of the Second Horse- 
man's journalistic attitude toward the drama. With minor 
exception, the drama most often depends for its life and 
livelihood not upon critics who view it as an art but upon 
newspaper reviewers most of whom regard it perhaps 
properly and correctly in the nature of their jobs 
through what they imagine are the eyes of the majority of 
their readers. It is these readers whose tastes they hope to 
serve and those tastes, they please themselves to believe, are 
primarily for passing entertainment or, at the highest, "se- 
rious" drama with something of a "message." The message, 
they further allow themselves to think, is best and most ac- 
ceptable when it has to do with something in the imme- 
diate minds of their readers and which has been lodged 
there by the news of the day. 

There have been and there are still the exceptional daily 
reviewers who seek to operate on more independent and 
loftier principles. But they are not the popular ones and 

152 Eastward in Eden 

their opinions are accepted mainly by the minority of their 
readers who are biased in favor of drama of some repute. 
And even they at times can not resist entirely the pull of 
what they are shrewd enough to realize is reader appeal. 
Compromise is accordingly not always beyond them. The 
more popular reviewers, on the other hand, are those who 
bear steadily in mind that the great majority of their read- 
ers have no use for the finer drama, that they can not be 
persuaded to attend it even if the reviewers endorse it, that 
it is therefore the wiser course to accept the standards of 
the majority, and that in doubtful cases it is best to side 
with that majority's prejudices, real or imaginary. What all 
this naturally leads to is the reviewers' either quick or grad- 
ual surrender to the popular view of drama, again whether 
real or imaginary, and their acquisition of pride in being 
thus established as bell-cows of the larger share of the the- 
atregoing public. The end-product of the attitude is the 
public's acceptance of critical guidance which is no guid- 
ance at all but simply an advance reassurance that its tastes 
are what they properly should be. It is, in brief, a leader- 
ship in reverse. 

One of the fruits has been those tabulated critical scores, 
published by theatrical publications like Variety and Bill- 
board, which lay unction to the vanity of reviewers who 
are nominated leaders by virtue of their having picked the 
greatest number of box-office successes regardless of merit. 
The pleased reviewers seemingly never stop to reflect that 
the box-office hits would scarcely have become hits had 
they themselves not helped them to become so. They do 
not pick the hits, as the scores appear to show; by their 
praise they make them hits. If their critical standards had 
been worthier, they would not have endorsed many of the 
plays and, lacking endorsement, the plays would in fair 
chance have been failures. And the reviewers, consequently 
far from being cocks of the Broadway walk, would be very 
much sounder and more estimable critics, and the state of 
the drama improved and elevated. 

The play that boasts authentic quality thus often has 

November 18, 1947 153 

hard sledding, and the best that generally may be hoped 
for is that the play which rests half-way between real qual- 
ity and compromise will get by. In the usual run, we find 
that plays which refuse compromise and, whatever their 
place in the sun, make an honest effort in the direction of 

dramatic worth, suffer at the hands of most of the review- 


ers and are doomed. I offer, in example, a few such in the 
last five or six seasons: The Beautiful People, Walk Into 
My Parlor, Our Lan', Magic,, Hello Out There, Run, Lit- 
tle Chillun, Outrageous Fortune, The Innocent Voyage, 
South Pacific, A Highland Fling, Trio, The Overtons, 
Dark Of The Moon, The Deep Mrs. Sykes, The Assassin, 
A Sound Of Hunting, The Mermaids Singing, Lute Song, 
The Fatal Weakness, As We Forgive Our Debtors, and The 
Old Lady Says "No!" 

An extension of the journalistic attitude toward the 
drama may further be observed in the supreme Pulitzer 
prize nonsense. The committee of newspaper editors who 
bestow the annual award allowed at their 1947 meeting 
that not only was O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh not to be 
considered as worthy of any mention, but that neither it 
nor any other play of the year was deserving of the great 
honor that in previous years had been heartily conferred 
upon such masterpieces of the dramatic art as The Old 

The Third Horseman, alias Cynicism, is the prime criti- 
cal mountebank of the quartet. His adopted fury is senti- 
ment. By nature soft as a fresh egg, he has persuaded 
himself, with visible strain, that a stern opposition to senti- 
ment of any kind, except possibly in musical shows, will 
mark him out as a tough and superior mentality, not to 
be tricked by that feminine thing called the heart. Give 
him a play, however charming, that does not at least once 
relieve its emotional and imaginative delicacy with the 
ejaculation of a *'son-of-a-bitch" and he makes a critical 
muscle. He is hardboiled, like little Lord Fauntleroy's 

His hypocrisy works its damaging will upon various 

154 Eastward in Eden 

plays that deserve better. For example, one such as van 
Druten's engaging comedy, The Mermaids Singing. The 
theme, you may remember, had to do with a middle-aged 
married playwright and an attractive young girl who ad- 
mired him to the point of urging herself anatomically 
upon him. His reluctance to enter into an affair with her, 
despite strong temptation, because he well appreciated all 
the nuisance and trouble it would get him into, constituted 
the body of the play, which was thoroughly adult, sharply 
perceptive, and witty. The Third Horseman, however, 
rode into it lashing right and left on the ground that it was 
altogether too sentimental in moral tone. Just where it 
was too sentimental in any tone was difficult to make out. 
Though it may have seemed so superficially, it was the ex- 
act opposite. The hard sense and cold calculation of the 
man in avoiding the sex relationship had about as much 
sentiment as double entry bookkeeping. Yet the over- 
Whelming fear of being considered sentimental led the re- 
viewers to discern a moral tone in the man's abnegation. 

What is here being written is plainly not intended as an 
argument for the sentimental in drama. Far from it. The 
argument is simply that where and when the sentiment is 
sound, the blanket indictment of it on the part of postur- 
ing critics becomes worse than ridiculous. And what is 
equally ridiculous is the confusion of sentimental values 
often found in these same critics. There is probably no 
play of any quality essentially more sentimental than 
Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma. Yet though Shaw is at no 
pains to conceal the fact, the play is digestible to the critics 
on its author's general reputation, scarcely well-founded, 
for cynicism. There is on the other hand probably no play 
of any quality essentially more unsentimental than Saroy- 
an's short Hello Out There. Yet, because Saroyan has the 
general reputation for crying into his beer, it is decried in 
various critical quarters for its alleged softness. 

Sentiment seems somehow curiously to be associated in 
such critics* minds with playwriting hacks or with spongy 
dramatists like Barrie. Nor is it always a question of good 

November 18, 1947 155 

and bad writing, as those looking for an easy way out may 
contend. Where a more shamelessly sentimental play than 
the Swanwhite of the misanthrope Strindberg, than the 
Hannele of the realist Hauptmann, or than the Peer Gynt 
of the revolutionary Ibsen? Where, contrariwise, less senti- 
mental and tougher plays than such hack works as The 
Great Magoo, Maid In The Ozarks, and Catherine Was 

The Fourth Horseman demands laughs above every- 
thing. He can conceive of nothing as entertainment if it 
does not succeed in causing him to open wide his mouth 
and emit noises of an hyena volume. The art of the drama 
to him is a succession of simiantics. He goes to the theatre, 
he says firmly, to be amused, and he is evidently not to be 
amused by anything that aims a bit higher than his belly. 
He is to be recognized in several ways. "The play" what- 
ever it is "is sadly lacking in comedy," he writes. "The 
laughs are widely scattered/* he deplores. "The humor, so 
far as it exists, is hardly robust," he complains. "There are 
a few chuckles here and there," he allows, "but otherwise 
a sad dearth of merriment." And so on. One of the few oc- 
casions on which he permits himself an excursion into the 
higher critical altitudes is in the instance of Shakespeare, 
whose clowns, he pontificates, are no longer funny. 

No one not completely an ass protests against laughter 
in the theatre. But no one but a complete ass admires it to 
the exclusion of almost everything else. The Fourth Horse- 
man's admiration, furthermore, is critically indiscriminate. 
Anything, so long as it unbuckles his cackles, is due for his 
congratulations. There is small distinction between a Born 
Yesterday on the one side and a Volpone on the other. He 
is at once the interlocutor and end-man in his own critical 
minstrel show. Wit, he seems to maintain, is for the cul- 
turally snobbish; belly laughter is the ticket. And this 
belly laughter is chiefly the kind that follows the misce- 
genation of Billy Watson and the drama. We thus get from 
him, when duly gratified, such frequent and familiar testi- 
monials as I quote literally "A laugh riot/* "A 

156 Eastward in Eden 

edy smash," "A wow," "It brought the house down/' "The 
roars shook the ceiling/' "One long, grand guffaw," "An 
uproarious show/' "A hilarious ticket's worth/* etc. 

So far does the prejudice in favor of laughs go that there 
have actually been plays which have succeeded largely on 
the score of a single thunderous midriff reaction. This has 
been true since the evening, years ago, of Turn To The 
Right, with its "Has anyone in this town got a hundred 
and twenty-five dollars?", to Dark Eyes, with its Negro but- 
ler's **I wish to seize this opportunity to thank you ladies for 
the beautiful necktie you gave me/' and beyond. It was the 
last minute insertion of the line, "She comes from one of 
the first families of Pittsburgh as you enter the city/* that 
partly saved the day for an old Channing Pollock show. 
And in more recent years the old-time Fourth Horseman's 
sons have indited extravagant praise of such dramatic clap- 
trap as Brother Rat, What A Life!,, Junior Miss, Over 21 
and the like simply, it is to be assumed, because the shod- 
diness of the plays has been camouflaged with an occasional 
similarly pleasing joke. Moreover, quality or no quality, it 
is significant that a large proportion of the critically en- 
dorsed successes in the last ten years have been the comedy 
laugh shows: You Can't Take It With You, Yes, My Dar- 
ling Daughter, Having Wonderful Time, Room Service, 
Susan And God, Amphitryon 38, Bachelor Born, Kiss The 
Boys Goodbye, The Primrose Path, Skylark, The Man 
Who Came To Dinner, Life With Father, The Male Ani- 
mal, George Washington Slept Here, the venerable Char- 
ley's Aunt, and My Sister Eileen. Along with Arsenic And 
Old Lace, Blithe Spirit, Janie, Kiss And Tell, Harvey, Dear 
Ruth, O Mistress Mine, Born Yesterday, Happy Birthday, 
Years Ago, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, the comedy 
revivals like Burlesque, the Brother Rat, What A Life!, 
Junior Miss and Over 21 earlier noted, etc., etc. 

To repeat, unnecessarily: there is assuredly nothing to 
be said against laughter as such. Even the slapstick and the 
bladder have their virtues. Btit one prefers generally to be- 
lieve with Victor Hugo that comedy, when mingled with 
the drama, is better if it contains something of a lesson and 

November 18, 1947 157 

has something of a philosophy. If that be the highbrow at- 
titude, it is still what the critical attitude should painfully 
bear in mind. The comedy admired by the Fourth Horse- 
man is a lesson in vaudeville and its philosophy that of a 
circus clown. 



NOVEMBER 26, 1947 

A revival of the Shakespeare tragedy. Produced by Kath- 
arine Cornell for 126 performances in the Martin Beck 


PHILO Alan Shayne 


David Orrick 

DEMETOIUS Theodore Marcuse 


Joseph Holland 

ANTONY Godfrey Tearle 


Martin Kingsley 

CLEOPATRA Katharine Cornell 


Ramet Biro 

A MESSENGER David J. Stewart 


Bruce Gordon 

DOLABELLA Robert Duke 


Betty Low 

PROCULEIUS Charlton Heston 


Dayton Lummis 

IRAS Maureen Stapleton 


Douglass Watson 

CHARMIAN LenoreUlric 


Charles Nolte 

AIJSXAS Oliver Cliff 


Robert Carricart 



Gilbert Reade 



Rudolph Watson 

MARDIAN Joseph Wiseman 


Anthony RandaU 



Ernest Rowan 

LEFIDUS Ivan Simpson 


Martin Kingsley 

SYNOPSIS: Part I. The action takes place 

in Egypt, Italy and 

Syria. Part II. The action takes place in Greece and 


Director: Guthrie McClintic. 


/ARIOUS SCHOLARLY and Impressive reasons have been 
advanced for the hitherto consistent local failure of the 
lustrous tragedy, but several simpler and possibly more 
likely ones are often overlooked. The first of these is that 
it is hard to believe that a public a substantial part of 
which from adolescence has eccentrically visualized Cleo- 
patra as a cross between the whore of Babylon and a dia- 
thermic hoochie-coochie dancer is not disappointed in a 
play which pictures her instead as a woman to whom love 
and sex for the most part seem to be interesting chiefly as 
subjects of conversation and whose expected voluptuous- 
ness does not materialize even in speech. Furthermore, as 

November 26, 1947 159 

the late Granville Barker observed, her oral discourse 
which undoes Antony Is far from passionate but drips with 
sarcasm, wit and malice, which may be said to be scarcely 
the public's idea of anything auspiciously aphrodisiacaL 
Still further, imagine the public's sense of swindle when it 
finds that what it has seen fit to look forward to as a siz- 
zling wrestling match between an Egyptian Theda Bara 
and a Roman Valentino turns out to be a confabular duet 
between the two parties who, worse yet, as Barker properly 
noticed, are never once during the whole play alone to- 
gether; who embrace each other only two or three times, 
and then with a largely verbal ardor; who meet at the be- 
ginning of the play only to separate; and who on their re- 
newed meeting are depressed out of any potential combus- 
tion by the threat of immediate catastrophe. 

Dissatisfaction with the play has been no less encouraged 
by the stage depiction of Antony. The popular conception 
of the latter, gained from statuary encountered on Cook's 
Tours, from Shakespeare's own Julius Caesar, and in some 
cases from Shaw's description in Caesar And Cleopatra, is 
of a young man leaii, eager, strong, and brimful of loving 
possibilities. In Antony And Cleopatra not only is he far 
advanced in maturity and its collateral rueful declensions, 
but he is too frequently cast with an actor who looks as if 
he were just stopping off wearily in Egypt on his way to 
the Old Actor's Home and whose only conceivable rela- 
tions with Cleopatra could be paternal. It is not surprising, 
therefore, that under the general circumstances the cus- 
tomers should feel that the Nile becomes Nihil, its Serpent 
Ambrose Bierce's toy snake with the shoe-button eyes, and 
the fervor, such as it is, the calculated performance of a 
Little Egypt, with anemia. 

The feeling has been customarily further increased by 
the actresses who have either cast themselves or been cast 
as the anticipated sensuous and ravishing Queen. I have in 
my time surveyed a quorum of the girls, and some of them 
have provided strange spectacles. I have seen no less than 
three on the Continent who looked so much like Queen 
Wfihelinina of the Netherlands that the Antonys, of not 

160 Antony and Cleopatra 

noticeably less avoirdupois, had to approach their inamo- 
rata sidewise. I have laid eyes on one or two otherwise esti- 
mable English ladies who looked like their Antony's 
mother and who seemed to be concerned not with his 
libido but rather over their poor son's predicament with 
his successive legal mates. And right here in God's country 
I have it seems almost since childhood been edified 
by a variety of Cleopatras ranging from Wallis to Walsh 
and from Marlowe and Cowl to Bankhead who played the 
Temptress as if she were either a Presbyterian lady- in-wait- 
ing to herself or an Ilka Chase under the influence of Ann 
Corio. And when it comes to Antony, I have since the early 
vision of Robert B. Mantell simultaneously engaged such 
a succession of beer-bellies and wobbly knees that I was at 
times not sure whether I was looking at what is supposed 
to be one of the world's greatest love stories or at a per- 
formance of The Prince Of Pilsen, 

But, together with all this, as if it were not enough, there 
is still another reason for the play's usual lack of popular 
success, at least in these more modern times. What with its 
forty-two changes of scene ranging over the whole map of 
the ancient period and covering some dozen years, it is 
much too difficult for the average customer to follow, par- 
ticularly since most of the different localities under the 
new scenic dispensation, with its noncommittal blocks, 
steps, platforms and curtains, look much alike and since it 
is too dark in the theatre for him to distinguish between 
them in his program, when and if they are listed, without 
a flashlight. He has become so used to two- or three-act 
plays laid in a single place and with curtain drops to indi- 
cate the passing of only a few hours that one jumping fran- 
tically from city to city, palace to galley, camp to battle- 
field, and street to plain leaves him bewildered and dizzy. 
And there remains, finally, the best reason of all, which is 
that most of the original second and third acts is so anti- 
climactically tedious that even the most devout of the 
Bard's followers have trouble in keeping their ears awake. 

Miss Cornell is consequently a brave actress to have un- 
dertaken another revival of the hoodoo'd work. Considered 

November %6 y 1947 161 

apart from its possible financial success or financial failure 
which is the only way becoming to criticism she has 
mounted an unusually handsome and faithful production 
and as its prehensile star has devised one of the most neatly 
intelligent analyses of the part that I have encountered. 
That she comprehends the role perfectly is clear. What 
projecting weakness there is lies in those attributes known 
to cliche criticism as "majesty" and "authority." Her mind 
works shrewdly, but her vocal-physical presence frequently 
contradicts it in the cross-picture of a gentle Candida and 
a turbulent Dishonored Lady masquerading in Egyptian 
robes. Godfrey Tearle's Antony, for a change, is, however, 
an admirable one, both visually and in execution. The 
rest of the troupe is of varying quality. Kent Smith, except 
for a tendency to indulge himself in a set ballerina smile, 
is a first-rate Enobarbus; Joseph Holland a properly ro- 
bustious Pompey; Ivan Simpson an amusing Lepidus; 
Ralph Clanton a booming stock-company Octavius; Le- 
nore Ulric a negligible and affected Charmian; and Doug- 
lass Watson a fair Eros. 

The defect of the whole, well thought out though it is, 
remains, as generally it does, in the great difficulty of fit- 
ting Shakespeare's broad tapestry into stage walls in such 
wise that it does not seem to wrinkle. For the wrinkles are 
in the dramaturgical pattern itself and they destroy any 
sense of compositional smoothness. Everything considered, 
Guthrie McGlintic has done fairly well by the stage direc- 
tion. Like Verdi's Un Ballo In Maschera, which similarly 
has always had poor luck on the stage and which calls for 
superlative direction to keep It alive, as Virgil Thomson 
has emphasized, Antony And Cleopatra has need of some- 
thing approaching directorial genius to give it flow and 
pace where flow and pace are absent from its fabric. Mr. 
McClintic has not entirely succeeded in the more than 
merely difficult task, but he has managed a little better 
than many of his predecessors. What he has missed is the 
accomplishment of that hovering atmosphere of doomed 
passion without which the dramatic panorama goes awry. 
And what he also has failed in is the direction into com- 

162 Antony and Cleopatra 

plete articularity of some of the important speeches, not- 
ably the magnificent and all-important opening one, de- 
scribing Antony, in the mouth of Philo. There is, too, a 
tendency to formalize the whole which on occasion robs 
the spectacle of vitality. But, when we reflect on some of 
the previous direction of the tragedy, his work yet takes on 
a relatively rosy hue. 

I am thinking in this connection of productions like the 
one staged by Komisarjevsky in London a dozen years ago. 
Compared with any such miscarriage, the present one 
seems a veritable masterpiece of stage art. Not only did 
the Russian indulge himself in such sanguinary mischiefs 
as altering the play's opening and with only two sets mak- 
ing utterly unidentifiable the locality of most of the scenes, 
which brought the late James Agate to remark, "I am 
afraid this production is one of those cases in which what 
is wanted is a little less imagination and a few more scene- 
shifters'* not only did Komisarjevsky disport himself 
thus, but he caused Antony in death so convalescently to 
shout his farewell that the audience thought for a moment 
he was about to jump up from his prostrate position and 
begin the play all over again. There was also the little mat- 
ter of Madame Leontovich in the Cleopatra role who, with 
her Russian accent lost upon her fellow-Russian director, 
brought down the house by reading speeches like "When 
you sued staying, Then was the time for words" as "Wen 
you suet staying, Den was de time for wurst," which led 
Agate to inquire, "What had English tallow and German 
sausage to do with this Egyptian passion?" 

The Cornell presentation's stage settings by Leo Kerz 
and the men's costumes by John Boyt are deserving of 
special notice. 


DECEMBER 2, 1947 

A play by Tennessee Williams. Produced by Irene M. Selz- 
nick for the rest of the season's performances in the Ethel 
Barrymore Theatre. 


NEGRO WOMAN Gee Gee James 


Marlon Brando 

Karl Maiden 
Kim Hunter 
Rudy Bond 

BLANCHE Du Bois Jessica Tandy 

A STRANGE MAN Richard Garrick 


SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place during the spring,, 
summer and early faU m New Orleans. 
Director: Elia Kazan. 



:.PLAY, which might well have been titled The Glans 
Menagerie, has been criticized in some quarters as an un- 
pleasant one. The criticism is pointed. But the fact that a 
play is unpleasant, needless to say, is not necessarily a re- 
flection on its quality. Oedipus, Lear, and The Lower 
Depths, to name only three out of many, are surely very 
far from pleasant, yet it is their unpleasantness which at 
least in part makes them what they are. There is a consid- 
erable difference between the unpleasant and the disgust- 
ing, which is the designation Mr. Williams* critics prob- 
ably have in mind, and his play is not disgusting, as, for 
example, is scum like Maid In The Ozarks and School For 
Brides. The borderline between the unpleasant and the 
disgusting is, however, a shadowy one, as inferior play- 
wrights have at times found out to their surprise and grief. 
Williams has managed to keep his play wholly in hand. But 
there is, too, a much more positive borderline between the 
unpleasant and the enlightening, and he has tripped over 

164 A Streetcar Named Desire 

it, badly. While he has succeeded in making realistically 
dramatic such elements as sexual abnormality, harlotry, 
perversion, venality, rape, and lunacy, he has scarcely con- 
trived to distil from them any elevation and purge. His 
play as a consequence remains largely a theatrical shocker 
which, while it may shock the emotions of its audience, 
does not in the slightest shock them into any spiritual 

Eight years ago, at the beginning of his career, Williams 
wrote a play called Battle Of Angels, which closed in Bos- 
ton after a brief showing. It hinted at his preoccupation 
with sex in its more violent aspects, which continues in the 
present exhibit. It also, while not nearly so able a play, 
betrayed his apparent conviction that theatrical sensation- 
alism and dramatic substantiality are much the same thing 
and that, as in the present case, one can handily pass the 
former off for the latter, and for something pretty artistic 
into the bargain, by gilding it with occasional literary 
flourishes accompanied by off-stage vibra-harps, flutes, and 
music boxes. The hanky-panky may work with a suscepti- 
ble public, but not with the more ingressive criticism. 
There is a considerable difference between Wedekind and 
Wedekindergarten. To fashion any such festering materi- 
als into important drama it is essential that they be lifted 
out of life into a pattern larger than life, as, among others, 
Strindberg and his contemporary disciple, O'Neill, have 
appreciated, Williams in considerable part leaves them 
where he found them and deludes himself into a belief 
that he has made of the gutter a broad sea by now and 
then sailing in it little papier-mache poesy boats, propelled 
by doughty exhalations. 

Impressionistically, the play suggests a wayward bus oc- 
cupied by John Steinbeck, William Faulkner and James 
Cain, all tipsy and all telling stories simultaneously, and 
with Williams, cocking his ear to assimilate the goings-on, 
as the conductor. Critically, it suggests that he is a little 
deaf and has not been able to disentangle what may be 
valid from the bedlam and assimilate it to possibly meri- 
torious ends. Theatrically and popularly, however, the 


December 2, 1947 165 

suit will surely Impress a lot of people, even such as will 
pretend for appearances' sake to be offended by what they 
allude to as its "strong meat" and who after seeing it will 
profess that they long for a breath of fresh, good, clean 

Like a number of his contemporaries, Williams seems to 
labor under the misapprehension that strong emotions are 
best to be expressed strongly only through what may deli- 
cately be termed strong language. I am not, you may be 
relieved to know, going to take up again the already over- 
argued question as to whether such language has any lit- 
erary justification. I am as tired of the discussion as un- 
doubtedly you are. But, justified or not in certain cases, it 
seems to me that in this specific instance he has at times 
used It not because it is vitally necessary but for purposes 
of startle and because his dramatic gifts do not yet include 
the ability to achieve the desired effect without easy re- 
course to such terminology. His writing to fall back on 
a description I have used before sometimes sounds alto- 
gether too much like a little boy proudly making a muscle. 

The play centers on a Southern school-teacher whose 
youthful marriage ended in tragedy when her homosexual 
husband committed suicide, who has vainly sought ne- 
penthe in miscellaneous sex, and who has become an in- 
curable neurotic with delusions of grandeur. It develops 
her amatory life with her sister's husband and with the lat- 
ter *s crony. And It ends with her mental disintegration and 
deposit in an asylum. That it holds one's Interest is not to 
be denied, But it holds It much as it is perversely held by 
a recognizably fixed prize-fight or a circus performer pro- 
jected out of what appears to be a booming cannon by a 
mechanical spring device. It is, in other words, highly suc- 
cessful theatre and highly successful showmanship, but 
considerably less than that as critically secure drama. 

In this general view of the play, I hope that no one will 
suspect that I am subscribing to such definitions as Je- 
rome's "Ugliness Is but skin-deep; the business of Art is to 
reveal the beauty underlying all things." Such sweet sen- 
timents, though generally accepted as true, are much too 

166 A Streetcar Named Desire 

broad and sometimes faulty. The revelation of fundamen- 
tal ugliness and depravity has been known to be not only 
the business of art but even occasionally its triumph. The 
form and style and manner of the revelation may be beau- 
tiful, but the revelation itself is not. A better definition 
might be that the business of art is to reveal whatever is 
basically true, whether beautiful or ugly, in terms of the 
highest aesthetic competence. The ugliness in Williams* 
play may in the definition of the Jeromes be only skin- 
deep, but the ability to prick deeper into it and draw from 
it the blood drops of common humanity, and in them a 
true count of dramatic art, is absent. It scarcely throws one 
off critical scent to quote in the program verse, by Hart 
Crane, about "the broken world," "the visionary company 
of love," and "its voice an instant in the world." It is not 
enough to substitute the ingenious stage magic of lights 
and music for the equally seductive but more definitely 
powerful magic of poetry. For what still mutinously forces 
itself upon one in this tale of a prostitute who would en- 
velop hideous reality in the anodyne of illusion and sup- 
plant the world of pursuing lust with one of pure love is, 
save in a few valid scenes, the impression of a Pirandello 
theme dramatized by a hopeful aspirant to dramatic lyri- 
cism and which periodically and I am not being as fa-, 
cetious as you may think converts its characters into 
rampaging approximations to Harpo Marx. 

Contributing greatly to the external successful aspects o 
the play are admirable direction by Elia Kazan and a uni- 
formly excellent acting company in which, supported by 
Marlon Brando, Karl Maiden and the rest, Jessica Tandy 
in the role of Forever Streetcar gives one of the finest per- 
formances observed locally in several seasons. Also helpful 
is Jo Mielziner's variant of his scenic design for the same 
author's The Glass Menagerie^ though one may wonder 
how he reconciles an acutely realistic lavatory with the rest 
of his fancifully imagined and dreamlike interior of a 
dwelling in the Vieux Carr& 



A documentary play by George H. Dunne. Produced by 
the Blackfriars' Guild for 16 performances in the Black- 
friars' Guild Theatre. 


Marc Snow, Will Marshall, Paula Mayer, Thomas Roberts. Charlotte 
Nachtwey, Clarence Rock, Charlynn Wright, Valerie CaveD, John Flower, 
John Young, Evelio Grillo, Nappy Whiting, Tom O'Connor, Walter 
Thompson, Helena Price, and John Michael 
Director: Albert McCleery. 

ATHER DUNNE, S.J., has based his episodic play, a pro- 
test against racial intolerance, on an actual case involving 
the death o a Negro family in a fire which devastated their 
home in southern California. Using the court records, he 
presents them quite as literally as Dreiser did in An Amer- 
ican Tragedy. The effect at odd moments is what he hoped 
for, but the play covers ground already often thrashed in 
the theatre and hence overly familiar and it is further 
weakened by elementary dramaturgy that fails to discrim- 
inate between the necessary and the needless, which latter 
predominates. In brief, as the cliche goes, a sincere effort, 
but sincerity, as the clich( also goes, is scarcely in itself 
enough to foster merit in otherwise limited dramatic 



A calypso musical revue by Adolph Thenstead and Samuel 
L. Manning. Produced by Adolph Thenstead for n per- 
formances in the International Theatre. 


Pearl Primus, Josephine Premice, Claude Marchant, Pamek Ward, Alex 
Young, Charles Queenan, the Duke of Iron, the Smith Kids, Curtis James, 
Peggy Watson, Padjet Fredericks, Fred Thomas, the Trio Cubana, Eloise 
Hill, Dorothy Graham, and the Caribbean Calypso baud. 
Director: Samuel L. Manning. 

OVERUSED AS "the first calypso musical ever presented," 
the show, like the Caribbean island entertainments in gen- 
eral, has a deal of life in it, but the life is all of an aimless 
piece, as is that in a puppy or rubber ball, and, though live- 
liness there unquestionably is, it consequently seems to be 
static and to revolve 'round and 'round in the same circle, 
like a squirrel in a rotating cage. The native dances are 
doubtless authentic, but since most of them seem to consist 
in impassioned efforts simultaneously to dislodge the sacro- 
iliac and rupture the genital parts and since the dusky la- 
dies and gentlemen who are the parties thereto proudly 
display what after all look like everybody else's navels, the 
evening scarcely progresses. Especially and further since 
the background for most of the dances presents the usual 
lopsided palm trees and smear of blue sea and since stand- 
ing in front of the painted canvas are the customary black 
girls with their shirts coyly dropped off their left shoulders 
and balancing either tall jars or flower-pots on their heads. 
The calypso rhythms and jungle drums, like ice-skating 
shows and novels about Nell Gwynn, after a short time also 
become so monotonous that one finds one's mind wander- 
ing. In my case, it began to wander so far afield before the 
show was three-quarters of an hour old that it never came 
back to the stage proceedings. In view of which uncritical 

December 5, 1947 169 

fact, there Is nothing I can do to give you a fuller account 
of what went on and will mortify myself, and probably 
you, by offering some samples of my mental peregrinations. 

While the gentleman who calls himself the Duke of 
Iron had at me with a series of calypso songs that all 
sounded exactly alike, I was waywardly thinking that one 
of the most impressive differences between American and 
English sex comedy is that in the former the hero and hero- 
ine finally go to bed together, sentimentally, and that in 
the latter the hero avoids it, wittily. 

"While Claude Marchant and the dancers were executing 
one of the routine voodoo numbers, I meditated that it is 
a weakness of the great majority of modern comedies that 
their endings are too neatly resolved and tied up with pink 
ribbons. Life and the better comedies, I said to myself, are 
not like that, as everyone except the playwrights seems to 
be aware. Life has a way o leaving things unravelled, and 
the more observant comedy writers have that way as well, 
as, among others, Schnitzler has attested in Anatol, Henry 
Arthur Jones in The Case Of Rebellious Susan, Brieux in 
The Incubus, and Molnar in The Guardsman. Most play- 
wrights may be obliquely reminded that there remains a 
possibly greater virtue in Schubert's Unfinished Symphony 
than in the completed score of Toplitzky Of Notre Dame, 
in the unfinished Faust of Goethe than in the fully 
rounded / Gotta Get Out of Joe Fields, and maybe in even 
Dickens* uncompleted The Mystery Of Edwin Drood than 
in the exactly ravelled Duet For Two Hands of Mary Hay- 
ley Bell. 

While Pearl Primus was remorselessly chasing her navel 
back and forth on the stage, I wondered why those of our 
producers who are fetched by propaganda plays and who 
usually pick out the kind that make a soapbox blush for 
itself are not aware of one, and a very good one with a 
likely contemporary slant, written more than four hun- 
dred years before the birth of Christ by a fellow named 
Aristophanes. Its title: The Acharnians. Its plot: A good- 
natured countryman is driven from his village home by en- 
emy invasion. Though a peace to end the war is possible, 

170 Caribbean Carnival 

his government dallies for so long over details that he gets 
good and sick of the delay and in disgust dispatches a per- 
sonal messenger to the enemy to effect a separate peace for 
himself and his family. The messenger is successful; the 
enemy government pleasedly sends him back with lots of 
booze for a mutual ratification of the truce; and the old 
boy gets a magnificent celebrating edge on and rosily re- 
turns to his home just in time to participate in the feast 
of Bacchus. 

While the so-called Smith Kids, boy and girl, were in- 
dulging in familiar island ditties, the alcoholic attributes 
of the aforesaid feast turned my thoughts to speculating on 
the advance that our theatre has managed in at least one 
respect. No longer as in past days, I reflected, is stage direc- 
tion in plays of fantasy of the bogusly imaginative kind 
which sought to top fancy with fancy by making the actors 
behave as if they had been out on a six-day binge with 
Maeterlinck and were still in the hangover state where 
they were not sure whether they were themselves or Pease- 
blossom. The alcoholic metaphor similarly and gratifyingly 
no longer includes the sort of staging which the war-ref- 
ugee Russian and German directors were fond of visiting 
upon certain specimens of their native dramatic art. It was 
their idea, as will be painfully recalled, that authentic dra- 
matic stylization was to be accomplished simply by placing 
upon a platform a pair of large screens that looked as if 
they had been up all night drinking, were in the incipient 
stages of delirium tremens, and were about to fall under 
the table, and by inserting between them groups of actors 
instructed to comport themselves as if they were seized al- 
ternately by attacks of epilepsy and paralysis. Even had the 
plays themselves been half-way acceptable, their effect 
would still have been demolished by the directors' trans- 
mutation of the characters into actors so hammy that one 
could not stifle one's chuckles on beholding them popping 
out their eyes like Peter Lorre, gesticulating like so many 
French traffic cops, leaping and bounding about the stage 
like the late Lew Morrison's Mephistopheles, and then 

December 5, 1947 171 

suddenly relapsing Into a semblance of Nance O'Neil rigor 

While the jungle drums were dumdumming and the 
dancers once again enthusiastically running after their 
navels, it occurred to me that among the most intolerable 
dramatic actors are those elocutionary relics from another 
era who indulge themselves throughout a play rolling dice 
with their voices. 

While Josephine Premice was calypsoing herself blue in 
the face, I evolved this definition: Dramatic criticism is the 
craft of superimposing a critic's logical prejudices on the 
emotional prejudices of a dramatist. 

While Miss Primus was again voodooing her umbilicus, 
I thought that the theatre in its character of a mere pur- 
veyor of amusement sometimes profits very much more 
from bad acting than good. A play so dreadful in every par- 
ticular that its entertainment quotient is nil may occasion- 
ally be made the stuff of considerable jollity by acting 
even more atrocious than the play itself. Where good act- 
ing would only point up its awfulness, really terrible act* 
ing contributes a measure of hilarity to it. Some of the 
most thoroughly amusing evenings I have spent in the the- 
atre have been at bad plays even worse acted. For example, 
The Love Call, Boudoir, House Of Doom, A Strange Play, 
They Walk Alone, Brother Cain, and, by all means, Cur- 
tain Call, with the memorable performance by Guido 
Nadzo. The operators of the old river showboats, of the 
tank-town Tom companies, and, later, of such travestied 
melodramas as The Drunkard weren't fools. They knew 
that the money of customers who howl with mirth at mor- 
biferous acting is just as good as that of customers who find 
satisfaction in only the better grade. 

While still more calypso was lulling my brain, my 
thoughts turned to the writing racket as it currently oper- 
ates in the land. The writing racket, I mused, is one of the 
nation's most fruitful confidence games. For every compe- 
tent and honest writer there are at least twenty or thirty 
who, by substituting pen, paper and ink for the more 

172 Caribbean Carnival 

obvious three shells, swindle the public into providing 
them with a fancy living. The moment one comes upon a 
scribbler, let us say, who in seeming doubt writes, "Was it 
not So-and-so who once said so-and-so?/ r one should switch 
one's watch to another pocket. The writer knows perfectly 
well that it was So-and-so who said it, since one may be 
sure that he looked it up, and his implication of lack of 
certainty is intended to suggest that his head is so full of all 
the scholars in the world who may possibly have said some- 
thing faintly similar that he can not at the moment for the 
life of him unravel his enormous store of recollection and 

The quote boys, most of whom belong to the was-it-not 
mob and chief of whom are critics of one sort or another, 
have also long been in the soft money. Their especial pitch 
is saying nothing, or at best very little, on their own, and 
bequeathing to themselves a handsome air by promiscu- 
ously hijacking the wit and wisdom of others, always cau- 
tiously selecting their multiple victims from the deceased 
lest there be yelps from their cabbaged contemporaries. 
One may spot the general nature of their little game in 
something that goes like this: 

"Georg Brandes remarked of Wagner, 'His music has the 
quality of incandescent thunder/ I thought of this as I lis- 
tened last night to Siegfried, of which Huneker wrote, Its 
length may be likened to two miles of unsalted pretzels.* 
As I sat there, there occurred to me, appraising the opera, 
the words of Swinburne: 'The sounds of the sea in tumult 
swirl about one like melted cannons/ And was it not Bru- 
netiere, or was it Matthew Arnold? it might, indeed, 
even have been Louis XIV who said, 'Art is most nega- 
tive when it is most positive/ Nonetheless, the performance 
of Siegfried, though it might slightly have ruffled the aes- 
thetic sensibilities of Racine, who allowed that 'the defects 
of opera are not always the defects of virtue/ would, it is 
likely, have met with the approbation of Kotzebue, who 
once observed, 'I am always, I notice, pleased by what 
pleases me/ " 

Then there are what may be designated the reader chis- 

December 5, 1947 173 

elers. Their fetch is the ingratiation o themselves with 
their customers by implying that the latter are already 
privy to all that is recondite in the world, and on easy and 
off-hand terms with it. If they are not flattering their read- 
ers with "as you must [never "may"] surely recall" or "as 
you certainly are already wholly aware/' they are in oper- 
ation with the "as you need not be tolds," "as you will read- 
ily recognizes/' and "to repeat what you probably are al- 
ready fully familiar withs." 

Close at the heels of such come the heavy modesty and 
the foreign-word sharpers. The heavy modesty boys are 
even easier to identify than the foreign-word swindlers. 
Their technique consists in a foxy depreciation of them- 
selves in the hope of making the reader cotton to them the 
more greatly and thus, by putting him off his guard, make 
the fleecing of him a simple matter. Their literature teems 
with such phrases as "your humble scribe," "your would- 
be guide/* and "your ink-stained wretch." Periodically it 
embraces such wiles as "if I may take the liberty/' "you 
will, I hope, pardon me if I venture timidly to suggest," 
"if I do not again, alas, fall into error/' and "without the 
slightest desire to foist my dubious opinions upon you." 
Nor does it craftily overlook a liberal injection of the edi- 
torial "we," an intermittent squirt of "my readers, if any," 
and a sufficient embroidery of "these dim eyes/* "this shak- 
ing hand," "these old bones," and "this fast-failing mem- 

In the foreign-word aggregation are to be found the 
lesser variety of college professors and others who know no 
language but English, and little of that. The members 
never under any circumstance condescend to write simply 
glow, junction^ or spirit, say, but always and invariably 
elan, rapprochement, and esprit. And that is just the be- 
ginning. Mirabile dictu, affaire, raconteur, imprimis, qui 
-owe, tout le mond and pourboire are all over the sheet 
giving things a tone. And so, instead of good, plain 
English are Dei gratia, beau ideal, cacoethes scri- 
bendi, en rapport, fin de siecle, and ftlle de joie, to say 
nothing of good old simpatico, coup de grace, mise en 

174 Caribbean Carnival 

scene, Sklavenmoral, Homo sapiens, idee fixe, amour 
propre, femme fatale, vieux jeu, ancien regime, enfant 
terrible, etc. 

Next in the line-up are the descriptive atmosphere con- 
fidence men. It should take the prospective victim only 
a moment to recognize them, since they generally give 
themselves away in the very first paragraph. If a gray mist 
isn't spread like a ghostly blanket over the bleak moor, the 
sun is setting like a ball of crimson fire over the rippling 
bay, and if neither the gray mist nor the ball of fire are in 
operation the elms bordering the village street are droop- 
ing in the late, silent twilight or the great house is standing 
lonely on the far hill like a forsaken, blinking owl. For 
the victim somewhat slower in catching on to the ways 
of the racketeers, there are a sufficient number of other 
clues, the chief of the give-aways being their inability to 
mention anything whether a two-by-four room, a minor 
fall of rain, or even a one-horse-town drugstore with- 
out elaborately atmosphering it up with a Sears-Roebuck 
catalogue, a second-hand dose of Joseph Conrad, or the 
report of a half dozen motion picture location scouts. If it 
is the two-by-four room that occupies them, they are ready 
with a realistic, minute description of every last thing in 
it, from the wallpaper to the small crack in the ceiling and 
from the board in the floor, just one inch from the pine 
door painted pale blue, that creaks to the other board in 
the floor* just two inches from the door painted pale green 
leading to the bedroom, which is papered in pale red, 
that also creaks. And so from the slight drizzle of rain, 
which atmospherically wets up at least four pages, to the 
hick drugstore, which usually technicolors up six or seven 
all the story's characters apparently meanwhile being 
off on vacations in Atlantic City and which seems to be 
as peculiarly full of detail (the word lt microcosm" comes 
in here) as the biggest department store in New York or 

The simile boys sometimes operate independently but 
more often work with the atmosphere mob. With them, 
everything is like something. Not simply like something, 

December 5, 1947 175 

but very fancily like something. Thus, a girl's hair is 
never, say, like taffy; it is like melted amber flowing softly 
over her shoulders like a gentle Springtime cascade. Nor 
are a man's eyes just like cold steel; they are like twin 
rapiers piercing everything they meet with steely, wound- 
ing ripostes. 

The rhythm freebooters frequently work the same side 
of the street. With only a little "and" up their sleeves, they 
have been sailing big for years, ever, indeed, since Richard 
Harding Davis showed them the way to turn it into wist- 
ful money. Where someone else, Heaven forbid, might 
write: "Over there on the far horizon lies the island of 
Santa Luciano, its palms swaying under the tropical stars; 
those lights you dimly see are the harbor lights of Bla- 
nafia; the waves of the Caribbean wash the sandy beaches; 
the moon bathes the coral coast; the trade winds ruffle the 
wildflowers into a warm perfume" where, as I say, 
someone else might, again Heaven forbid, put it that way, 
the rhythm boys sell the reader by turning on the "and" 
phonograph: "And over there on the far horizon and 
where lies the island of Santa Luciano and its palms sway- 
ing under the tropical stars, those lights you dimly see are 
the harbor lights of Blanana, and there the waves of the 
Caribbean wash the sandy beaches and the moon bathes 
the coral coast and the trade winds ruffle the wildflowers 
into a warm perfume." 

There are, as well, the taste gentlemen, whose especial 
racket consists in trying to win the reader by insulting 
him. This is known in the trade as the akamarakus of at- 
traction by repulsion. To the taste gentlemen, the taste of 
everybody else is something terrible. It stinks. So right 
from the shoulder they tell them. Their taste is low. They 
are bourgeois. They are peasants. They are clods. They 
should learn. Otherwise, God help the artistic future of 
America! The boys are out to save Culture from the rab- 
ble, the canaille, the riff-raff and the rag-tag-and-bobtail 
at the noble self-sacrifice of twenty cents a word. 

And, finally, there are the grifters whose racket is what 
passes for so-called "tough mug*' lingo. In harrowing ex- 

176 Caribbean Carnival 

ample, a specimen of the kind of telephone conversation 
which their characters merchant: 

"Is zat youse, Jallapalooza?" 

"Yeah, it's me, brother; is zat you, big boy?" 

"Yeah, it's big boy himself in poisen. Whatya doin* to- 
night, bitcherino?" 

"Nuttin', big boy; what's boilin*?" 

"You said it, babe; meet me to th' corner of Broa'way and 
Fifty-foist at seven." 




And the calypsoing and navel heavings still went on. 



A biographical play by Bertolt Brecht, adapted by Charles 
Laughton, with incidental music by Hanns Eisler. Pro- 
duced by the Experimental Theatre, Inc., for 6 perfor- 
mances in the Maxine Elliott Theatre. 





Allen Martin 
Charles Laughton 
Michael Citro 
Hester Sondergaard 
Philip Swander 
Fred Stewart 
Joan McCracken 
Dtvight MarfieJd 
Sidney Bossier 
Frank CampaneEa 
Lam/ Rosen 
Thomas Palmer 
Harry Hess 


Mary Grace Canfield 
A SCHOLAR Frank Campanefla 

A MONK Leonard Bell 


Werner Klemperer 


CLAVIUS Taylor Graves 

BELLARMIN Lawrence Ryle 


lN<2UisrroK John Camdine 

ANDREA NehemiahPersoff 

CUISEPPI Donald Symington 

BAT.T.ADE SINGER Harris Brown 

Elizabeth Moore 

Ins Mann 

A MONK Sidney Bossier 


Earl Montgomery* Jr. 
INFORMER Warren Stevens 

MAXEC Ph&p Robinson 

SACRISTAN I Tayior Graces 

SACRISTAN H Leonardo Cm&no 
TOWN CRIER PM&p&nbmson 

SYNOPSIS: Act L Scene 1. GtMeos stody, Padua, 1609. Seme 2. 
The great arsenal of Venice. Scene 3. GaBteo's study. J&miary 10, 1610. 
Scene 4. GcMeo's new house, Florence* Scene 5. The Coflegfrtm Ro- 
manum, Rome. 1616. Scene 6. Cardinal TZetfowmns pdace, Rome. Scene 
7. Garden of the Jflorer&ine AzMbassador, Rome. Act LL Scene 8. Gal&eo's 
house, Florence. 1623. Scene 9. The market $ace of a smatt town in It- 
aly. AH Fools Day. 1682. Scene 10. The Medicean palace, Florence. Scene 
11. The Vatican. 16S3. Scene 12. Garden of the Florentine Ambassador, 
Rome. Scene 13. A country house near Florence. 1637. 

Director: Joseph Losey. 

178 Galileo 



J.HE EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE, so-called, got its second 
season under way with a play that had already been shown 
on the West Coast without any tokens of experimental 
or critical acclaim, and understandably, since it is a 
heavily contrived and dramatically static chronicle of the 
life and tribulations of the celebrated physicist entirely 
lacking in any distinction. That it was chosen simply be- 
cause Charles Laughton was willing to come east to act in 
it is, I fear, the only explanation. There was some severe 
criticism of the local organization for thus casting the play 
with an actor who has made a box-office name for himself 
in the moving pictures, as there was for casting another 
such picture name, John Garfield, in the next forthcoming 
production. As for myself, I can think of nothing less de- 
serving of critical attack than any such hazardous experi- 
ment of determining whether former actors who have 
gone to Hollywood can still do anything remotely ap- 
proaching acting on the dramatic stage. At the same time, 
however, it does not escape me that there is a suspicious 
box-office flavor to any experimental enterprise that takes 
cautious refuge in such luring marquee film lights. 

Though, as noted, there may be some experimental 
value in gambling on the possibly remaining competences 
of one-time stage actors who for years have been antick- 
ing before the cameras, it is difficult to make out any ex- 
perimental value whatever in the Brecht play. Similar 
plays, and much better ones, have been produced in the 
Broadway theatre, and the productions of them also have 
often been much better. I sometimes wonder, indeed, at 
most of this experimental business as it has been con- 
ducted in these parts. It too frequently seems to be the 
idea of the experimenters that any play is a worthy ex- 
perimental item if only no professional producer has been 
willing to put it on. It similarly seems too frequently to 
be their idea that because no such producer has seen fit to 
put it on it is therefore something that must be possessed 
of a strange and hidden merit. And if such a play, which 

December 7, 1947 179 

should properly be staged in a more or less conventional 
manner, offers an opportunity to piscator it almost out of 
recognition with lantern slides, loud speakers, off-stage 
juke-boxes and topsy-turvy scenery, they grow delirious 
with delight. 

Much of the local experimental undertaking in the last 
twenty or more years is an after-growth of the arrival on 
these shores of refugee producers and directors from the 
wars, both I and II. A few of these Central Europeans 
and Russians were men of imagination and talent, if some- 
times too greatly given to freakishness of a wild and woolly 
order. But many more were second-raters without any 
real ability who attempted to conceal their lack of it in 
an approach to the stage that was even wilder and woollier 
and which was incompetent, immaterial and irrelevant to 
the plays upon which they imposed it. Yet their influence 
on local youth in the small, off-Broadway theatres was 
marked, and though that youth advanced in years and 
percolated into the larger theatres it unfortunately did 
not advance in any discrimination between what might 
conceivably be valid in the foreign staging and what was 
unmistakably fraudulent and silly. As a consequence, we 
were confronted from time to time by imitations of these 
alien charlatans which not only grieved the judicious but 
which grieved even more the plays, whether good or bad, 
that were made to suffer from the apery. 

Even at this late day the lesson still has not been 
learned, and plays which would be relatively more accept- 
able if staged honestly and simply are made ridiculous by 
staging and directing them as if they were the progeny of 
stereopticon machines, radios, moving pictures, amplifiers, 
forum platforms, church choirs, Greek burlesque shows, 
and the warden and matron of an institution for the men- 
tally unbalanced. Incidental music is introduced with no 
warrant other than that it covers up the directors' inability 
to suggest elsewise a sense of dramatic flow. Steps leading 
into the auditorium and causing actors whose proper place 
is on the stage to migrate down them into the audience 
are resorted to to achieve an intimacy that sound and 

180 Galileo 

knowledgeable direction might incorporate into the play 
itself. And various other such tomfooleries convert the 
occasion less into one of drama than one largely indis- 
tinguishable from a vaudeville show plus only a plot. 
While but a few of these excrescences are visible in this 
presentation, the few tend not to assist but further to dis- 
compose it. And, as heretofore, they impress the spectator 
as being arbitrarily introduced solely in the hope of de- 
ceiving him into a belief that there is more in the scanty 
script than meets the ear. They are, in short, to any repu- 
table staging what a monkey is to an organ-grinder: a 
catchpenny distraction from the wheezing contribution of 
his instrument. 

The Brecht play, which has discernibly been maneu- 
vered by Laughton into a vehicle suitable to his histrionic 
eccentricities, centers on Galileo's historic conflict with 
the church. Its one relative merit is that it does not, as 
might have been expected, take pride in drawing a paral- 
lel to truth's modern conflict with authority. Though in 
this instance there might have been some dramatic reason- 
ableness, the play wisely prefers to rest in mere implica- 
tion. This, surely, is a welcome change from the current 
tendency of our playwrights to draw parallels between 
the past and present which often goes to such strained 
lengths that, if it continues, we may anticipate plays which 
will demonstrate the similarity of Noah's troubles with 
the Ark to John Ringling North's with his circus, to say 
nothing, probably, of others attesting to the considerable 
identity of the suppression of some of Voltaire's writings 
and the censorship of Twentieth Century-Fox's movie, 
Forever Amber. 

Whether Mr. Laughton could still act appeared to be a 
moot point, with the upholders of the negative not lack- 
ing in number. 



DECEMBER 9, 1947 

A play by Emmet Lavery. Produced by Martin Gosch in 
association with Eunice Healey for 7 performances in the 
Mansfield Theatre. 



Watson White 

Ethel Browning 

T.ra KJCLPATRICE: Edith Atwater 
DANIEL Creighton Thompson 

BIG ED LAWRENCE G&ofai Gordon 

CHRISTOPHER Anthony Quinn 
IGOR STEPENOV Feodor Chaliapin 




Leopold Badia 


Arthur Jarrett 


Elsie May Gordon 

Frank Rowan 

Oliver Crawford 

Leonard Auerbach 

SYNOPSIS: The entire action takes place in the drawing-room of 
Kilpatrick Hatt, one of the great old houses of Virginia. The year might 
be any year coming up. The time covered is from January to June. Act L 
Scene 1. New Year's Eve. Scene 2. A few mornings later. Act IE. Scene 1. 
Several months later. Scene 2. A few days later. Act in. "Fto0 days later, 
early morning. 

Director: Sam Wanamaker. 



.HE AUTHOR Is one of God's most enviable creatures. He 
is so rich in optimism that he believes that a politician 
who is constitutionally so crooked that a dill pickle looks 
to him like a pretzel may be influenced by an ethical 
young woman and a portrait of George Washington to 
abjure dishonesty, on the spot and to turn as straight as 
an archbishop. I am, as everybody knows, a man imbued 
with such consummate faith in most things that I even 
go to the extreme of believing in the virtues of holy matri- 
mony, raw carrots* and dramatic criticism, but I have 

182 The Gentleman from Athens 

something of a tussle with myself when it comes to Mr. 
Lavery's miracle. He is, of course, not the first playwright 
who has presented a devious character brought by personi- 
fied rectitude to turn honest. But he is, unless memory is 
playing me a dirty trick, the revolutionary first to pre- 
sent the chameleon as a politico. Brieux, forty years ago 
in La Foi, known to English-speaking audiences as False 
Gods, offered the shifty fellow as one originally destined 
for the cloth who turns rationalist but who finally sur- 
renders to the people's will to believe. And before and 
since then we have had all kinds of characters ranging 
from hypocrites and swindlers to thieves, jailbirds and 
prostitutes who have been induced either by a single vir- 
tuous man or woman or by both multiplied by a com- 
munal figure to lead or at least plan to lead the better life. 
But if among them all a playwright has ever gone so far 
as to include a political rogue, I must have been at a some- 
what more reasonable burlesque show that night and 
missed the sensational event. 

It is, however, one of the generally accepted rules of 
critical conduct that an author is entitled to treat of any- 
thing or anybody in any way he chooses, and that only the 
manner and style with which he manages the treatment 
are the critic's business. So I suppose, being a union mem- 
ber, I shall arbitrarily have to swallow Lavery's politico 
as I should have to swallow some other playwright's the- 
ory that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Jenny Lind. 
You have to be open-minded in this job. But, though I 
am willing to abide by the union's by-laws, I'll be hanged 
if I am going to do it without repeating that not only has 
Lavery thrown his hat into the ring as a hitherto un- 
dreamed of idealist but, in my private opinion, has 
achieved the remarkable feat of simultaneously talking 
through it. 

And so we come, perforce and obediently, to his treat- 
ment of his extraordinary idea. I should like to report that 
it is so novel, witty and accomplished that the idea be- 
comes digestible, but I fear that I can't. His uncouth and 
shady politician is Charles Hoyt's Maverick Brander out 

December 9, 1947 183 

of A Texas Steer, minus Hoyt's satire and closer knowl- 
edge of the breed. In the character there is further no 
trace of the understanding and humor of the politician in 
Benjamin Woolfs earlier The Mighty Dollar. The up- 
right young woman, once again in this case a secretary, 
who reforms the politician, is the same character who has 
reformed dozens of characters not politicians in as many 
plays. And the business of getting the goods on a political 
opponent in the shape of a scandal in the latter's ex-officio 
life is the old ravioli out of a quorum of past, dead plays, 
among them William C. de Mille's The Woman, pro- 
duced by Belasco back in 191 1. 

These are just a few intimations of Mr. Lavery's lack 
of inventiveness. If you cry for more, there is the proud, 
aristocratic young woman who shrinks from the vulgar 
hero at the outset but gradually perceives his innate no- 
bility, rejects the suitor of her own class, and takes him 
for mate. How often you have encountered that charac- 
ter, I have neither the time nor the patience to dredge up. 
There is also the gentle old Negro butler who has been 
with the old Southern family since General Lee as a boy 
used to come around to the kitchen door for a handout of 
cookies, along with the prim old aunt who girlishly suc- 
cumbs to the vulgar hero's boyish charm. Additionally in 
the mishmash is the airily indolent brother of the heroine 
who is given to drink and whose philosophy is that work is 
a form of exercise not to his elegant taste. And the irasci- 
ble old male relative of the family who stamps disagree- 
ably out of the drawing-room but relents long enough to 
pause briefly in the doorway and condescend an amiable 
remark in parting. And, among a lot of others, the stereo- 
typed indignant Congressmen who storm into the room 
and apoplectically tangle themselves up in protestations. 
There is another old friend as well, the gangster hench- 
man of the crooked politician, but here the author has al- 
leviated the rubber-stamp with some likely humor and, 
amusingly acted by Lou Polan, the character takes on the 
only relative freshness in the entire gallery. 

In the role of the political scoundrel who turns cherub, 

184 TJie Gentleman from Athens 

the screen actor, Anthony Quinn, making his first appear- 
ance on the stage, does very well in spite of direction by 
Sam Wanamaker that in all probability would have made 
Salvini look like Butler Davenport, Mr. Wanamaker's 
handling of the players and the stage throughout, indeed, 
is the kind that does not seem to have made up its mind 
whether the play is drama, comedy, farce, or a series of 
blackout sketches. His idea of the punctilio in its various 
phases is furthermore, to say the least, strange. He causes 
the household servant to cross in front of his mistress 
when they leave the drawing-room; he has the aristo- 
cratic heroine introducing her aged aunt to the political 
bounder instead of vice-versa; he seems to forget that at a 
large reception it is not an unconventional practice to 
serve a little food and drink; he has a bottle of champagne 
standing upright on the buffet for the whole three or 
four months of the play's duration; he permits odd charac- 
ters periodically to enter the supposedly choice quarters 
without being announced; and the general atmosphere 
is allowed to suggest less that of "one of the great old 
houses of Virginia" than of one of the great old speak- 
easies of West Forty-ninth Street. 

In the cast is one Gavin Gordon, a tall, skinny mime in 
trousers of such modish 1935 width that Falstaff would 
get lost in them. I read in the program that Mr. Gordon 
in other days was big romantic shakes on the screen op- 
posite Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Mr. Gordon 
here plays the heroine's suitor with a fixed, fatuous, show- 
girl grin that would drive any romantic reaction out of 
a gnu. 

The public could not take any part of it, and the play 
expired where it stood. 



An intimate revue with music and lyrics by Bob Milliard 
and Carl Sigman, sketches by Hank Ladd, Ted Luce and 
the Hartmans* Produced by Marjorie and Sherman Ewing 
for the rest of the season's performances in the Coronet 


Grace and Paul Hartman, Hank Ladd, Viok Roache, Johnny Barnes, 
Elaine Stritch, Nadine Gae, Peter Hamilton, Robert Stanton, Eileen Bar- 
ton, Patricia Jones, and Bill McGraw. 
Director; John Kennedy. 



.HE DIFFERENCE between a revue and an intimate revue, 
of which this is an example, is about one hundred and 
sixty thousand dollars. A revue is an expansive affair in 
which at least twenty thousand dollars of the two hundred 
thousand dollar investment are spent on the bird costumes 
which the show-girls wear in the number in which they 
represent perfumes, ten thousand dollars on the silver 
sequined silk curtain that draws apart in fancy folds, 
and twenty-five thousand on the suit for damages brought 
by the sketch writers whose stuff was not used. An inti- 
mate revue, on the other hand, is one in which several 
pieces of cut-out cardboard painted pink or green serve as 
scenery; in which what money is left over is spent on a 
gauze curtain with autumn leaves painted on It through 
which the male and female dance couple axe beheld in 
an arty Nijinsky-Pavlova pose and when it lifts come on 
and do a snappy fox-trot; and in which most of the 
clothes look suspiciously like those the actors have been 
wearing at Lindy's. 

An intimate revue usually also contains a master of 
ceremonies who appears during the scene changes and 
passes tbe time while the stagehands are moving off the 
pink cardboard cut-out and moving in the green one by 

186 Angel in the Wings 

commenting facetiously on the economical aspect o the 
show, as well as on the advanced age and decrepit con- 
dition of the male star. This is supposed to work in re- 
verse and make the audience so merrily oblivious of the 
truth of the remarks and so hospitably disposed toward 
the show that it will think it cost at least half a million 
dollars and is really something pretty terrific. 

Many of these intimate revues are not merely intimate 
but altogether too presumptuously familiar. When one 
comes along that is a bit less ancestral than usual, it seems 
so much better than it actually is that one is to be par- 
doned for writing about it as if it were what it isn't. This 
Angel In The Wings is largely a case in point. It is not 
that it is good; it is simply that it is better than expected. 

The reasons for the comparative endorsement are a 
drily humorous conferencier in the person of a comic 
named Hank Ladd, a pair of fresh and lively sketches 
about a radio breakfast couple program and a speakeasy 
for Petrillo banned records, an attractive dancer by name 
Nadine Gae, and an over-all air of unaffected modesty. 
The stars of the occasion, the Hartmans, have never 
struck me as being particularly amusing, though I am 
glad to say for their sakes that many fine people think 
that I do not know what I am talking about when I make 
such a remark. And on the further debit side I am afraid 
that I have to list such witticisms as alluding to a woman 
from Butte as a beaut; the Apache dance number in which 
the male partner in a sweater scowlingly throws his fe- 
male partner around the stage; the old vaudeville comedy 
magic act in which all the tricks go wrong; and the act in 
which Mrs. Hartman negotiates the venerable comedy 
dancing business of twirling 'round rapidly a dozen times 
and then staggering about the stage with feigned dizziness 
while Mr. Hartman despairingly tries to hold her up. Nor 
am I able to wax hysterical when Mr. Hartman experi- 
ences a violent startle upon the loud pop of a champagne 
cork, when a French waiter inquires "Gomme?" and Mr. 
Hartman asks, "Come on where?", or when a girl singer 
stands in a purple light, screws up her features as if she 

December 11, 1947 187 

were in the throes of a severe attack of coloenteritis, and 
moans that it isn't easy to let a lover go when you still love 
him. But when Hank Ladd is on describing the typical 
Tennessee Williams character who is despondent because 
she has two ears, when the Gae girl is dancing, when 
Elaine Stritch is making with the baby talk and the Dixie 
accent (though surely not when she is imitating Hilde- 
garde or Fannie Brice in a jungle ditty) , and when Ladd 
is on again telling of the actor they let out of the show be- 
cause he demanded three hundred dollars a week where- 
as the Hartmans didn't want to pay him anything and 
they couldn't effect a compromise when such is the sit- 
uation, I am right there having a good time with everyone 

It would seem, nevertheless, that the day has come for 
someone to think up a slight departure from the boiler- 
plate pattern of these intimate revues. One and all, they 
are much alike. First, the master of ceremonies with the 
patter. Second, the tough female blues singer in a bright 
light followed by the dancing couple- Third, the sketch. 
Fourth, again the tough blues singer in a bright light. 
Fifth, again the master of ceremonies and more patter. 
Sixth, the old vaudeville comedy act. Seventh, the female 
sentimental singer in a pink light. Eighth, another sketch. 
Ninth, the female comedy singer, with gestures. Tenth, 
the master of ceremonies and still more patter. Eleventh, 
the cafe scene with imitations of well-known night club 
entertainers. And, after the intermission, first, the blues 
singer in the bright light accompanied by the tap dancer. 
Second, another sketch. Third, the sentimental singer in 
a purple light accompanied by the dancing couple. 
Fourth, the master of ceremonies and more still of the 
patter. Fifth, another comedy song number. Sixth, another 
sketch. And, finally, the ensemble shouting a song number 
at the tops of their lungs. 

Sometimes it seems as if even a team of acrobats would 
provide a little novelty. 



A play by Barrle Stavis. Produced by New Stages, Inc.> f&i 
6 weeks' performances in the New Stages Theatre. 


POOSSENA Kathryn Eames 


Frederic De Wilde 
Ernest Stone 
Martin Balsam 
Wilford Swire 
Earl George 
Arnold Robertson 
John Merlin 
Terry Becker 
Jay Barney 
Louis HoUister 







CESABINI Martin Tarby 


Earl I. Hammond 

Kermit Murdoch 

Leonard Sherer 

FATHER LEMBO Michael Howard 


Leon Janney 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in Florence and Rome and is 
in two acts. 

Director: Boris Tumarin. 


NDIGNANT OVER THE Experimental Theatre's relinquish- 
ment of the play in favor of Brecht's, which also dealt 
with Galileo, and believing that the reason therefor lay 
solely in Charles Laughton's willingness to appear in the 
latter, the just organized New Stages group hastened to 
give Stavis' work a hearing. The action was justified, in a 
measure. While the play aims considerably higher than 
its author's talents can shoot, it is relatively the better of 
the two. 

As in the Brecht effort, the subject is again the struggle 
between Galileo and the Roman Catholic church, which 
protested his scientific discoveries as violative of its dogma; 
his inner struggle between reverence for the church and 
faith in scientific truth and knowledge; and his forced, 
racked surrender to compromise. While some of the epi- 

December 21, 1947 189 

sodes are dramatically animate and while the internal 
power of the theme makes some headway even in some 
others that are not, the whole is very much less effective 
than its parts because the protracted argumentation una- 
voidable in any honest handling of the theme tends to 
generate the over-all air of a lecture platform poorly 
masked in stage settings. This is perhaps inevitable in any 
play about a man of profound thought, since such thought 
does not lend itself to active drama and to be given 
dramatic movement must craftily be percolated through 
wit and humor or intermittently distracted from itself 
through one chicane or another. Profound thought, in 
brief, is embarrassed in drama save it be intimated rather 
than directly expressed, save it be used sparingly, and 
save it be colored now and then with the pretty dyes of 
emotion. The mind of a deep thinker calls in the theatre 
for a woman somewhere in the background sentimentally 
to interrupt it or for some similiar dramaturgical hum- 
buggery to give it an acceptable stage life. It may be sad 
that this is so, but drama, alas, seems to be as confounded 
and put to rout by a naked brain as the brain itself would 
be by the whims of drama. 

The production was of an agreeably simple nature, in 
contrast to much of that in the Brecht case, though the 
acting and direction were mediocre, 



DECEMBER 22, 1947 

A dramatization of the Dostoievski novel by Rodney Ack- 
land. Produced by Robert Wkitehead and Oliver Rea for 
64 performances in the National Theatre. 



SONIA Dolly Haas 


Betty Lou Reim 
Sherry Smith 
Paton Price 
Elisabeth Neumann 
Wanna Paul 
Robert Donley 
Catena Talva 
Susan Steett 
Mary James 





Sanford Meisner 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in a lodging house in St. Peters- 
burg in the summer of 1860. Scene 1. Evening. Scene 2. Morning, a week 
later. Scene 3. Late afternoon and evening of the next day. Scene 4. The 
following morning. Scene 5. Morning of the following day. 

Director: Theodore Komisarjevsky. 

Alexander Scourby 
ZAMETOFF Richard Purdy 


LOOSHINSKY JE. A. Krumschmidt 

Alice John 

DOUNIA Marian Seldes 


Vladimir Sokoloff 

PRIEST Sandy Campbell 

WIDOW Amy Douglass 

HER DAUGHTER Jeri Souvinet 

FOMTTCH Richard Hayes 


T USED TO BE SAID that if you sat in front of the Cafe de 
la Paix long enough you would soon or late see pass every- 
one in the world you knew. It may still be said if you 
sit in front of the stage long enough you will soon or late 
see pass still another dramatization of Dostoievski's Crime 
And Punishment. The dramatizations seem to pop up at 
intervals with almost the regularity of Hedda Gabler 
and colds in the head, and most of them are scarcely more 
acceptable. In my own time, I must have seen from fifteen 

December 22, 1947 191 

to twenty in one part of the globe or another, and some 
of them, I may say, were to be described as whifflebirds. 
On the home soil, for example, I remember one sponsored 
by Richard Mansfield called Rodion The Student which, 
as I dimly recollect from that far back, suggested that Dos- 
toievski must also have been the author of Mansfield's 
vehicle, Beau Brummell, though Clyde Fitch seemed to 
be credited in the program. Sometime later, I recall much 
more vividly one by Laurence Irving, acted by E. H. 
Sothern, which, until the management protested that the 
cost of the marquee lights would bankrupt it, bore the 
title The Fool Hath Said In His Heart: There Is No God. 
Lending a sympathetic ear to the management's remon- 
strances, Mr. Sothern magnanimously shortened it to 
simply The Fool Hath Said: There Is No God, which 
pacified the management for all of one-half second flat. 
When the lights finally went on, A Fool Hath Said was the 
compromise. What Dostoievski would have thought of it 
all could not have counted, since he would not have recog- 
nized the play as anything in any way associated with him. 

There were others, one a curio galled The Humble., 
produced two decades ago, and another a re-dramatiza- 
tion of a previous dramatization under the novel's title 
by Victor Wolfson and Victor Trivas, produced about 
twelve years ago. This one got the outer flavor of the book 
rather better than the others but, like the rest, it got the 
book itself not at all, and small wonder. For the novel's 
canvas and its paints are of such dimension and color that 
any play fashioned from it to be at all a faithful reflection 
would make the average play look like a blackout sketch. 
It can no more honestly be reduced to the standard short 
playing time than Gotterdammerung. Its fabric is almost 
as complex as that of Antony And Cleopatra, and like the 
latter its stage presentation in any form offers unusual 

The present version by Mr. Ackland has its points but, 
like all the others, is hardly satisfactory to respecters of 
the novel. It swims over the melodramatic surfaces, and 
with some skilful theatrical overhand strokes, but it dives 

192 Crime and Punishment 

nowhere into the psychological depths and only shallowly 
into the philosophical. The result is a play that, save in 
one or two scenes, merely skims some of the plot ele- 
ments of the novel and leaves the cream of its body un- 
touched. \Vhat remains is a stage show of sorts but a drama 
that seldom gets farther into its source than the latter's 
superficial machinery. 

In a statement published before his version opened, 
Mr. Ackland betrayed both his problem and himself. "I 
was determined," he said, "to give the play a life inde- 
pendent of the novel." The adjective serves as a criticism 
of his approach to the job, with the added criticism that 
the independent life has not, except in an obvious melo- 
dramatic direction, materialized. "Previous versions had 
been done with episodic technique," he continued. While 
some previous versions had been thus done, there were 
others of which he evidently is not aware which were 
no more episodic than his own version. "Based on the 
assumption that a slaying in a play automatically classi- 
fied it as a murder drama, emphasis had been laid on 
the cop-and-killer duel. I preferred to stress the philo- 
sophic duel between the Inspector and Raskolnikoff," 
he noted. He may think that he has stressed the philo- 
sophic duel between the characters, but aside from two or 
three bits of dialogue his duel remains exactly what he 
describes as the cop-and-killer business in the earlier ver- 
sions. And the slivers of philosophic utterance were in- 
corporated into some of these earlier versions just as he 
has incorporated them into his. Furthermore, if, as he be- 
lieves, a slaying in a play automatically classified it as a 
murder drama, it would have been the theatrical conven- 
tion to classify Hamlet., among others, as a murder drama, 
which may be said, unnecessarily, to be nonsense. 

"It occurred to me that the intent of the murder was 
the same that led to the establishment of Dachau in our 
time. Raskolnikoff had decided a certain woman was ver- 
min and should be exterminated, as Hitler wanted to do 
to the Jew and as the white supremist would the Negro," 
he confided. How he reconciles this cerebration with his 

December 22, 1947 193 

subsequent ethical statement that "Contained in the story, 
inescapable, eternal, is the truth perceptible equally to 
the stone-ager and to the contemporary savant: that there 
is no right greater than that of the individual/' I am at a 
loss to know. 

"Eliminating the murder from view, I nevertheless 
thought of somehow suggesting it to the mind's eye of the 
audience," he proceeded. "For a while I toyed with having 
the landlady ask Raskolnikoff to chop the meat for dinner. 
Swinging his arm, Raskolnikoff would sink the meat-axe 
with a wet crunch into the meat and bone. Second thought 
told me this was a wretchedly bad idea. Besides, in food- 
rationed London the sight of fresh meat on a stage would 
have provoked resentment, envy and applause." That it 
required a second thought on Mr. Ackland's part to dis- 
miss his butcher-shop idea is scarcely a credit to his funda- 
mental competence as a dramatist. And that it would have 
been merely the sight of the meat on the stage that would 
have provoked resentment in London audiences, to say 
nothing under the dramatic circumstances of envy and, 
worse still, applause seems to me to be not only a reflec- 
tion on London audiences but on Mr. Ackland's knowl- 
edge of dramatic values. 

The local stage presentation of the Ackland version of 
the novel has a few virtues and many more faults. The 
setting by a Russian who has elected the name Paul Sher- 
riff is atmospherically excellent, and so, in several of the 
scenes, is the lighting. But while the Komisarjevsky stag- 
ing and direction of group movement and detail are pic- 
torial, he has failed to synchronize the whole into a steady 
rhythm and has permitted such an excessive overplaying, 
mugging and shouting in the case of a number of the 
principal players that some of them give the impression 
that they are performing for an audience made up of the 
deaf and partly blind. There are also some peculiar inter- 
pretations of the roles, Mr. Gielgud, for one example, 
indicates the tortured workings of RaskolnikofFs con- 
science almost entirely in the kind of grimaces associated 
with Willie Howard in the old vaudeville act when his 

194 Crime and Punishment 

brother Eugene took him to task for his unbecoming con- 
duct with a nursemaid in the Park. The best of the per- 
formances is that of Vladimir Sokoloff as the examining 

Everything considered, I fear that the exhibit is best 
critically described, to borrow Dorothy Parker's reply to 
the author of a drugstore murder novel who asked her 
to supply him with a title, as Crime And Punishment , Jr. 

Incidentally, it is likely that one of the reasons for the 
numerous commissioned dramatizations of the novel is 
the fascination which the role of Raskolnikoff has always 
held for the star actor and which in older days sometimes 
exceeded even that of a beauty passionately craved by 
members of the fair sex. It proffers him as a Thinker and 
so excites his secret vanity even more greatly than ever it 
was excited by the role which presented him as a fellow of 
tremendous valiance, preferably a Due, who, clad in a 
white silk shirt with balloon sleeves, single-handed put to 
rout with his sword twenty or thirty myrmidons of his 
enemy. To appear as a profound philosopher or scientist, 
or merely as a mentality capable of meditating the prob- 
lems of the cosmos, affords him a larger ecstasy and a 
larger dose of unction to his pretensions than some of his 
curly-haired, bull-chested, older colleagues ever enjoyed in 
rescuing the fair Lady Melrose from the foul embraces of 
the dissolute Comte de Beaulieu or in duelling all over 
the stage and by their pluck and spirit arousing the ad- 
miration of the entire erstwhile foolishly contemptuous 
corps of Louis Kill's Musketeers. 


DECEMBER 26, 1947 

A revival of the musical whatnot by Marc Blitzstein. Pro- 
duced by Michael Myerberg for 34 performances in, ini- 
tially, the Mansfield Theatre. 


MOLL EsteBeLoring 

GENT Edward S. Bryce 

DICK Jesse White 

COP Taggart Casey 


Harold Patrick 

EDITOR DAILY Brooks Dttnbar 

YASHA Jack Alberteon 

DAUBER Chandler Cowles 


MR. MISTER Will Geer 

MRS. MISTER Vivian Vance 

JUNIOR MISTER Dennis King, Jr. 

Director: Howard da Stlva. 


STEVE Stephen West Downer 

SADIE POLOCK Marie Leidal 

GusPoLOcr Walter Scheff 

BUGS Eduxtrd S. Bryce 

ELLA HAMMER Muriel Smith 

ATTEND ANT*S Veins Hazel Shermet 

CLERK Howard Shanet 

> Lucretia Anderson 
Robert Burr 
John Fleming 

CHORUS \ Michael Pollock 

Germaine Poulin 
Napoleon Reed 
Given Ward 

FIRST PRODUCED ten years ago at an outlay that 
must have amounted to all of forty or fifty dollars, Mr. 
Blitzstein's effort profited from the sympathy and good- 
will which are often bestowed on necessarily economical 
theatrical enterprises, particularly such as are described 
by the reviewers as "brave experimental ventures." We 
had another touching example in the year past when 
Our Lari*, done down in Henry Street for a few hundred 
dollars, received much generous praise and when the 
identical play subsequently done on Broadway for forty 

196 The Cradle Will Rock 

thousand got notices from the very same reviewers that 
were far from favorable. 

Blitzstein's work has now been revived in the uptown 
theatre. In place of the single piano that served the orig- 
inal production, there is an orchestra more, an or- 
chestra presided over by a conductor in white tie and 
tails; in place of amateurs, the company is professional; 
and instead of a general atmosphere suggestive of high- 
school dramatics, the air is more substantially theatrical. 
The consequence is that some of those whose hearts were 
touched by the obligatory, even pathetic, simplicity and 
meagreness of the original, and who persuaded themselves 
to see non-existent virtues in it, have turned cold-hearted 
and do not see them any longer. 

Though a fellow of such warmth of heart that it some- 
times burns the waistcoat off me, I could not see them in 
the first place. The show seemed to me then what it seems 
to me still, which is to say an only faintly passable stunt. 
In better truth, it does not seem to me to be even as 
faintly passable now as it did initially, since time has con- 
verted what was already an unconscious travesty into a 
travesty of a travesty. The admission that the present 
production is an advance over the original is therefore 
much like allowing that a patient down with a complica- 
tion of diphtheria and scarlet fever indicates improvement 
in the former direction, despite a continuing inflamma- 
tory throat condition, but that the scarlet fever is still un- 
abated. Mr. Blitzstein is that patient. His inflammation on 
behalf of Labor and his fever when he thinks of Capital 
are of a violence fatal to his purpose, since Labor in the 
intervening decade has progressed economically with such 
strides that Capital is sometimes pretty lucky to have its 
shirt left. Listening to his wholesale indignation at this 
hour is like listening to impassioned exhortations to re- 
member the Maine. 

Critically, except for a few scattered moments, the ex- 
hibit remains the miscegenation of old Union Square 
soapbox propaganda and a talented juke-box. Its form is 
so ambiguous that even the author and his successive pro- 

December 26, 1947 197 

elucers seem never to have been able to make up their 
minds just how to catalogue it. It has thus from time to 
time been dubbed everything from a musical drama to an 
opera and from a musical play and operetta to a concert 
drama. Presently, in still further puzzlement, it is being 
termed "a play in music/' But however it is sliced, it per- 
sists, so far as I am concerned, in being blutwurst, in a 
fancy skin. It isn't musical drama because what it intends 
as drama is really farce. It isn't opera because its score is, 
if anything, musical revue. It isn't a musical play because 
there is no play but merely a succession of separate num- 
bers loosely strung together. It isn't an operetta for the 
same reason that it isn't an opera. It isn't concert drama 
because it isn't drama or, save its score were to be played 
minus actors, concert, and then decidedly freakish concert. 
Nor is it in the current description a play in music, unless 
anything at all on a theatre stage may be called a play. 
"What it is, in short, is not the romance of standard opera, 
nor the realism of such experimental opera as Street 
Scene., nor much of anything except cantankerous prole- 
tarian blitz set to indifferent music and proffered to pop- 
gun aesthetes as a revolutionary cannon ball. 

If noise were the chief desideratum of the acting and 
singing arts, the present company would be replete with 
true genius. 



A revival of the comedy by Marcel Pagnol, translated and 
adapted by Benn Levy. Produced by Yolanda Mero-Irion, 
for the New Opera Company, for one performance in the 
Morosco Theatre. 


TOPAZE Oscar Karlweis 


MUCHE Robert Chisholm 

ERNESTINE Effie Afton 

TAMISE Joe E. Marks 


Kevin Matthews 


Edward Benjamin 

Preston Zukor 


Helen Bonfk 

Clarence Derwent 
BUTLER David Jones 


Philip Robinson 

ODETTE Lucille Patton 


GERMAINE Ethel Madsen 


G. Swayne Gordon 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. A school classroom in the Pension Muche. May, 
1910. Act n. A smatt salon at the home of Suzanne Courtoise. Late after- 
noon same day. Act HI. Scene 1. An office of the Topaze Company. Two 
months later. Scene 2. Same office. One year later. 

Director: Leo Mittler* 


EIGHTEEN LONG YEARS have elapsed since the play was 
first seen here. Those accustomed to the prevailing ways 
of play reviewing will therefore naturally expect that the 
statement will be followed by the observation that it has 
aged considerably in the meantime. It accordingly be- 
comes my unpleasant duty to disappoint their anticipa- 
tion. The play has not aged in the least and is still quite 
as amusing as it originally was, It remains, in a word, a 
humorous and diverting satirical comedy, though I shall 
not blame anyone who saw its present performance for 

December 27, 1947 199 

doubting me. Except for Clarence Derwent in the role 
he played those many years ago, the acting, particularly 
that of Oscar Karlweis in the leading role once occupied 
by Frank Morgan, rid the comedy of most of its humor, 
and when for a stray moment the acting did not, the 
stage direction of Leo Mittler did. Only Derwent man- 
aged the business in hand with any drollery. For the 
rest, the poor author had to content himself with nothing 
but Tilly Losch's visual beauty. That, true, was some- 
thing, even for a sardonic Frenchman, but it was hardly 
enough to content a sardonic Frenchman's play. 

Pagnol's theme is that honesty may be the best policy 
but that the only one who ever makes a dollar out of it is 
the publisher who says so in the school-books. His upright 
man who learns that probity is not all it is cracked up to 
be and who turns prosperous and happy sharper is a gay 
creation, as are his two other bunco-men who similarly 
appreciate that maxims are for colored postcards and the 
walls of nurseries. But such juicy swindlers must not be 
swindled out of their amusement qualities by swindling 

The translation by Benn Levy is an acceptable one save 
for the conventional belief that a measure of stiffness in 
English phraseology will best suggest foreign speech. It 
of course does nothing of the kind. What it usually sug- 
gests is, first, that the translator lacks a true ear for such 
speech and, secondly, at least to American audiences, that 
the actors employing it are not raw Frenchmen but over- 
educated pulp magazine subscribers. 

The even comparative merit of a comedy like this of 
PagnoFs, written almost a quarter of a century ago, only 
the more impresses upon one the decline of comedy in 
so many directions. Leading the mortality statistics in the 
catalogue is the artificial species. The mantle so hand- 
somely handed down by Congreve to Sheridan and by 
Sheridan to Wilde has turned into a tattered, patched, 
and seedy evening coat. Since Wilde, the genre has deterio- 
rated into nothing better than the kind of thing that Noel 
Coward stands for: comedy not artificial in any authentic 

20Q Topaze 

critical sense but merely trivial. The writing of true arti- 
ficial comedy commands a mind of sorts and the genius 
for distilling the artificial from the real. The purely arti- 
ficial mind can not master it. It calls for a wit based upon 
a sound observation and criticism of the peoples and 
mores of its period; for a wit, in short, that however 
seemingly capricious digs pointedly into the fashions, 
manners, and foibles of its time. Without mind, it be- 
comes simply frippery, masked with inconsequential hu- 
mors. Its commentary becomes vaudeville, and its picture 
of its people is developed in a mental dark room in the 
acids of wisecracks. The artificiality lies not in the work 
itself but in the playwright. It takes an uncommon hand 
and an uncommon skill to create an artificial flower that, 
while plainly artificial, will give the impression of bear- 
ing a close resemblance to a real one, minus only the 
scent. The artificial comedy of these later years is all too 
transparently manufactured of cheap, tinted tissue, minus 
not only the scent but any stem that resembles even re- 
motely anything that ever grew out of the soil. 

The contrast between the two kinds of comedy of man- 
ners may be illustrated, appallingly, by a scene from Con- 
greve on the one hand and by one from Coward on the 
other. Herewith, Congreve: 

Mrs. Millamant: I won't be called names after Fm married; 
positively I won't be called names. 

Mirabel: Names! 

Mrs. Millamant: Ay, as wife, spouse, my dear, joy, jewel, 
love, sweetheart, and the rest of that nauseous cant in 
which men and their wives are so f ulsomely familiar 
I shall never bear that. Good Mirabel, don't let us be fa- 
miliar or fond, nor kiss before folks, like my lady Fadler 
and Sir Francis, nor go to Hyde Park together the first 
Sunday in a new chariot, to provoke eyes and whispers, 
and then never to be seen together again; as if we were 
proud of one another the first week and ashamed of one 
another ever after. Let us never visit together nor go 
to a play together; but let tis be very strange and well- 

December 27, 1947 201 

bred: let us be as strange as if we had been married a 
great while, and as well-bred as if we were not married 
at all. 

Herewith Coward: 

Clare (at telephone): Hallo yes hallo, darling no, it's 
Clare yes, he's here No, I really couldn't face it 
yes, if I were likely to go to India I'd come, but I'm not 
likely to go to India I think Rajahs bumble up a 
house-party so terribly yes, I know he's different, but 
the other one's awful Angela had an agonizing time 
with him all the dining-room chairs had to be changed 
because they were leather and his religion prevented 
him sitting on them all the dogs had to be kept out of 
the house because they were unclean, which God knows 
was true of the Bedlington, but the other ones were 
dean as whistles and then to round everything off he 
took Laura Merstham in his car and made passes at her 
all the way to Newmarket all right, darling, here he 
is (to Bogey) it's Nina, she wants to talk to you 

Bogey (at telephone) : Hallo, Nin I can't on Wednesday, 
I've got a Guest Night it's a hell of a long way, it'd 
take Lours. 

The artificial comedy of manners, however, is not the 
only form that has fallen on evil days. Polite or so-called 
drawing-room comedy seems also largely to liave gone 
the way of the other. With Haddon Chambers, Hubert 
Henry Davies, R. G. Carton, Robert Marshal! and their 
ilk dead, with W. S. Maugham's retirement from the 
theatre, and with Frederick Lonsdale latterly delinquent, 
England's sole contribution in late years, aside from the 
Coward aforesaid, has been a parcel of Rattigans and 
Savorys, all without exception unequipped for anything 
but minor glossy sfaowshop stuffs, feeble, strained, and 
generally witless. France, once a source of much critical 
pleasure, has provided nothing, or at best only weak vari- 
ants of what her playwrights had earlier managed so 
deftly. Bourdet, Guitry, Achard, and the rest, when they 

202 Topaze 

have written anything at all, have produced plays either 
considerably inferior to their earlier works or obvious, 
tired, and crippled paraphrases. 

Drawing-room comedy has never been the field of Ger- 
man playwrights, and Germany has hence never figured in 
the form. Austrian playwrights similarly have seldom been 
fetched by the species and, when they were, have missed 
iL But Hungary in other days exported some agreeable 
specimens, as those who recall the Molnar school remem- 
ber, and that school seems to have dried up sometime 
since. What is left? Italy? Italy, like Spain, never gifted in 
such divertissements, has not produced anything in years, 
and even then produced nothing in any way comparable 
to the English product. America? Let us see. 

Only three men in the United States today figure in 
the form: Kelly, Behrman, and the naturalized former 
Englishman, van Druten. Kelly, however, is not strictly 
to be defined as a writer of polite drawing-room comedy, 
though his last play, The Fatal Weakness, a less able job 
than he has done in other directions, Calls into the cate- 
gory. His plays, though sometimes scenically drawing- 
room and here and there intermittently suggesting polite 
comedy, are of a more serious essence and tend rather 
toward straight drama. They lack, too, the sense of fash- 
ion and deliberate wit of the genre. Behrman, who prom- 
ised to be a polished comedy writer of some stature and 
who in one or two plays came off nicely, has in later years 
fallen victim to a social consciousness and didacticism 
which have played havoc with him. The sound writer of 
polite comedy is skilful in the art of -saying something as 
if it amounted to nothing. The Behrmans say nothing as 
if it amounted to something. And in a voice that banishes 
their comedy purpose. 

Van Druten perhaps comes closest at the moment to 
achieving the form. He has grace and style and wit. His 
weaknesses lie in his failure to catch quite the nonchalant 
tone proper to urbane comedy and in what seems to be 
an occasional calculated playing down to the groundlings. 
But there is in his writing a degree of taste and manner, 

December 27, 1947 203 

a cultivated point of view, and a quality of humor that 
in combination serve his ends. 

Thirty-eight years ago, Walter Prichard Eaton, in an 
essay titled Our Comedy Of Bad Manners, observed, "All 
of us who care for the amenities of life, who esteem cor- 
rect deportment in its proper place, who are charmed 
by grace and distinction and hurt by its absence from 
plays where it belongs, have suffered only too often from 
the prevalent bad manners of the American theatre. . . . 
It is characteristic of a certain type of jingo 'Americanism* 
to consider good manners as a sign of social snobbishness 
and to regard personal grace and distinction as a cover 
for mental and moral sloth, even a cover for the idle rich 
who ride down Fifth Avenue with lap dogs. This attitude 
is both a misapprehension of what constitutes good man- 
ners and personal distinction, and a gross flattery of those 
who ride down Fifth Avenue with lap dogs. . . . Could 
the stage display more personal distinction, could it put 
forth the charm of good manners, of style and elegance, 
could it show the grace of correctly spoken English, it 
would not, perhaps, so entirely hold the mirror up to 
American nature (as that nature is expressed in American 
manners) , but it would make American nature more 
worthy to be mirrored." 

Though there are nowadays left few idle rich to ride or 
even walk down Fifth Avenue with or without lap dogs, 
the scene as Eaton described it has otherwise after these 
many years little changed. The comedy of bad manners 
still operates profusely on our stage. Sometimes its vul- 
garity is amusing; much more often its vulgarity is pain- 
ful. In the better cases, as in some such exhibit as Born 
Yesterday, we get bad manners deliberately dramatized for 
their own sake, and the result is entertaining. In the mid- 
dle ground, as in such as John Loves Mary, we get bad 
manners often confused in the playwright's mind with 
good, and the result is a species of backstairs farce lodged 
in a semi-drawing-room atmosphere. In the worst cases, 
as in such as Heads Or Tails, we get playwrights who can 
not distinguish between good manners and bad and who 

204 Topaze 

give us the bad in the full conviction that they are the very 
essence of the good, let alone extremely high-toned. 

As a sample of the dialogue in these latter abnormities, 
I submit the following from the last named: 

She (soulfully) : We will go to Mama Gorgongolies in the 
Village and have chianti and cherries jubilee. (Explod- 
ing with enthusiasm) : We won't get to bed until twelve 

He (coyly) : Let's make it ten. 

She (even more coyly) : Let's. 

He (quite beside himself) : And you will wear your black 

She (pretending to be shocked) : Darling! 

He (aggressively) : You will, won't you? 

She (overpowered by his ardor and demurely dropping her 
eyes) : Yes. 

The comedy of bad manners at its best is often critically 
condoned on the ground that it reflects more or less ac- 
curately the American characters and acts with which it 
deals. The condonation undoubtedly has a measure of 
justification. Bad manners, vulgarity, assertiveness, and 
the insecurity of vocabulary that seeks refuge in profanity 
and even obscenity are characteristics of a considerable 
proportion of our citizenry, who would be as out of place 
in a drawing-room as an office chair or a rhinoceros; and 
it is rank snobbishness to insist that drama either elevate 
them and present them otherwise or dismiss them en- 
tirely. But that is not the point. The point is rather that 
the comedy in question all too frequently employs an 
honest vulgarity to exaggerated vulgar ends and in the 
process renders it palpably dishonest. 

The notion that all the characters in Restoration com- 
edy were to the drawing-room born and bred is, of course, 
ridiculous. Restoration comedy, as almost everyone should 
know, had its bounders and vulgarians quite as modern 
American comedy has them, and they were as greatly 
part and parcel of their time as are ours- But the drama- 
tists who wrote of them were writers of distinction, where- 

December ZT, I94T 205 

as those who write of them today may occasionally be 
gifted in dramaturgy but otherwise are literary hacks. 
Their writing gives the impression that their vulgar 
characters are of a piece with themselves, and the dramatic 
bad manners much their personal own. Nor need we hark 
back to Restoration, Victorian and the earlier Edwardian 
times to note the difference. There probably has been no 
comedy more plentiful in cads, bounders and vulgarians 
than Maugham's Our Betters. Yet the treatment and the 
sheer literary skill lift the play to some relative elevation 
and one which our later American comedy fabricators 
have not approximated. 

The Lindsay-Grouse dramatization of the Clarence Day 
memoirs, Life With Father., has enjoyed the record con- 
secutive run for a comedy in the American theatre. Of the 
more than six million people who have seen it and con- 
tributed more than ten million dollars to its box-office, 
it is probably safe to say that the greater number regard 
it as the closest approach to a comedy of good manners 
which they have engaged in the period. Their regard for 
it in that light is doubtless due to the circumstances that 
its characters are fairly affluent, of respectable social status, 
and dress weli, that they speak the English language with- 
out a Broadway accent, that they can afford servants, and 
that the setting is a well-furnished so-called "morning 
room" in a house on then fashionable Madison Avenue 
in New York. Yet, for all these externals, the fact remains 
that it is for the larger part not a comedy of good man- 
ners at all, but one of very bad The central figure, the 
father of the tide, is a compendium of bad manners; sev- 
eral of the other characters would have been kicked out 
of any Edith Wharton drawing-room, presuming that 
they could have got into the house in the first place; the 
general conduct is severely at odds with the punctilio; 
the house is run in a middle-class manner; the atmos- 
phere is middle-class; and the speech is equally middle- 
class. But so used are our audiences to something much 
lower in social tone that by comparison the comedy seems 
to them to be something quite definitely tony. 


Our theatregoers, in brief, have become so impregnated 
with the comedy of bad manners that one in which the 
manners are even a shade better strikes them as being the 
height of fashionable good taste and refinement. 

And conditions seem to be growing increasingly worse. 
The manner which a Langdon Mitchell brought into our 
theatre and a Jesse Lynch Williams after him has all but 
disappeared. Our present day comedy most often sounds 
as if it had been conceived and written by men whose 
idea of a butler has been gained from the screen perform- 
ances of Arthur Treacher, whose idea of style begins and 
ends with the wearing of dinner coats, whose notion of 
polished wit is a wisequip about caviar, whose concep- 
tion of cultivated conversation is anything that embraces 
allusions to Freud, Gide and Dorothy Parker, and whose 
drawing-rooms or their equivalents are notable chiefly 
for the obvious discomfort of characters who are asked to 
appear nonchalantly at ease in them. This is nowhere more 
evident than in those comedies which hopefully aspire to 
the polite label. The unintentional vulgarity in such in- 
stances is frequently double that of the intentional in 
other dramatic directions. 

What it all comes to, I suppose, is the needlessly re- 
peated criticism that one can write only about what one 
himself knows and feels and has at least to a degree ex- 
perienced. Our playwrights today with rare exception do 
not know of what they write, and the result is much like 
an "English society comedy" which its author, a young 
man resident in Bridgeport, Connecticut, not long ago 
sent to me, unsolicited, for my inspection. It was not 
necessary for me to read farther than the cast of charac- 
ters and the setting. The former disclosed, at the top of the 
list, the following: "Count Debrett, a Lord." The latter 
was described as "The Drawing-room and Adjoining 
Boudoir of the Duchess." 


DECEMBER 29, 1947 

A repertory of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Produced 
by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company for rj weeks' per- 
formances in the Century Theatre. 


Martyn Green, Charles Doming, Darreli Fancourt, Leonard Osborn, 
Thomas Round, Richard Walker, Richard Watson, Radley Flynn, Gwyn- 
eth Cullimore, Denise Findlay, Joan Gillingham, Ella Halman, Margaret 
Mitchell, and Helen Roberts. 
Director: Anna BetheL 


IE THEATREGOER who never can get enough of Gilbert 
and Sullivan was now once again in his element. The 
theatregoer in question is for the most part an elderly 
gentleman in an elderly tuxedo, as it was then known, and 
is rarely seen in a playhouse except when his old favorites 
are the bill, whereupon he emerges from his inglenook 
and blissfully hums the old songs ahead of the singers, 
and laughs fit to kill at all the old whimsies, and has the 
sixtieth or seventieth time of his life. I envy him. I envy 
him though, like him, his lovebirds are among my love- 
birds too. I envy him rather because, unlike him, I some- 
how can get enough of them and because in this late day 
of my theatregoing and after having swum in them since 
boyhood, often not without large pleasure, I find that 
endless repetition has got me down. I duly appreciate 
that the confession will cause him and others like him to 
view me as a candidate for that branch of psychosomatic 
medicine known as cerebral osteopathy, which concerns 
itself with persuading the patient to forget the bones in 
his brain. But just the same, I have had my fill. I already 
know the twain by heart and, while I share everyone else's 
warm admiration for them, I do not experience much 
present delight in learning them by heart all over again. 

208 DVyly Carte Opera Company 

1 thus probably find myself in a class apart from many 
playgoers, among them those who similarly are always able 
to discover new and fresh meanings in Hamlet. In the 
course of my professional duties, I obediently sit through 
the famous comic operas one after another and, while of 
course fully realizing the worth of most of them, no longer 
have much fun. This, obviously, is an admission no critic 
should make. To be respected, a critic should pretend 
that he finds illimitable personal rapture in anything of 
unquestioned merit, even though he has seen and heard 
It more times than he remembers. It is demanded of him 
by tradition that The Mikado, for instance, seem as hilar- 
ious the fiftieth times he attends it as the first, that the 
satire of Patience never cease to overwhelm him with its 
cleverness, and that the rest of the repertory continue to 
enchant him with no slightest let-up. He must, in short, 
be a liar, not about the quality of the operettas, but about 
the boundless jocund effect they have on him. Well, I'm 
the boy who chopped down the cherry-tree. I am tired of 
hearing the works year after year; I no longer get the lift 
from them that I once did; and to blazes with critical re- 

There is another remarkable thing about the inveterate 
Gilbert and Sullivan fans, and it makes one envy them 
double measure. No matter how poor the performance, 
they will, if it is not an outright garlic, swallow it. They 
may, true enough, reluctantly admit that maybe it is not 
so good as some they have seen, but no matter. You can't 
kill Gilbert and Sullivan whatever you do to them is their 
creed, and they stick to it, raptly. Some of the rest of us 
may ask for at least a little stage talent, but we only offend 
them. Gilbert and Sullivan are to them as their mothers, 
family doctors, and pet dogs: they can do no wrong and 
no one can do wrong to them. 

Loyalty is often a laudable quality, and I am not mock- 
ing it as such. But, like love and criticism of acting, it is 
not always exactly discriminating. The Gilbert and Sulli- 
van operas remain what they. ever have been. But when 
they are produced, as often they are produced, with set- 

December 29, 1947 209 

tings and costumes that would be blackballed by the mem- 
bership committee of any respectable storehouse, with 
singers who are only moderately acceptable and who can 
not act, and with direction that evidently has confused 
the stage with a gout clinic, loyalty takes on a suspension 
of judgment comparable to dismissing as of no conse- 
quence a bad attack of parotiditis or love. 

These strictures certainly do not in some respects apply 
to this D'Oyly Carte company. Though its personnel is 
nothing much in the department of acting, its voices are 
considerably superior to the average and give the produc- 
tions their full due. Moreover, the Inner spirit of the ex- 
hibits is nicely realized. There can be little complaint in 
these quarters. It is chiefly on the pictorial side and in the 
manipulation of the stage that matters are lacking. Most 
of the scenery and costumes look like something Donald 
Wolfit left behind in England when he came over last 
year, and the direction too frequently insinuates that 
some of the actors are victims of Friedreich's disease. The 
occasion, in brief, is satisfactory so far as the ears go, but 
for complete enjoyment it is perhaps advisable to keep 
the eyes Closed. 

There was, however, at least one item that we could 
look forward to with something approaching ecstasy. 
Whatever the settings and dress of the earlier presenta- 
tions were like, it was promised that, if we were patient, 
the company's sixth offering, The Yeomen Of The Guard, 
would be sensational in one respect. There would be new 
scenery and new costumes. This was the most exciting 
piece of news about a Gilbert and Sullivan production in 
years. The prospect of seeing any such production, and 
one of The Yeomen Of The Guard in particular, that 
looked as if it had not been playing the English or Ameri- 
can borscht circuit since 1875 was more than we could 
happily bear. I have been looking at The Yeomen both 
here and abroad maybe not quite so often as The Merry 
Widow but surely as often as The Beggar's Opera, and I 
have seen more Tower of London scenery that resembled 
the old August Dupschnitz brewery than I can recollect 

210 D 9 Oyly Carte Opera Company 

without a couple of drinks. And I have also seen more 
Yeomen uniforms that looked like oversize red union 
suits with brass buttons attached than I can recall with- 
out three. So it came as tidings to be shouted from the 
housetops that at last I was going to be privileged to see 
something that would not make me think it wasn't The 
Yeomen I was at but much more probably an old Castle 
Square Opera company production of The Daughter Of 
The Regiment, which according to grandpa was some- 

Game eventually the great night. The new scenery and 
the new costumes were there as promised. No longer did 
the Tower of London look like the old August Diip- 
schnitz brewery; it resembled much more impressively 
the new wing to the old Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee. 
And no longer did the Yeomen uniforms look like over- 
size red union suits; they looked much more like oversize 
museum strawberry shortcakes. 

The repertory, in addition to The Yeomen., included 
The Mikado, The Pirates Of Penzance, Trial By Jury, 
lolanthe, Pinafore, Cox And Box, The Gondoliers, and 



A play by Jan de Hartog. Produced by the Experimental 
Theatre, Inc., for 93 performances in, initially, the Max- 
ine Elliott Theatre. 



RICHTERS Joseph Anthony 

HENKY Robert White 

WILLEMSE Si Oakland 


MEYER John Becher 



Wa&ace Acton 

RABBI WoifeBarzeU 

FIRST JEW Michael Let&in 

SECONI> JEW Peter Kass 



SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place in the Captains 
cabin of the steamship Tfifi Young NeHy. Act I. As the ship is lying in a 
South American port. Act EL A month and a half later, just off the 
United States coast. Act HE. Four days later. 

Director: Lee Strasberg, 


Richard Coogan 

Eugene Stuckmann 
Florence Aquino 
Joe Bernard 
AMan Frank 
Frances Gear 
B$t Lazarus 
John Marley 
Edwin Ross 
Paul Wilson 


"NE WAY In which to get considerably more credit 
than one's due is to put on a play so bad that it is ridicu- 
lous and then follow it with another which, while also 
pretty bad, is not so bad as the other and which hence will 
be greeted by the reviewers as something relatively splen- 
dacious. Since readers are apt to overlook the fact that the 
praise is merely comparative, they will take it as wholly 
deserved, and the playwright, who, if he had not produced 
the first chokeberry, would properly have been raked over 

212 Skipper Next to God 

the coals, accordingly finds himself sporting a tin medal 
which for the moment shines like gold. 

De Hartog, the young Hollander whose This Time To- 
morrow several months before was received with a bar- 
rage of whizgigs and catcalls, is now satisfiedly wearing the 
medal as a result of the production of this poor but some- 
what better play. Instead of cancer research, transmigra- 
tion of souls, life after death, and the mortal effect of too 
enthusiastic kissing, he presently occupies himself with 
the problem of religion in conflict with mundane law 
and once again loses whatever may have been dramatic 
in the idea in enough windy argument and, on this oc- 
casion, Biblical quotations to have driven the late Billy 
Sunday to a rest cure. 

Since you can not get away, outside of politics, with 
simply windy argument and Biblical quotations, de Har- 
tog has had to think up a vehicle in which to transport 
them to a theatre stage and some hoped-for paying trade. 
His conveyance is a ship loaded with unwanted Jewish 
refugees seeking a port of landing, and in an effort to 
make the argumentation and quotations pass for drama he 
dresses himself up as the ship's skipper and unloads them 
on a number of actors who in turn are made to pass them- 
selves off for dramatic characters by loudly contradicting 
him. To extend matters for the necessary two and one-half 
hours' playing time, he resorts to the scarcely novel plan, 
first, of having the authorities at one port refuse the refu- 
gees a landing; secondly, of keeping the ship at sea vainly 
seeking another possible landing; and, thirdly and finally, 
of obtaining sanctuary for the refugees in an American 
port. This last he accomplishes through a stratagem so 
absurdly melodramatic (the scuttling of the vessel) that 
it would be jswallowable only along with a bushel of pea- 
nuts. The sole things missing are the boatload of rescuing 
Marines, the waving of the flag, and the old-time brass 
rail on which merrily to slide down from the gallery. 

It seemed, at least up to the moment, that what the Ex- 
perimental Theatre's directorate particularly cherished 
were plays in which the leading character struggles fero- 

January 4, 1948 213 

ciously with his conscience. First we had Galileo giving 
his a violent wrestle; now we had this Skipper. Struggling 
with conscience has produced some fine plays and I am 
not complaining on that score. But when, as in the two 
plays in question, all I get is the spectacle of an actor hav- 
ing a terrible tussle with himself while the other actors 
are having a terrible tussle with their playwright, I think 
that I may be forgiven for wishing he might take off his 
makeup and go to work instead in a novel. It is only once 
or twice that de Hartog seems to remember that, after all, 
these other actors are supposed to be characters in an alive 
play and gives .them anything dramatic to do. And it is 
for this reason, among others, that the evening offers the 
impression of de Hartog himself hi a naval costume des- 
perately trying to deliver a lengthy harangue on his re- 
ligious confusion in the face of mankind's harsh legal 
edicts while being constantly interrupted and badgered 
by a cast of kibitzers. 

The Strasberg staging was generally efficient and the 
company on the whole acceptable, but the feeling of the 
more experienced criticism was that while Garfield's per- 
formance of the central role met fully its melodramatic 
requirements, it failed to project, other than by facial and 
anatomical contortions, the introspective and meditative. 
Mr. Garfield added himself, in an interview previous to 
the opening, to the hierarchy of theatrical sages. The play, 
he observed, "is what is called non-commercial because 
there is no woman in the cast." The womanless The Last 
Mile was so non-commercial that it ran for almost an en- 
tire year. The woinankss Journey's End was so non-com- 
mercial that it only made a fortune. The womanless Com- 
mand Decision is so non-commercial that it has garnered 
a very handsome profit. And Skipper Next To God in turn 
is so non-commercial that the trade it did was so consid- 
erable that it had to be moved into a larger theatre and 
found its prosperous run halted only because Garfield 
saw fit to abandon it for his Hollywood commitments. 

Among the numerous other such sages there is, for ex- 
ample, Mr. John Golden, the well-known producer and a 

214 Skipper Next to God 

gentleman of apparently limitless brain. This Mr. Golden 
has recently contributed to one of the periodicals a treat- 
ise called "What Makes A Play A Hit?" "I have since a 
boy studied plays and playwriters from Sophocles to Sher- 
wood and I believe I know as much as any long-haired 
bald brow who specializes in such matters/' he confides 
to the reader. Though thus reassured, the reader is per- 
haps to be pardoned a morsel of skepticism in respect to 
what the oracle is subsequently to remember and an- 
nounce when he then forthwith engages this: "I accepted 
a new comedy with its story of the rejuvenation of a couple 
of lovable comedy crooks . . . that seemed to me to have 
every ingredient for success." The successful comedy in 
point (its name was Turn To The Right) contained not 
a couple of but three crooks, the reader disturbingly re- 
calls, and they were not rejuvenated but reformed. 

Nevertheless, he considerately permits Mr. Golden to 
proceed. "After giving the question some thought, it oc- 
curred to me that the most interesting and heretofore un- 
recorded Common Denominator of the long-run popular 
hits seemed to be concerned with elderly or married peo- 
ple. The demand, it seems, is for the Old Birds," pontifi- 
cates our authority. Whereupon he confidently mentions 
various long-run plays that fitted into the category. Among 
these were Abie's Irish Rose, in which both parties of the 
title were very young; The Count Of Monte Cristo, in 
which the hero was a young man and even after nearly 
twenty years in prison and for all his white wig factually 
not much over forty; The County Fair, with its low come- 
dian merely dressed in spinsterish apparel and with its 
stage occupied by younger folk; Sherlock Holmes with 
William Gillette "well past sixty," remarks Mr. Golden 
in which Gillette, who at the time was only forty-three, 
played his own dramatization of the hardly doddering 
sleuth; and Harvey, in which the central character is far 
from venerable. 

Mr. Golden thereupon speculates if there is not a bit of 
sense to the guess "that American theatregoers like old 
folks liars, drttnks, cheats, or respectable, virtuous, even 

January 4, 1948 215 

well-bred anything so long as they Ye old." The reade 
speculates too, and then looks up the records of the fift} 
four plays which have achieved the longest runs in th 
more modern American theatre. Of the fifty-four he find 
that all of forty-six, maybe even forty-seven, did not dea 
with old folks and that in the great majority of these, a 
in most of the plays earlier named, the younger folk wer< 
not married, or at least not for the major portions of th< 
exhibits. Undaunted, however, Mr. Golden proceeds t< 
point out that if further substantiation of his theory i 
needed, the amusement columns of the newspapers listinj 
the hits of last season would supply it. A glance at thes< 
columns showed the following plays which seem to em 
barrass our oracle: Joan Of Lorraine, Lady Windermere' 
Fan, Happy Birthday,, Years Ago,, Burlesque, John Love 
Mary, The Importance Of Being Earnest, Alice In Won 
derland and some others, including such holdovers a 
Born Yesterday, The Voice Of The Turtle, Harvey, etc 

Mr. Golden winds up his authoritative cogitations witl 
some words on what he describes as "the great Edgar Wai 
lace story, Ben Hur." 

Another deep thinker is Mr. Dudley Nichols, who ha 
contributed to Theatre Arts an essay called, "Death Of / 
Critic." Though the essay, when it deals with the moving 
pictures, which constitute Mr. Nichols* most passionat< 
interest, is commendable, its profundities when it en 
gages itself with the theatre are, it is to be feared, COB 
siderably less so. 

"At first," says Mr. Nichols, "the cinema began to domi 
nate the theatre, though those who are wedded to the stag* 
will hardly admit it. But the looseniiig-up of stage tech- 
niques, revolving or sliding stages, cutting to quick sue 
cessive scenes by means of lighting effects, expressionisrr 
itself was a result of the influence of cinema." Our thinkei 
here thinks, alas, through his prejudice. The cinema 
though earlier invented, actually began with the crud< 
The Great Train Robbery in 1905 or thereabout. Sinc< 
then it has, of course, gready developed and gone in fo] 
such improvements as Mr. Nichols indicates. But fai 

216 Skipper Next to God 

from influencing the stage with them, as he oddly seems 
to imagine, it was the other way 'round. The sliding plat- 
form stage, he may be instructed, was the theatre's devel- 
oped inheritance from the classic theatre of ancient 
Greece, in which, as a wagon device, it was known as the 
eccyclema or exostra. The revolving stage was invented in 
Japan in 1895 and was adopted by the German stage a 
year later. Cutting to quick successive scenes by means of 
lighting effects was familiar in the old Hanlon Brothers 
and Charles Yale extravaganzas back in the same general 
period. And when Mr. Nichols says that "expressionism 
itself was a result of the influence of the cinema," it seems 
to indicate that it is dangerous to go out in the Holly- 
wood sun without a hat. Expressionism was known to the 
theatre and its stage, he should learn when he recovers, 
from the time of the first production of Strindberg's The 
Dream Play in 1902, and was subsequently and quickly 
taken up by such playwrights as Georg Kaiser, et al. It was 
the dramatic development of an attitude toward the arts 
which earlier originated in Germany, and it was many 
years later that the cinema first heard and made use of it. 

The stage, in all save a few minor particulars, has domi- 
nated the cinema in all its most important aspects. The 
cinema has sometimes been successful in camouflaging the 
influences and passing them off on the unknowing as cine- 
matkally original. But simple research will show that 
what may impress such as being to the cinema born are 
really only extensions of or embellished borrowings from 
the stage. 

The talented moving picture director, Rouben Ma- 
moulian, once sought mightily to disprove this with the 
declaration that the screen had nevertheless devised ways 
to show things in drama that the stage with its limitations 
could not possibly show. It was politely pointed out to 
him that those were tlie very things which had no place 
in good drama and whidi the stage and its servitors had 
peremptorily discarded, 



A revival of the Ben Jonson satirical comedy. Produced by 
the newly established New York City Theatre Company 
for 2 weeks' performances in the City Center Theatre. 



MOSCA Richard Whorf 

NANO Leonardo Cimino 

ANDROGYNO Richard McMurray 

CASTRONE Charles Mendick 

CONCUBINA Susan Center 

VOLTORE John Carradine 


CoRBAcao Fred Stewart 

CORVINQ Le Roi Operti 


SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in sixteenth century Venice. 
Director: Richard Barf. 


BONARIO Walter Cog 


Paula Laurence 
NOTARIQ Lou Gilbert 

prank CampaneUa 
CTTTADINA Marjorie Byers 


.T is AN EXAGGERATION to say that Volpone is actor-proof, 
though even after experience with some rather dowdy 
performances one is tempted to venture the opinion, but 
it is less an exaggeration to say that it is audience-proof, 
or, more accurately, audience-proof to any theatre assem- 
blage above the grade of one given to a veneration of 
Biblical drama, dog acts, and ice skating shows. Jonson's 
incontinent comedy of rogues and rascals is both in theme 
and genius of execution iuesistible: a delight to the ear 
and in action an equal delight to the eye. It excels every 
other play in its thematic catalogue, and remains over 
the centuries as theatrically lively as in the year it was 

The present version by the Messrs. Ferrer, Whorf and 
Barr, which is as free from scholastic reverence as a sub- 
sidized college football player and even more athletic, 
has offended the critical sensibilities of such as can not 
sleep for nights if they detect a misplaced colon in the 

218 Volpone 

phrasing even of Marlowe. Its resort to occasional slap- 
stick and giddy pace seems to them a violation of punctili- 
ous library conduct and intolerable disrespect to the text. 
I am afraid that I can not number myself among the af- 
fronted. The stage treatment, while grantedly here and 
there abandoned and dismissive of some of the text's rhe- 
torical eloquence, does not vitiate the play's spirit; it has 
been duplicated in one or two European productions 
without critical qualm and to acceptable effect; and, above 
all, it goes to make a jolly show without damaging the core 
of the Jonson intent. For what he wrote is after all a 
minor modern classic and, excellent in its category as it 
remains, some liberties with it should not be too upset- 

The performance, considering the short period allotted 
for rehearsals, and the physical production, considering 
the small means in hand, were the admission fee was 
only two dollars a bargain in these days of barnumed 
theatre prices. When the play was shown last season, the 
cost was double, but by virtue of Donald Wolfit's por- 
trayal of the leading role amply worth it. To get it for 
only half that amount (indeed less, if tickets for the sub- 
sequent pair of productions were bought simultaneously) 
was to get it for no more than was currently demanded in 
the sidestreet restaurants for a small lamb chop. Ferrer 
may not have been as wholly satisfactory in the role as 
Wolfit, but he was good enough. Whorf s Mosca to a 
degree, John Carradine's Voltore, Fred Stewart's Corbac- 
cio, and Le Roi Operti's Corvino all fitted into the ver- 
sion's frame. And most of the rest of the cast did not much 
interfere with the evening's rampageous tone. 

It may seem that I am making some allowances, as I 
have previously noted is often the critical practice, for 
the imposed economy of the production. I am making less 
than may be suspected. I have seen productions that cost 
four times as much which, if more strictly obedient to the 
text, were not so amusing. 

Among the colleagues who sternly protested the afore- 
said liberties taken with the play was one whose review 

January 8, 1948 219 

took the somewhat greater liberty of observing that it is 
Voltore who is willing to give over his own virtuous wife 
to Volpone in his eagerness to inherit the miser's gold*" 
The company's second bill in its series of three presen- 
tations, also for a two weeks* engagement, was a revival of 
Patrick Hamilton's Angel Street, with Ferrer and Whorf 
in the principal male roles and Uta Hagen in the princi- 
pal female. Though the performance was a fairly compe- 
tent one, there was considerable critical regret that any 
such ambitious enterprise should have followed Jonson 
with a purely commercial showshop offering. 



A play by DeWitt Bodeen. Produced by Arthur /. Beck- 
hard for 16 performances in the Hudson Theatre. 




Leona M oriole 
JUI-ES BBDMAKE Philip Abbott 


Virgm&i Robinson 
JENNY NEUSON Lenka Peterson 
BERNHABB JoNscm Robert Cratdey 

SYNOPSIS: The entire action of the play takes place in the Bro- 
mark parlor in a farmhouse in San Joaqtdn Valley, California. Act I. 
Scene 1. Late afternoon on a dag in midsummer, 1946. Scene 2. Fifteen 
minutes later. Act II. Scene 1. A night, the following October. Scene 2. 
Afternoon of Christmas Day, Act IIL Late afternoon the following Sep- 

Director: Arthur J. Beckhard. 


f f H: 

HEN A PLAY, particularly one treating of family life, 
has a minimum of action and is altogether too talky, it is 
often the critical observation that it might much better 
have been a novel, which seems to me to be scarcely a re- 
spectful view to hold of the novel. Just how a poor play 
may automatically constitute a good or even fair novel I 
am obtuse enough not to understand. A good novel, true, 
may be made into a poor play, but that is obviously a dif- 
ferent matter. To believe the other way 'round, however, 
does not appear to me to be too abundant in sense. (May 
I hope that the reader will not seize the occasion to detect 
a contradiction in my remark on a novel in connection 
with Skipper Next To God; I refrained from specifying 
the quality of the novel.) 

Mr. Bodeen's poor play about a Swedish- American fam- 
ily in San Joaquin valley, California, having no more ac- 
tion than a dead motor and enough talk to suffice half the 
canon of Tirso de Molina, was thus expectedly mentioned 

January 12, 1948 221 

in several quarters as very possibly possessed o the ele- 
ments of a quite nobby candidate for fiction book covers. 
All I can say is that if it ever appears in that form, I shall 
take a chance, without reading it, in proclaiming that it 
is just as toxic as it was as a play, and without nervousness 
as to wide contradiction. 

"I wanted to write a play," Mr. Bodeen explained in 
the public prints, "which would show such events as love, 
birth and death taking place, but in the end they weren't 
the real issues, the occasions that really mattered to these 
people. The little moments, the so-called little moments, 
were what they remembered." The little moments with 
which Mr. Bodeen filled his play may possibly have been 
the moments his characters best remembered, but in the 
drama such moments, save they be drained through the 
comprehension of an accomplished playwright, seem triv- 
ial and insignificant, and banish drama from the stage. An 
apostrophe to a parlor lamp brought over by an old 
mother from Sweden, an extended molasses-pull by mem- 
bers of the family (the small matter that their hands might 
subsequently be a bit sticky seemed to be overlooked by 
the detail-loving Mr. Bodeen) , the dreaming of a black 
satin dress with a string of pearls by one of the daughters 
such things may have been memorable to the persons 
the author pictures, but one can no more make a whole 
play of them than one can make a novel. 

"All the characters are based on members of my own 
family or people I know," Mr. Bodeen continued. 
"Whether they wfll ever speak to me again, I don't know." 
The apprehension was followed, however, by the remark 
that "characters can be based on real persons* but by the 
time imagination has come into play, they end scarcely 
being recognizable/* Which doesn't seem to me to be 
bursting with logic, either. 

The author's confusion in such directions is reflected 
in the writing of his play, which very evidently was scared 
at birth by Chekhov, as is indicated by various scenes like 
the one in which the three disconsolate girls dream of Ear- 
off things and of the fulfilment of their wishes. But the 

222. Harvest of Years 

Chekhov influence only confounds the play the more 
greatly, since in Bodeen's hands the Russian's technique 
of indirection becomes mere fogginess. He tries simul- 
taneously to follow four tracks and ends by stumbling 
over all of them, with the consequence that his play im- 
presses one as never having left the depot. 

The dialogue takes such stenciled shapes as "I know how 
much you want a farm of your own and how fine it was of 
you to have stayed here with us after papa died." The 
dramatic invention takes such as the scene in which the 
young girl comes down the stairs late at night in her grand- 
mother's old wedding dress in the hope of sentimentally 
affecting the young man on whom she has set her heart, 
to say nothing of the sudden failing of the electrical 
power and of the twain being left alone together in the 
dark. The character drawing indicates its remarkably close 
study In the picturing of a pregnant young woman as be- 
ing irritable. And the writing, as in the case of the Levy 
hereinbefore mentioned, seeks to get the flavor of a French 
character speaking English by having him formally avoid 
diminutives and contractions. 

The play was staged in so slowly grinding a tempo and 
with so many static groupings of the players that it as- 
sumed the aspect of being performed in an ice-cream 
freezer. Esther Dale as the venerable Swedish mother was 
the only member of the cast who remotely resembled a 
human being- The rest, however, were not to be blamed, 
since what the author wrote were less human beings than 
counterfeits of actors hopefully looking for roles that were 
not there. 



A crime play by Michael Clayton Hutton. Produced by 
John C. Wilson and the Shuberts for 31 performances in 
the Booth Theatre. 


FLO Joan Newett 

MAGGIE Marjone Rhodes 

EDITH Helen Misener 

ANNA Hilary LiddeE 

CLIFF Peter Murray 

JOHN Trevor Ward 

EDDIE Lewis Stringer 

SYNOPSIS; The action takes place in the John Lords Being-room 
in the rear of a London shop. Act I. Scene 1. A winter evening, 5:30. 
Scene 2. Half an hour later. Act II. A few minutes later. Act III. An 
hour later. 

Director: Chloe Gibson. 



.HE PRODUCER of what is inclusively catalogued as a 
crime play may, if it succeeds, consider himself an excep- 
tionally lucky man, privileged to elevate the nose at such 
amateurs of fortune as Lucky Baldwin, Lucky Luciano, 
Lucky Lou Little, and Edgar Luckenbach. Of eighty- 
seven such plays, whether detective, mystery or so-called 
psychological, produced in New York and on the road in 
the last baker's dozen years, all of eighty have been fail- 
ures, and several of the seven that achieved runs did not in 
the end show any notable profits. 

The collapse of so large a proportion of the mystery 
plays in particular, very much greater than that of any 
other kind, is itself, I believe, no particular mystery, since 
the shortcoming of the majority of them is their tediously 
routine pattern. Shortly after the first curtain rises, some- 
one is found to have been murdered. The following two 
hours are devoted to a labored casting of suspicion on a 
variety of characters. And the last five minutes or so are 
given over to the sudden detection and exposure of the 
criminal. There is seldom any deviation from the mold. An 

224 Power without Glory 

audience Is as used to it, and by this time as tired of it, as 
it is used to and tired of having its male element's hats 
sat on and crushed by females who have plumped them- 
selves into its seats to chatter with one another during the 
intermissions. And not only is it, including the women 
who sit on the hats, fed up with the stale pattern itself; it 
is still more fed up with wasting over two long hours for 
a few meagre minutes of possible excitement just before 
the final curtain. 

What the put-upon audience very obviously wants is a 
departure from the ail-too familiar formula, or at least a 
treatment of it that will give it the superficial air of being 
a departure. The shoppers for too many years now, come 
nine o'clock, have seen someone tumble to the floor, often 
without visible cause. They thereafter have been asked to 
hang around patiently until five minutes to eleven while 
most of the other actors in the company are either cross- 
questioned or scrutinized appraisingly through narrowed 
eyes by some alleged deductive mastermind who plainly 
does not know his assay from a hole in the ground. And 
all that they then get for their money is five minutes of ex- 
planation that the murder was committed by the last per- 
son in the cast who would conceivably have committed it 
in actuality. 

Occasionally the audience is let in at the start on the 
secret of who did the foul deed and is requested to imagine 
that it gets its money's worth in watching the miscreant 
being tracked down. This is most often an even greater 
swindle, since not only does it eliminate the suspense of 
guessing who the loafer is, a thriller's best selling point, 
but it additionally denies the last minutes of their ex- 
planatory denouement, a thriller's second best selling 

The customary retort to all such complaints is that they 
do not in any way count against a play if it is skilfully 
written. The retort is perfectly sound. But the answer to 
the perfectly sound retort is that the play seldom if ever 
seems to have been written with anything more creative 

January 13, 1948 225 

than a tack hammer, and, what is more, with a tack ham- 
mer that has a penchant less for nails than for the play- 
wright's thumb. The direct consequence is that an audi- 
ence is usually a dozen jumps ahead of the fumbling 
author, and the supplementary consequence is that the 
whole thing impresses it as being very silly. In the case 
of the routine mysteries, it laughs at the efforts of the 
playwrights to throw suspicion on the standardized sinister 
butlers, jittery household maids, wastrel sons given to 
liquor, wives' past lovers (customarily of foreign origin) , 
and other such characters who from long association it ap- 
preciates will under no circumstances be revealed as the 
guilty ones. And it laughs just as impiously at the repeated 
hokum of suddenly extinguished room lights and suddenly 
turned on pocket flash-lights, gasps and shrieks, and all 
the other palpable impostures of numberless seasons. Nor 
is its curiosity materially improved by the plays in which 
the culprit is early made known to it and in which the 
hypothetical suspense consists in waiting until he gets his 
deserts. It has, alas, already seen too many wives suffer 
retribution for having poisoned their husbands' breakfast 
coffee or after-dinner brandy, too many evil old maids 
seized by the police for having inserted their nieces into 
subsequently plastered-up brick walls or into kitchen 
ovens, too many husbands enamoured of exotic beauties 
pay the penalty for having tried to do away with their legal 
mates. . . 

What, to repeat, is called for is something a little fresher, 
a little newer. The films can get away with the old stuff 
simply by tacking onto its end a fifteen minute sequence 
in which everybody in the cast jumps onto anything on 
wheels and chases the killer for several hundred miles. The 
radio apparently can also whitewash it by breaking it up 
after the old dime novel fashion, interrupting it with com- 
mercials about pills for nervous disorders, and stretching 
it out to thirteen installments, each worse than the other. 
The theatre, however, is confronted by a more difficult 
problem, since its audience is in much greater relative 

226 Power without Glory 

part no such gull. And that Is the reason why most pro- 
ducers of the kind of plays in question become devoted 
readers of the want ads. 

Mr. Hutton has attempted to provide the something a 
little fresher and newer in a crime play (psychological 
division) which, though it once again identifies the mur- 
derer at its beginning, is less concerned with his being 
tracked down and his retribution than with the effect of 
the crime on the members of his family and on the young 
woman in love with him. But, though some of the writing 
and several 6f the scenes are holding and are assisted by 
able acting and suitably palpitant stage direction, the ef- 
fort, after a serviceable preparatory first act, rises to a 
fairly taut second only to drop disastrously into a garru- 
lous and tepid third. Theatre patrons who are satisfied 
only by murder plays which keep them waiting until 
eleven o'clock for an unsatisfactory solution could under 
no circumstances, even were it much better than it is, be 
expected to lend their trade to one of this sort. But those 
who are more intelligently interested in how things started 
than how they come out, since things in life apart from 
horse races and unloaded dice generally have a way of 
coming out much as anticipated, might be counted on to 
lend theirs to such a one if the rest of it were only more 
creditable. In my case, however, even aside from its de- 
faults noted, there was too much additional trouble in re- 
solving the heavy Cockney accents into intelligible English 
and in resolving the confusion about the part a second 
brother in the family seemed to have played in the mur- 
der into some intelligible meaning. But when it comes to 
trouble in connection with plays of the general species, 
you can not entirely trust me, since I usually have all 
kinds of it trying to persuade myself that they are in any 
way deserving of the attention of dramatic criticism in 
the first place. 

Mr. Mutton's crime play brought the total of failures 
in the period specified to eighty-one out of eighty-eight. 



A comedy by Florence Ryerson and Colin Clements. Pro- 
duced by Philip A. Waxman for the rest of the season's 
performances in the Morosco Theatre. 



BEULAH Leta Bonynge 

LING Tarn Chung Yn 


Nydia Westman 

Carl Benton Reid 

NICKEY BiUy Nevard 

MRS. GCMBLE Frieda Altman 

MRS. WORLEY Marion Weeks 


Joan Tetzel 


WtHiam Lee 

BIRDIE Ruth Miles 

ZTTA Arm Thompson 

OPAL Stephanie Foster 

SYNOPSIS: The entire action takes place in the winter parlor of 
Senator CromwelFs mansion on Nob HiU, San Francisco, in the fall of 
1896. Act I. Scene 1. Afternoon in October. Scene 2. The following Sun- 
day morning. Act II. Scene 1. Tuesday afternoon. Scene 2. Some hours 
later. Act III. Later that night. 

Director: Renno Schneider. 


JLHE HANDIWORK has to do with the woman's suffrage 
campaign in the later years of the last century and with the 
effect of the hostilities on the members of a San Francisco 
household involved in the ruckus. Before it opened, Miss 
Ryerson observed to the press, "The suffragette angle is, 
however, just background; the play is really about the war 
between the sexes." Whereupon Mr. Clements, her hus- 
band and co-author, oracularized, "That fight is eternal, 
that fight between male and female/* The profound and 
original mentality that went into the writing of the play 
was thus apparent before We had a look at it. The further 
originality of the authors, when we did get a look at it, 
was disclosed in such particulars as the wife bent on a po- 
litical career to the disquiet of her mate, appropriated 

228 Strange Bedfellows 

from Hoyt's old farce, A Contented Woman: the sex strike 
of wives against their husbands, pilfered from Lysistrata; 
and the husbands whose names are discovered among the 
customers of the chatelaine of a house of ill repute, bor- 
rowed from Ludwig Thoma's Moral. In short, a lot of old- 
hat, but occasionally set at such a rakish slant that it again 
produces some laughter. Critically speaking, it is all pretty 
shabby but, like bygone burlesque, at times incorrigibly 

Not the least of the humorous elements of the occasion 
is Ralph Alswang's setting of the 1896 Nob Hill mansion 
bursting with miraculous horrors. It is, indeed, so out- 
rageously amusing on its own account that I would have 
been even more entertained by it if the play in large part 
had not been going on inside it. For there are stretches 
between the comical passages devoted to the serious sen- 
timental love-making of the female politician and her 
spouse, to some ruthlessly cute banter by a pair of love- 
lorn youngsters, and to supposedly hilarious drinking 
bouts which are hard to take and which make the spring- 
boards to the jocular aspects of the evening considerably 
less springy than the authors hoped. There is also a visible 
strain to derive humor from the eccentricities, both visual 
and ethical, of the past. After a while, the spectacle of a 
woman performing at a rococo speaking-tube, of an old- 
fashioned menage as high-toned as a police whistle, and, 
among numerous other things, of the horrified shock of 
respectability at the mere mention of a red-light district 
becomes less the material for amusement than for a juke- 
box paraphrase of Hindemith's retrospective Mathis pur- 
veyed at the insertion of plugged nickel. 

Benno Schneider, appreciating that what the authors 
have delivered into his hands is not a comedy but some- 
thing half-way between a farce and a Minsky burlesque, 
has appropriately directed it in that manner. Carl Benton 
Reid's Senator thus properly seems to have stepped out of 
an old Hurtig and Seamon show, as do many of the rest of 
the company, the best performances in which are those 
of Doris Rich, excellent as the Barbary Coast madam; 

January 14, 1948 229 

Ruth Amos as the Senator's wife who finds that her sex 
strike is futile since what interests her elderly husband 
much more greatly is food; Nydia Westman as the dili- 
gently coy wife of the Senator's crony who similarly, she 
discovers, is considerably less interested in connubial em- 
braces than in his newspaper and the bottle; and Robin 
Craven as her husband. Joan Tetzel, a comely item who 
once promised to develop as an actress, indicates that her 
later preference for the motion picture cameras has cast 
her features and what mobility of expression they previ- 
ously had into that facial rigor mortis which passes in 
Hollywood for dramatic acting magnificently imbued with 


JANUARY 15, 1948 

A musical revue, with sketches and lyrics by Arnold B. 
Horwitt, music by Richard Lewine. Produced by Joseph 
Af . Hyman for the rest of the season's performances in the 
Broadhurst Theatre. 


David Burns, Sid Caesar, Joshua Shelley, Sheila Bond, Kyle MacDonnell, 
Ferry Bruskin, Jack Kilty, Eleanor Bagley, Max Showalter, Danny Dan- 
iels, and Hal Loman. 

Director: Hassard Short. 

MOST MUSICAL COMEDIES, which concern them- 
selves mainly with the emotion indiscriminately called 
love, have little sense anyway, particularly if they are good, 
and since most revues, which concern themselves not even 
so much as in that direction, have less, they are best to be 
reviewed by very young men who, passionately eager to 
become dramatic critics, obviously have no sense at all. 
Archer years ago wrote, "Tragedy deliberately sets forth 
to remind us of the pitfalls that beset our path in life. It 
is, so to speak, self-consciously pathetic. How much more 
poignant is the unconscious pathos of the gaudy, glitter- 
ing, jigging and jazzing operetta, with its 'beauty chorus/ 
its bouncing comedians, and its idolized prima donna, the 
goddess of a few lime-lit hours! It is not at the St. James's 
or the Haymarket, but at Daly's and the Hippodrome that 
I, for one, am apt to be haunted by the refrain, 'Into the 
night go one and all/ " 

Archer was an oldish fellow when he wrote it, and he 
spoke for all his oldish and similarly over-sophisticated col- 
leagues, dead or alive. He implied that age and the incli- 
nation toward gratuitous, even offensive, analysis go hand 
in hand, and he proved obliquely that only the beautiful 
blindness of youth is competent to appreciate musical 

January 15, 194& 231 

shows for what, whatever they are not, they are at least 
supposed to be. This is not to say, of course, that the young 
critic is able to appraise such shows truthfully and exactly. 
It is rather to say that his very inability thus to report on 
them ipso facto makes his after all the better and more 
logical opinion. 

The older critic, for example, looks above almost every- 
thing else in a musical show for charm. Without it, how- 
ever appetizing the other elements, he is disturbed to the 
point of pain. The younger one, on the other hand, thinks 
that charm robs the show of what he terms "life," that it 
somehow is on the effeminate side, and that what is a great 
deal more desirable is biff, bang, wham and zingo. The 
older one also no longer discovers his heart beating rapidly 
at the sight of chemicals counterfeiting feminine beauty, 
or his emotions warmed into a consuming bliss by roman- 
tic love as seen through the eyes of some plot scribbler 
happily married to a lady dentist, or his ears assuaged by 
music whose sire was a bordello piano. But to the younger 
man it all represents something very gay, something full 
of illusion, and at times, indeed, something highly artistic 
and extraordinarily meritorious. 

When the bill takes even the less pretentious revue 
shape, as in the case of this Make Mine Manhattan., the 
elderly critic finds he has dined off such fare for so many 
years that his entertainment reflexes are not what they 
should be. Being one such ancient, there accordingly must 
be something seriously wrong with me. Though charm 
and several of the other desiderata are missing, I had a 
very good time at it. It has some amusing comedians, some 
comical sketches, some entertaining dance numbers, and 
I even saw a girl or two in it that made me feel not a day 
over fifty again. 

Maybe it's those vitamin pills. 

Since, however, it is barely possible that a chronicle of 
my age and the state of my libido does not constitute a 
sufficiently adequate account of the proceedings, I sur- 
render to bigotry and put down the events of the eve- 
ning, both entertaining and not^in chronological order. 

232 Make Mine Manhattan 

1. "Anything Can Happen In New York." The conventional 
opening number, with the lyrics conventionally including 
the names of contemporary metropolitan personalities, 
which is conventionally unintelligible in view of the fran- 
tic tempo in which the words are sung, the noise made by 
the audience in settling itself down for the evening, and 
the racket made by the accompanying dancers. 

2. "First Avenue Gets Ready." A sketch about the woes of a 
restaurant operator, humorously acted by David Burns, in 
trying to serve the whims of the delegates to the United 
Nations, most of them acted by Sid Caesar in a series of 
quick costume changes. Caesar in this instance, with his 
mimicking of various foreign languages, is amusing. 

3. "Phil The Fiddler." A ballet based on an old Horatio Al- 
ger from-rags-to-riches story. Not much, and too long. 

4. "Movie House In Manhattan," sung by Eleanor Bagley. A 
comical ditty about an elaborate Park Avenue film theatre 
which has everything in it for the pleasure and comfort of 
its patrons but a tolerable picture. 

5. "Any Resemblance ..." A merry skit about a newspaper 
editor's search for a new dramatic critic who will be partly 
deaf and suffering from poor vision and a racking cough 
and who will be a sufficient moron to review Broadway 
plays in an acceptable manner. Burns as the resigning 
critic and Joshua Shelley as the moron candidate are 

6. "Talk To Me." A numb song but a lively accompanying 
dance by Sheila Bond and Danny Daniels. 

7. "Traftz." An hilarious song number about the food served 
in the tea-room restaurants (chili con carne, for example, 
with marshmallow sauce) , hilariously rendered by Shelley. 

8. "I Don't Know His Name." A sentimental song of the 
kind that figure prominently on radio Hit Parade pro- 
grams, pleasantly delivered by Jack Kilty and an attrac- 
tive girl with a resemblance to Grace Moore at twenty, 
Kyle MacDonnell. 

9. "The Good Old Days." A waggish old-time sidewalk song 
and dance act by the Messrs. Burns and Caesar. 

January 15, 1948 233 

10. "Once Over Lightly." A burlesque of Allegro. Moderately 
amusing, but too long. 

11. "Penny Gum Machine." A dreadful mock-serious song 
about the tribulations of a subway slot machine, with an 
obbligato of physical and facial contortions and quarts of 
perspiration by Caesar, remindful of Zero Mostel at his 
best, which is horrible. 

12. "Saturday Night In Central Park." A tuneful first act fi- 
nale embracing the old pinwheel chorus formation and the 
usual hullabaloo by the vocal ensemble. 

After the intermission: 

1. "Ringalevio." A song and dance ensemble number in 
which the men and women are dressed as street kids and 
in which they play leapfrog, jump over fences and com- 
port themselves generally like men and women dressed up 
as kids on the stage. Dull. 

2. "Noises In The Street." A song number about the early 
morning New York din made by milkmen, street cleaners, 
street diggers, taxi drivers, et al. y drolly managed by Burns, 
Caesar, Shelley, and others. 

3. "I Fell In Love With You." Another sentimental duet 
(vide "I Don't Know His Name") sung by the same duo in 
front of a backdrop picturing the East River by moonlight. 

4* "My Brudder And Me." A tough, lively street dance by the 
Bond-Daniels team. 

5. "Hollywood Heads East." A sketch showing what might 
happen if movies were to be made in New York. As funny 
a fifteen minutes as have been encountered in a revue in 
years, with Burns grand as an East Side garment manufac- 
turer hired to play atmosphere in the film being shot and 
Caesar almost as good as the elegant director, Bruce Big- 
elow, who proves to be also a former East Side garment 
manufacturer and who stops the making of the picture to 
compare excited notes on die trade with Burns. 

6. "Gentleman Friend." A rubber-stamp song and dance 
number by Miss Bond, Hal Loman, and the hoofers. 

234 Make Mine Manhattan 

7. "Subway Song." The stale one about the girl who lives in 
Brooklyn and the boy who lives in the Bronx and whose 
love wanes because of the trouble in delivering her back 
to her remote address, but given some extrinsic humor by 
Shelley's delivery. 

8. "Full Fathom Five." A jovial sketch in which, among 
other things, a salesman proves to the resisting Burns that 
a pen will write under water by undressing him and heav- 
ing him into a large tank, with Burns' comic gifts again 
amply demonstrated. 

9. "A Night Out." A song number about the difference, 
chiefly monetary, between New York in 1938 and at pres- 
ent, performed by Caesar with even more volcanic ardor 
and torrential sweat than before, and equally suggestive of 
Mostel at his best, which is agonizing. 

10. "Glad To Be Back." The finale, with the entire company, 
dressed in sports clothes and the scene depicting the Grand 
Central Station, singing, with gestures, of its ecstasy at re- 
turning to New York after a holiday. 

Supplementary notes: 

(a) The more personable girls, aside from Miss MacDonnell, 
are, if I decipher the playbill correctly, Rhoda Johann- 
son, Stephanie Augustine, and a decorative little number 
in the dancing chorus who somehow annoyingly disappears 
from the show after the first act. 

(&) The settings by Frederick Fox, picturing different metro- 
politan localities, are passable, but the costumes by Mor- 
ton Haack, whose bustle period costuming for Strange 
Bedfellows the night before was to be commended as the 
derri&re cri, are, except for some in the second act finale, 
cheaply unimaginative. 

(c) Hassard Short's direction, patterned after the speed tech- 
nique of George Abbott, appropriately serves the occa- 
sion, though his stage lighting seems better adapted to a 
Leon and Eddie's cabaret show than to a revue with pro- 
fessional pretensions. 



A comedy by Elisabeth Cobb and Herschel Williams. Prt 
duced by Edgar F. Luckenbach, ]r+, for 3 performance 
in the Mansfield Theatre. 


MAGGIE WELCH Shirley Booth 

PHTTJ.TP David Anderson 


Robert W&ey 

GWENNIE Margaret Hamilton 

DR. ALAK LAMBERT Neil Hamilton 




NED SNYDER Joseph AUen, J 

MARY Anne Sargei 


SYNOPSIS: Entire action of the play takes place in the home c 
Maggie Welch, located in a fashionable section of Maryland. Time: Th 
present. Mid-summer. Act I. A Saturday morning. Act II. Scene 1. A 
hour later. The same day. Scene 2. That evening. Act III, Scene J 
Two a.m. The following morning. Scene 2. Eight a.m. Same day. 

Director: Martin Manulis. 


f TH1 

WHENEVER, outside the theatre, I can not get to sleej 
at nights, I no longer count sheep, having found that tha 
particular exercise in arithmetic does nothing to WCM 
slumber, probably because of the bothersome agility of th 
animals and the touching look of sadness on their faces 
What I presently count is something much mqre monotc 
nous and immeasurably more auspicious as a soporific 
the characters I have regularly encountered down the year 
in such Broadway comedies as this. I lie down, close nr 
eyes, and successively number them, and in little mori 
time than it takes to say Elisabeth Cobb and Hersche 
Williams I am fast in the arms of Morpheus. 

There they parade in all their frozen doldrums: th 
smart divorcee with a train of husbands in her wake whos 
cynical banter is supposed to constitute such wit as ha 
not been heard from a stage since the death of Congreve 
the lady novelist who is admired by the other character 
for her great womanly wisdom on the score of having wril 

236 The Men We Marry 

ten such epigrammatic profundities as "Marriage is the 
death of love"; her suave New York publisher, generally 
cast with an English actor, who professes to be done with 
the female sex but who is obviously doomed to marry his 
fair client in the last act; and the ingenue who, like her 
young swain with the rumpled hair and loosely knotted 
tie, gags at the sophistication and flippancy of the other 
members of the houseparty and wants only to settle down 
and have babies, Also the comedy household maid de- 
scendant of May Yokes; the society medico ever in impec- 
cable habiliments and squirting manly charm who perches 
himself on chair arms and sofa ends and paternally coun- 
sels the ladies; the fluttery female nitwit interested in 
politics; the small boy devoted to the comic strips who 
makes his exits at top speed whooping like an Indian; and 
so on. 

The frame for the characters in this elegant case is a 
country house "located in a fashionable section of Mary- 
land," which as presented is as full of tone as a fish-horn. 
The plot has to do with the several women's attempt to 
discourage the ingenue from marrying the poor young 
man of her choice in favor of one with money. The writ- 
ing was unmistakably done under water and is consistently 
wet. The direction could not have been better, for floor- 
walkers in a department store. The actors were helpless 
in the face of things. And Donald Oenslager's country 
house setting, to say nothing of his lavender lighting of 
the Maryland countryside seen through the doors and win- 
dows, was admirably suited to the kind of musical comedy 
that closes on the Saturday night of its out-of-town tryout. 

P.S. On only a single occasion has counting the charac- 
ters in such plays not operated toward slumber. That was 
on the night I had had ten cups of after-dinner coffee. On 
that night, I began counting the stereotyped situations 
in the same plays and I had not got beyond the one in 
which the men shake cocktails and consider their strategy 
against the women before I was happily sound asleep. 



A play by Peter Viertel and Irwin Shaw. Produced by 
Bernard Hart and Martin Gabel for 8 performances in 
the Playhouse. 



Marc Lawrence 



Russell Collins 

MARCUS HEDGE Edwin M. Bruce 


Neil Fitzgerald 



E. G. Marshall 



Louis Calhern 



Anthony Ross 

E dith Rand 


Richard Basehart 
Kevin McCarthy 


Ray Waist on 
Edgar Small 


Jane Seymour 

Eugene Steiner 


Marianne Stewart 

SYNOPSIS: Act I line Court Hotel, Decker City,. Missouri. An 
early summer afternoon in 1865. Act II. Veranda of the Decker ranch. 
That evening. Act HI. Same as Act I. That night. 

Director: Martin Gabel. 


CO-AUTHOR Mr. Viertel I know nothing save that he 
is a writer of Hollywood movies which I have not seen and 
of a novel which I have not read. Of Mr. Shaw I know 
considerably more. Not only has he written a number of 
plays which, while remiss in other directions, have at least 
indicated a sense of valid theme and an intermittently in- 
telligent approach, but he has to his credit a number of 
very able short stories, among them the irresistibly mur- 
derous Sailor Off The Bremen and the delicately cognitive 
The Girls In Their Summer Dresses. I also know of him 
that, though he lately himself had become a practitioner 
of drama criticism, he does not like drama critics, in which 
attitude he may hardly be said, if eavesdropping has been 
proficient, to be strikingly original. However, I do not 
much blame him. There are times when I even do not like 
myself, and this is one of them. 

238 The Survivors 

The reasons for my lack of self-Idolatry are two. In the 
first place, Mr. Shaw magnanimously exempted me from 
his recent dismissal of the critical fraternity as no better 
than a pack of half-witted micrococci, and this naturally 
prejudices me to regard him as an extremely intelligent 
and fastidious gentleman, fit to be ranked with Socrates, 
Hegel and Kant, to say nothing of in the punctilious com- 
pany of Lord Chesterfield and the Emperor Franz Josef. 
And, in the second embarrassing place, the play on which 
he has here collaborated is not anywhere nearly so good as 
I should like it to be and thus enable me to bestow upon 
it a truckload of reciprocal admiration, bursting with ad- 
jectives of gaudy and voluptuous hue. 

Finding myself in this awkward predicament is scarcely 
a pleasure or a comfort. Here I sit saying to myself that it 
is a shame I can not trim my remarks in such a manner as 
to give the impression that the play is not as poor as it 
really is and so in small part pay back Mr. Shaw for his 
testimonial to my talents. Here I sit telling myself that this 
critical business becomes a damned nuisance when it im- 
poses on me the impoliteness of taking a crack at some- 
one who has gone out of his way to say genteel things 
about me. But here nevertheless I sit and go about boun- 
derishly putting down on paper that Mr. Shaw's play, de- 
spite the highest of intentions (I'll get that in anyway) 
and despite a couple of well-handled scenes (I'll get that 
in too) , is an overly talky, platitudinous and melodramati- 
cally shaky one that remains at bottom, for all its worthy 
idealism (I'll get that in also) , a movie horse opera with- 
out a horse. 

At this point, blushing with mortification over having 
to say such things about so amiable a man's work, I shall 
take refuge in a little trickery, possibly very unfair, and 
self-consolingly attribute a substantial share of the play's 
deficiencies to Mr. Shaw's collaborator, Mr. Viertel. My 
excuses for the conceivably unmerited detraction are that 
the latter's name figures ahead of Mr. Shaw's in the auth- 
orship credit line, thus intimating that the major part of 
the job was his, and that, unlike Mr. Shaw this is his 

January 19, 1948 239 

maiden attempt at playwriting. (I feel a little more at ease 
now, though I am not too sure that I should.) But wher- 
ever the greater portion of the blame may rest, the unwel- 
come fact remains that the play is as obviously short of its 
purpose as a shrunk undershirt. 

What the collaborators have attempted to write is a 
melodrama drawing a parallel between the bellicose bit- 
terness and hatred that enveloped the post-Civil War pe- 
riod and the same bitterness and hatred that prevail in 
the world today. And what they have essayed to sieve 
through their stage alarms is a convincing argument that 
bloodshed never succeeds in accomplishing what calm 
meditation may. Yet what they have achieved, in spite of 
their parable perspiration, is merely a gun-feud screen 
Western involving the usual cattle ranch, water hole, 
drawling sheriff, whiskey guzzling, and dragged-in love 
interest and supposedly made suitable to the dramatic 
stage by incorporating into it some noble rhetorical 
splurges on the uselessness of killing and the greater prac- 
ticality of a brotherhood of man. In short, something that 
is neither the Hatfield nor the McCoy. 

It doesn't work," and for a transparent reason. Not only 
is the blood and thunder element too hackneyed to hold 
an audience on its own, but the homilies which have been 
inserted into it would interrupt and repudiate the effect 
of even a melodrama ten times better. There is one precept 
about straight melodrama that only rarely may be disre- 
garded, and that is never for a moment to retard its action. 
Even something as fine as Hamlet's second monologue, if 
somehow worked into a melodrama as good as Secret Serv- 
ice or Sherlock Holmes, would knock the pins from un- 
der it. And when you get oratory which, like that in this 
one, may be allowed to be scarcely up to any such standard, 
it not only knocks the pins from under it but jumps on it 
and tramples the life out of it. When the last curtain of 
The Survivors falls, you accordingly feel that for two and 
one-half long hours you have been watching nothing more 
than Henry Wallace in a Broadway shooting gallery. 

Inside abundantly realistic settings by Boris Aronson 

240 The Survivors 

picturing the interior and exterior of Missouri frontier 
shacks, Martin Gabel has directed the rumpus into such 
an overdose of physical tension that it is a wonder the ac- 
tors do not collapse from a wholesale thrombosis at the 
half-way point. In the role of the perplexed feudist torn 
between his zeal to pot his enemy neighbor and his sense 
of honor, Richard Basehart so postures and fascinatedly 
listens to his vocal tones that one suspects he imagines the 
evening's bill is Lucia di Lammermoor and that he is En- 
rico in pursuit of the foul Edgardo. Louis Calhern does as 
well as possible by the Wallace speeches; Hume Cronyn 
comports himself like a man of forty in seventy-year-old 
whiskers; Russell Collins plays the bartender with such a 
surplus of fidgets that the saloon seems to be located some- 
where on Angel Street; and E. G. Marshall acts the persist- 
ently nosey and snooping brother as if he were shadowing 
an illicit asafetida cache. 

The rest, except for Neil Fitzgerald in a minor part, 
are not much better, though direction in all cases may be 
responsible. Anthony Ross screams his lines as if his role 
were mugging him; Kevin McCarthy plays the mortally ill 
brother role as if it were a trumpet operated by a blast 
furnace; and the two ladies of the company, Jane Seymour 
and Marianne Stewart, contrastingly deliver their few 
lines like instructed wax-works. 

Addendum: Report had it that George S. Kaufman and 
Moss Hart, among others, had attended the rehearsals of 
the play and had suggested various changes in the original 
script, all of which were accepted by the authors. 



An adaptation of Strindberg's The Dance O Death by 
Peter Goldbaum and Robin Short. Produced by Theatre 
Associates^ Inc., for 7 performances in the Belasco Theatre. 


EDGAB Oscar Homolka 

ALICE Jessie Royce Landis 

JUDITH Anne Jackson 

ALAN Richard Hylton 

CURTIS Philip Rournevf 

SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place on a small, semi- 
tropical island which could be the colonial possession of any country. 
Time: 1 910. Act I. The major's living quarters inside an old fortress. Act 
n. Villa BeUe Vue, residence of the heaWt supervisor, the following 
spring. Act ILL Same as Act II, two weeks later. 

Director: John O'Shaughnessy. 



-HE MM. GOLDBAUM AND SHORT, hatchers of this The 
Last Dance, have taken Strindberg's forty-seven year old, 
two-part The Dance Of Death., one of the most searing 
plays in all modern drama, and have turned it into some- 
thing closely resembling a whimsical pas de deux. If there 
is a play that presents with more horrifying effect what bit- 
terness and acrimony can accomplish between two human 
beings, I do not know of it. If, on the contrary, there is 
one that more greatly shows the horrifying effect of adapt- 
ing any such work to the supposed taste of a contemporary 
audience, I also do not know of it. What the MM. Gold- 
baum and Short have done, in brief, is to remove the sting 
of a cobra in order to make it available for a sideshow. As 
snake charmers, accordingly, they are frauds. It is not that 
they have departed radically from Strindberg's externals. 
They have, in fact, stuck pretty close to them. The charac- 
ters are outwardly much the same; the thematic and plot 
outlines in large part follow the original; and the setting 
remains a fortified island, if in this case one in the semi- 
tropics instead of one off the coast of Sweden. But what 

242 The Last Dance 

they have executed on the innards of the play amounts to 
a gall-bladder operation performed with a sherbet spoon. 

Strindberg, whose own experiences had bred in him a 
murderous hatred of marriage, wrote into his play not 
merely an indictment of it as a human institution, as Pro- 
fessor Frank Chandler observed thirty-odd years ago, but 
even as a natural union. Where, as the professor noted, 
Lord Beaconsfield protested against it because "It destroys 
one's nerves to be amiable every day to the same human 
being," the Scandinavian lemon-sucker contrarily objected 
to it because, as he viewed it, it is torturing to be every 
day malevolent and rancorous toward the same person. 
And his heinous married pair thus exceeded, as cancer ex- 
ceeds barber's itch, Sydney Smith's comparison of a hus- 
band and wife to a pair of scissors so joined that they can 
not be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet 
always punishing any who come between them. 

Contemplating the Swede's spouse and mate scheming 
against and screaming at each other in a savage mutual 
antipathy and not resting until the man is undone by a 
stroke and the wife defeated even theft by the chains that 
still bind her to him is to see the flesh sliced from both 
with the keenest of psychological scalpels. It is a spectacle 
at once terrible and, in its terribleness, profound in ec- 
centric but searching revelation. The dramatist spares 
nothing; the play lays his two principal characters on an 
operating table and opens them up to dialogue as rum- 
bling with thunder as Strauss' Zarathustra yet equally as 
illuminated by lightning flashes. And when it ends, one 
exhaustedly feels that about the only way possible to get 
any relative relief is to dash out onto the street, grab a car, 
and run over a dozen or two children. In the case of The 
Last Dance, on the other hand, one feels like running over 
the authors. In place of Strindberg's thunder they have 
shaken a tin-sheet, and in place of his lightning they have 
tossed about a lot of lighted punk-sticks. They jab hair- 
pins into the characters where Strindberg jabbed har- 
poons, and where he turned an acetylene torch on them 
they have turned a pocket flashlight. What we get, conse- 

January 27, 1948 243 

quently, is the original play largely as he might have told 
it to George Kelly. The blinding psychopathology now 
wears dark spectacles; the merciless probing is now only 
skin-deep. The drama's old dress is there, but there is 
nothing under it but the drama's skeleton, loudly rattling 
its bones, like a Scandinavian minstrel show. 

As with a wild locomotive or mad bull, it would take 
some big doing wholly to arrest the furious energy of such 
a play and the adapters have not entirely succeeded. A 
small measure of it persists in spite of their efforts to flag 
it or bury its horns in the ground. But their hope of fash- 
ioning a commercial play out of one that is about as com- 
mercial as prussic acid remains still a hope, and a very 
foolish one. It is a thankless enterprise to try to make ac- 
ceptable the work of a dramatist who was cherished by a 
Nietzsche to audiences who cherish a Tennessee Williams. 

It was, however, not necessary to wait until the curtain 
went up to appreciate what we were due to be in for. The 
dramatic mentality and theatrical education promoting 
the enterprise were sufficiently indicated in a statement 
published in the press in advance of the play's opening 
by a spokesman for the adapters and producers. "The 
adapters," it proclaimed, "believe they have come closer 
to the dramatist's intentions than any literal transcription 
could bring them. They have treated Dodsdancen [The 
Dance Of Death] as a satire (1) on the frustrations of the 
marriage relationship, not as a straight drama/* "The fact 
remains," it cofitimifcd in extenuation, "that everything 
of Strindberg's ever produced in New York has run for a 
combined total of only eighty performances," and listed 
as the sole plays produced The Dance Of Death, The 
Spook Sonata, The Father, and The Bridal Crown. "The 
record," it lamented, "is a melancholy one." Not only has 
the combined total New York run of the Strindberg plays 
mentioned far exceeded the figure named, but the plays 
were not the only ones that have seen metropolitan pro- 
duction. Others, both long and short, have been Com- 
rades, Countess Julie, The Stronger, Easter, Swanwhite, 
and The Dream Play. 

244 The Last Dance 

"For the adapters," the statement warned us finally, "the 
play is a maiden effort. Each, however, has written sep- 
arately before, Mr. Goldbaum for the films and Mr. Short 
for the radio. They met in Hollywood." 

A general air of carelessness enveloped almost every- 
thing connected with the production. Though the period 
of the play was 1910, the costuming of at least one male 
character was 1948 in its broad-lapeled tropical wardrobe, 
pleated evening trousers, and dress shoes, and the reference 
to "dinner jackets" was only one of several anachronisms. 
A pair of love-birds in a cage, hung in one setting, were 
permitted so constantly and loudly to chirp their admira- 
tion for each other that two of the serious scenes between 
the wrangling husband and wife were given a burlesque 
counterpoint. The lovelorn ingenue was allowed so to 
shout her lines that the immediately subsequent outbursts 
of the male protagonist seemed almost pianissimo. And so 
on. Even the press agent *s program notes were awry. " Jessie 
Royce Landis," read one, "vowed never to play the same 
type of role twice in succession when she first started her 
acting career and has lived up to the vow." Only the season 
before, Miss Landis played much the same type of role as 
in this play in Little A. 

The acting company was best served by Oscar Homolka 
who, though Strindberg would not even remotely have 
recognized the husband character he played, at least played 
it proficiently as the adapters strangely conceived it. Miss 
Landis portrayed the envenomed wife mostly by affecting 
what Anna Held used to call ze wickaid smile and ze sau- 
cee eye and by issuing from time to time a small sardonic 
chuckle, meanwhile rolling an imaginary caraway seed on 
her tongue. Philip Bourneuf, as the husband's friend for 
whom the wife has set her cap, continued, as is his habit, 
to read his lines through a tightly set mouth, the while 
attempting to organize his larynx into an approximation 
to a vibra-harp. Anne Jackson, in the role of the couple's 
young daughter, evidently mistook the role, with the di- 
rector's permission, for a combination hurdle race and 
cheering section and leaped up steps and over furniture 

January 27, 1948 245 

with such vigor, accompanied by what seemed to be college 
yells, that the old Hippodrome management would surely 
have signed her up at sight. Richard Hylton, as the 
friend's son beloved of Miss Jackson, on the other hand 
was directed to comport himself as if the play were being 
acted inside a large cake of ice. And when the stage doings 
now and then lapsed for a moment into a measure of 
tranquillity, all save Homolka and Hylton, who at least 
was consistent, appeared elegantly to imagine that the set- 
ting of the play was Chichester-on-Chich. 



A musical show., based on an idea by Jerome Robbins,, with 
book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, music and 
lyrics by Hugh Martin. Produced by George Abbott for 
the rest of the season's performances in the Adelphi 



SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. Pennsylvania Station. New York City. 
Scene 2. On tour. Scene 3. A rehearsal hall. Joplin, Mo. Scene 4. On tour. 
Scene 5. Hotel room. AmariUo, Tex. Scene 6. Outside a theatre. Phoenix, 
Ariz. Scene 7. Stage door of the Philharmonic Auditorum. Los Angeles. 
Scene 8. Back stage of the Philharmonic. Scene 9. Stage of the Philhar- 
monic. Act II. Scene 1. A railroad platform. Glendale, Calif. Early the 
next morning. Scene 2. A Pullman car. Scene 3. On tour. Scene 4. A the- 
atre basement. Des Moines, Iowa. 

Directors: George Abbott and Jerome Robbins. 

Don Liberto 
Loren Welch 
Alice Pearce 
Janet Reed 
Virginia Gorski 
Harold Lang 
Tommy Rail 
Robert Harris 

tharine Sergava 

Alexander March 
LILY MALLOY Nancy Walker 
MR. GLEEB James Lane 
MR. FERBISH Eddie Hodge 
BELL BOY Dean Campbell 
SUZY Sandra Deel 



THE SHOW discloses Jerome Robbins consid- 
erably beneath his top form, there is nevertheless enough 
evidence in it to indicate that his is still the freshest chore- 
ographic imagination to have come into the theatre in 
some time. To a stage that over the years slowly progressed 
from the merry village maidens* arch leg-work, if not the 
chorus pinwheel formations, to the great heights of .ballets 
consisting primarily in bad imitations of the real article 
bathed in welcomely concealing deep purple lights, he has 
brought, if sometimes at the expense of beauty, a catching 

January 29, 1948 247 

wit and humor combined with a genuine dramatic inven- 
tiveness. He has in the process happily and further done 
away with most of such routine ballet business as simul- 
taneously elevates dancers into the air and depresses 
audiences into their seats, with all the solemn gazelle pos- 
turings, and, in another direction, with that unvarying 
excess of speed which tends doubly to slow up a show be- 
tween the dance numbers. In place of all such dingdong 
he has managed a satirical cartoonery, an unsentimental 
Saroyanism, and an intoxicated fancy that, at its best, in 
numbers like the speakeasy era item in Billion Dollar 
Baby or the Keystone cops ballet in High-Button Shoes, 
has swept the dry dance dust from the stage with a bright 
new broom. In the present show he is not, to repeat, at his 
fittest, but what little merit in it there is remains his. The 
music, lyrics and book by the Messrs. Martin, Lawrence 
and Lee are shy on fizz. Nancy Walker, who heads the 
cast, is undoubtedly an able performer, in her peculiar 
line, but two and a half hours of female brassiness are a 
little too much for an old Marilyn Miller man like my- 
self. George Abbott has done everything possible to get 
some life into the book, but the job he is up against is like 
trying to inject effervescence into a bottle of linseed oil. 
And, additionally, a musical show without charm, unless 
it has enough other gifts to make me forget the absence 
of it, always looks to me like an unlighted Christmas tree. 

Just before his death last year at the age of eighty-one, 
Tristan Bernard, the champion French farce writer, con- 
fessed that, for all his International reputation as a humor- 
ist, he was at a loss to know just what it is that constitutes 
humor. Asked to venture a definition anyway, he replied, 
"When a man falls out of a tenth story window and on the 
way down says, 'Well, no bones broken so far/ that would 
appear to be humor. But if Einstein, seeing the man fall, 
asks, Is it the man who is going down or the ground that 
is coming up?' and concludes, after some thought, that 
there is no conclusive answer, that, it seems, is not humor 
but metaphysics." 

Exactly what constitutes humor may, as Bernard said, 

248 Look, Ma, Tm Dancin! 

be a moot point. But there can be no moot point about 
what is made to pass for humor in this show. That is, un- 
less one esteems as funny such favorite jocosities of Mr. 
Abbott as the spectacle of a nauseated woman clapping her 
hand to her mouth and rushing to the lavatory, the sud- 
den pulling open of a lavatory door and the disclosure of 
a character in a private posture, the view of a chubby fe- 
male bending over a bed and so constringing her petticoat 
that her buttocks take on the picture of a hippopotamus' 
rear, or contortive female comics who sing their numbers 
as if they were the offspring of frigate sailors and who fili- 
ally shiver their timbres. 

The plot has to do with the stage-struck daughter of a 
rich brewer who backs a ballet company in order to get a 
role in it. The music is as loud as a buzz-saw, and equally 
invested with melodic quality. The lyrics are dusty shelf- 
goods with the old "Gotta Dance" and "If You'll be Mine" 
labels. The settings by Oliver Smith are commonplace and 
for extra measure include the one in a Pullman sleeper 
with the transparent berth curtains. The costumes by John 
Pratt look as if they cost at least fifty dollars in toto. Har- 
old Lang is an agreeable juvenile and apt with his feet, 
but the rest of the troupe, which may have hidden talents, 
successfully conceal them. 



A comedy by Michael Sayers. Produced by Bea Lawrence 
for 2 performances in the Mansfield Theatre. 


THE Hous: 


Anita Bolster 


HANAFEY James McCaZtion 


HOUHUHAN Frank Merlin 

FOGARTY Jack Sheehan 

SYNOPSIS; Act I. Noon. Act II. A UtOe later. Act m. Still a little 

Scene: The tiving-room-study in Professor Fogarty's house not far 
from the city of Dublin. 

Time: The action of the play takes place in a single day. 

Director: Coby Ruskin. 


FOGARTY Andree Wallace 


MAcCoNiGAL Henry Jones 


Whitfield Connor 

Morton L. Stevens 

IN SEVERAL other Irish plays still praying for local 
production, Mr. Sayers' central character is a young girl 
touched in the head, but where the other plays are solemn 
about the brain condition this one is collaterally light- 
minded and seeks to extract amusement instead of sympa- 
thetic pain. As in at least two dozen others, Irish, Ameri- 
can or what not, it also has the girl pretend that she is 
pregnant by an unidentified male, which, speaking of 
amusement, may no longer be said to be particularly amus- 
ing. And, as in a number of short stories encountered over 
the years, the girl writes love letters to herself in the name 
of a handsome fellow whom she casually met at a party. It 
will thus dawn upon even the more backward that Mr. 
Sayers' imagination and invention are a little short of 

The management, evidently appreciating that \^hat it 

250 Kathleen 

had bought was short-weight, caused its press-agent to 
send out in advance of the opening (and quick closing) 
the big news that there was a lot more to the play than 
anyone would see and that it was at bottom not just the 
bad comedy that everyone would see but a sly allegory 
about Ireland itself, full of rich meaning. The only rich 
meaning that everyone subsequently did see, and clearly, 
was that, allegory or no allegory, the management was in 
for an immediate loss of its sixty thousand dollar invest- 

The press-agent's brain-child, however, merits quota- 
tion for the record. "With Kathleen/' it confided, "Mr. 
Sayers satirically carries on a tradition of generations of 
Irish poets who, through the long period of British rule 
when the writing of political propaganda was forbidden, 
kept alive the identity of the nation through the device 
of love songs to Kathleen ni Houhlihan. So numerous 
were these allegorical plays, written by Yeats, AE, Pearse 
and other Irish authors, that a 'Kathleen play' is a recog- 
nized form in Irish literature. In the play which opens 
this evening, Mr. Sayers through farce and romance tells 
in human symbols the story of modern Ireland. Kathleen 
is Ireland herself, the Kathleen ni Houhlihan of the an- 
cient poets. Although she will be billed on the program as 
Kathleen Fogarty, Mr. Sayers points out that her mother 
was a Houhlihan; that she has three fathers, representing 
history, religion and science; and that she is claimed in 
marriage by three suitors a rich man's son, a poor man's 
son and an engineer symbolic of types of modern Ire- 

It is, of course, remotely possible that Mr. Sayers had 
the allegorical idea in his mind before the press-agent put 
it there, but, if so, it would take a deductive mind superior 
to that of any theatre audience, however sleuthy, to figure 
it out in connection with his play. That it was a desperate 
after-thought is much more likely, since the speech of the 
doctor character to the effect that "some poetic fellow may 
see an allegory in all this, but a man like me can't" has 
every sound of having been belatedly, guardedly aad whim- 

February 3, 1948 251 

sically incorporated into the script, from which it protrudes 
like a traffic policeman's thumb. 

Even were the play fifty times better than it Is, the di- 
rection by Goby Ruskin would have murdered it. Mr. 
Ruskin' s idea of pace seemed to consist in having the 
characters make all their entrances on the breathlessly ex- 
cited run as if they were about to announce that there was 
a fire back-stage, and all their exits as if they were on then- 
way to put it out. The leading role was played by a comely 
novice, Andree Wallace, whose every move, gesture and 
eye-blink Mr. Ruskin so sedulously over-directed that the 
poor girl was made to perform like Charlie McCarthy's 
sister in the grip of an alternately dreamy and fighting 
jag. The other actors, some of them naturally baleful, suf- 
fered further and no less, and the occasion in sum resolved 
itself into a secondary allegory, unmistakable, about what 
happens in the theatre when all-around incompetence 
rears its head. 



Four short comedies by Anton Chekhov: A Tragedian In 
Spite Of Himself, The Bear, On The Harmfulness Of To- 
bacco, and The Wedding. Produced by the New York City 
Theatre Company /or 2 weeks' performances in the City 
Center Theatre. 


Jose Ferrer, Richard Whorf, John Carradine, Frances Reid, Robert Car- 
roll, Phyllis Hill, Francis Letton, Paula Lawrence, Victor Thorley, Will 
Kuluva, Grace Coppin, Ralph Roberts, and Leonardo Cimino. 
Directors: lose Ferrer and Richard Barr. 

JLROTRACTED USAGE often lends a connotation to terms 
which clouds them. Thus, for one example, fig-leaf sug- 
gests to the popular mind no longer so much the foliage 
of the moraceous genus F icus as something which since 
Biblical times has served art and the .less audacious bur- 
lesque strip-teasers as a covering for the genital organs, 
widely regarded as biologically indecent. And thus, for a 
second, Russian drama suggests something closely identi- 
fiable with cancer, tuberculosis and lingering death, in a 
dark and gloomy clinical ward. It is only lately that 
another view has gradually and with difficulty overcome 
the prejudiced conception and that a small portion of the 
theatregoing public has learned to its astonishment that 
Russian drama, like that of other lands, has its share of 
comedy along with the sombre. 

The present bill of Chekhov short plays was designed 
to further the enlightenment and, though the humor in 
them is sometimes debatable, the evening at least testifies 
to the error that for so long, and in the face of comedies 
ranging all the way from K&teyev's, Squaring The Circle, 
produced many years ago, to the more recent Simonov's 
The Whole World Over, has held sway. Chekhov com- 
posed the four vaudevilles under consideration in his very 

February 5, 1948 253 

early writing days and they amount to little, though in 
one or two of them there are hints of his later mature stud- 
ies. And, with the passing of time, they have taken on a 
thematic aridity and even a flavor of the amateurish. But 
they nevertheless, to repeat, are serviceable, whatever 
their destitution, in indicating the humorous facets in a 
national drama that generally has been thought to be 
wholly without them. 

A Tragedian In Spite Of Himself is a monologue dis- 
guised as not one by having a second actor sit at a table 
and nod from time to time while he listens to the harangue 
of another. This other narrates for twenty-five minutes the 
woes of having to shop in the city for his wife and neigh- 
bors, to the accompaniment of the old comedy moxie of 
arms full of bundles which are constantly dropping from 
his grasp. It cries for a low comedian like the late W. C. 
Fields to give it any life, a job which Richard Whorf finds 
beyond his means. His efforts to distil amusement from 
a wildly disarrayed collar and other such vaudeville prop- 
erties come to naught. 

The Bear tells of an uncouth land-owner who comes to 
demand the payment of a debt incurred by a widow's 
spouse, of his loud denunciation of the lady and of woman- 
hood in general, and of his final amorous surrender to her 
charms. Its humor is negligible and would call for the 
ministrations of a Bobby Clark to encourage it. Jos6 Fer- 
rer is able to do little with it. 

On The Harmfulness Of Tobacco is a monologue by a 
henpecked husband on the agonies of his thirty-three years 
of married life. It combines comedy with pathos and in 
spots is closer to Chekhov's later character delineations. 
Ferrer comes off pretty well in this instance. 

The Wedding presents the picture of a wedding feast in 
a snide restaurant, with the snobbish bride's mother's ef- 
forts to give it some tone by hiring a military magnifico 
to lend his presence to it. It has some amusing moments, 
especially those in which the bogus magnifico, a drooling 
octogenarian, bores the assemblage with technical details 
of his craft and those in which an inarticulate Greek tries 

254 A Chekhov Bill 

to make a speech explaining the relations of his native 
land with Russia. Whorf as the ancient and Will Kuluva 
as the Greek assist in the promotion of what drollery 
there is. 

On the whole, however, the little plays are much too 
long for their content and, except for the Tobacco mono- 
logue and parts of The Wedding, I prefer the economy 
of the late Tristan Bernard's The Exile,, recorded as the 
shortest play ever to have seen production. The scene is 
a frontier cabin. Sitting at the fireplace is a mountaineer. 
A knock at the door is heard. He opens it and a man rushes 
in. The dialogue: 

Exile: "Whoever you are, have pity on a hunted 

man. There is a price on my head/' 
Mountaineer: "How much?" 




FEBRUARY 8j 1948 

An adaptation of Gorki's The Lower Depths 63; Randolph 
Goodman and Walter Carroll Produced by the Experi- 
mental Theatre, Inc., for 6 performances in the Maxine 
Elliott Theatre. 











SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place in a basement lodg- 
ing house, under a poolhaU on the outskirts of Durham, N. C. The time is 
the present. Act I. Scene 1. Basement of Qrady Horn's. A spring morn- 
ing. Scene 2. The same. That night. Act IL Scene 1. The backyard. Eve- 
ning. Several days later. Scene 2, Same as Act L Night, a few weeks later. 

Director: Alan Schneider. 

Henry Scott 
Virginia Girvin 
Harry Bolden 
Mildred Smith 


Beatrice Wade 


Catherine Ayers 
Maurice EUis 


W&tiam Marshall 


Augustus Smith 


Josh White 

Ruby Dee 

Alonzo Boson 

James Wright 

Fredi Washington 

Earl Sydnor 


Joseph James 

Eric Burroughs 



FHENEVE31 THE LATE Florenz Ziegfeld was at a loss 
what to do in one of his Follies, it was his wont to bring 
on the girls. Whenever a producer, whether of musicals 
or drama, is nowadays at a similar loss for an idea, he 
brings on the Negroes. It is thus that we have had them 
in everything from Aristophanes to Shakespeare, from 
Gilbert and Sullivan to Shaw, and from The Show-Off to 
Arsenic And Old Lace, not to mention in various shaky 
new play and show scripts originally intended for white ac- 
tors which have been sanguinely hocus-pocused into ve- 
hicles for black. We have also had numerous singular 
adaptations of plays both ancient and modern, some going 
to such extremes as, in the instance of Anna Lucasta, con- 

256 A Long Way from Home 

verting Polish characters into Negroes and in other in- 
stances presenting blacks as even High Church British. 
It will probably be any day now that some producer will 
get the notion that the Black and Tans must have been 
Ethiopians and will bequeath us O'Casey's The Plough 
And The Stars with an Afroyank cast. 

The presentation of a version of Gorki's The Lower 
Depths which transplants the scene from Russia to North 
Carolina and alters the Muscovite characters into Dixie 
Negroes accordingly has about the same daring experi- 
mental value as pouring ketchup on beans. The enter- 
prise, indeed, seems to be directed less toward any real 
experiment than toward the possible chance, if it were to 
indicate any signs of box-office life, of moving it over to 
Broadway and cashing in. A modern classic has been 
turned into a minor showshop item; a drama of Russian 
character, Russian viewpoint and Russian soul has been 
worked into a Catfish Row entertainment, minus only a 

The friendly contention in these cases is that, after all, 
human beings are at bottom much alike and that conse- 
quently there is nothing particularly violative of such a 
play as Gorki's in changing its characters from Russians 
to American Negroes. It is a pretty argument, one will 
admit, but I still am harassed by the peculiar notion that 
the Chinese, let us say, differ somewhat from the Scandi- 
navians and even the Slavs from Durham, N. C., blacks. 
There are, of course, superficial identities in nations and 
races, but the identities stop there; and to adapt, however 
freely, a drama that is essentially as Slavic as Gorki's to a 
people approximately as Slavic as corn pone is almost as 
far-fetched as adapting Lady Windermere's Fan to such 
persons as figure in Tobacco Road. 

It is a further friendly point that, in order to enjoy any 
such adaptation, one should dismiss the original play from 
mind and accept the presentation simply on its own. I 
have the weakness to confess that I am not up to any such 
agreeable suspension of judgment. If the bill of the eve- 
ning is specifically stated to be an adaptation of The 

February 8, 1948 257 

Lower Depths,, I somehow keep thinking of The Lower 
Depths and not of any completely Independent effort. The 
problem of dismissing Gorki, or even of being conscious 
of him at only widely spaced intervals, is beyond me; and 
I suspect that it would be the same if the authors were to 
appropriate the Russian without credit and offer the ex- 
hibit as their own. 

It is all very well and proper for college boys to under- 
take such adaptation pranks for their annual shows, but it 
is hardly justifiable in the case of an organization that 
makes large pretences of artistic dramatic experiment un- 
der the aegis of still another organization that elects to 
call itself by the impressive name, the American National 
Theatre and Academy. I am not so snobbish as to believe 
that interesting experiment and the box-office may not 
conceivably go hand in hand. But, as I have remarked 
earlier, I suffer a considerable skepticism about any organ- 
ization like this one which has demonstrated pretty clearly 
that it is thinking of the box-office at the expense of sound 
and reputable dramatic exploration. 

What interest there is in the presentation lies obliquely 
in contemplating the humor of Southern Negroes postur- 
ing a deep Russian introspection, grievously lamenting 
the effects of alcoholic indulgence, and otherwise comport- 
ing themselves, with imposed straight faces, like soul-tor- 
tured Slavs. 

The performance was generally of the percussion sort 
often given by Negroes unrestrained by modulatory stage 



A revival of the short play by Lennox Robinson and a new 
play by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Eva Wo las. Pro- 
duced by New Stages, Inc., for the rest of the season's per- 
formances in, initially, the New Stages Theatre. 


KATE RIORDAN Dorothy Patten 
HUGH RIORDAN Earl Hammond 
AUNT MOLL Charme Allen 
JACK RIORDAN Frank Butler 
MOLLY RIORDAN Shirley Eggleston 
Florida Freibus 

SALLIE LONG Gertrude Corey 
JIM DALY Lon Clark 
HONOR BEWLEY Barbara Joyce 
EVOKED HUGH Eugene Paid 
DR. SMITH Morton Lawrence 
NURSE SMITH Sarah Cunningham 
CLERGYMAN William Brower 

SYNOPSIS: The play takes place in the Riordans* living-room in 
a flat above the local bank in Knock, Ireland. Time: the present. 


JAMES Sid Walters 

SENATOR CLARKE Wendell Holmes 
A MAN Martin Tarby 


THE NEGRO John Marriott 

FRED Karl Weber 

JOHN Wittard Swire 

SYNOPSIS: Scene 1. A room in a southern town; morning. Scene 
2. The same; that evening. 

Directors: John O'Shaughnessy and Mary Hunter. 


XHE ROBINSON ITEM, performed here originally in 1934 
by the Abbey Theatre company, is a sub-Pirandello exercise 
far beneath its author's competences as revealed in such 
of his interesting plays as The White-Headed Boy, etc. Its 
story is of 1 a disconsolate playwright, returned to Ireland 
from London, who is persuaded that in the seemingly pro- 
saic people in his early home lurk possibly esoteric and 

February 9, 1948 259 

available dramatic plots, and who sets himself to imagine 
them in a fantastic interlude wherein they act out their 
lives. In the end, he finds himself in doubt as to how much 
of his fancy may be real and how much false. All that the 
author has been able to derive from the idea is a repeti- 
tive and tenuous comedy, much of it destitute of any dra- 
matic spirit. Some of its weaknesses were glossed over in 
the hands of the Abbey company, which included such im- 
pressive names as Barry Fitzgerald, Arthur Shields, F. J. 
McCormick, Denis O'Dea, Michael Dolan, P. J. Carolan, 
Maureen Delany and Eileen Crowe. But in the hands of 
the present troupe the frailties are only accentuated. 

The Sartre fanatics had a time of it sustaining their en- 
thusiasm for their hero in the face of The Respectful Pros- 
titute. That they were able to put up the show they did 
is a credit to their loyalty, if not to their powers of critical 
inquiry. Having extolled him as the redeemer of the mod- 
ern drama, they were slightly abashed by what, though 
they cautiously admitted it only by implication, was little 
more than another melodrama in which a Negro in the 
American South is falsely accused of the rape of a white 
woman and in which the customary pressure is brought 
to bear to prove his guilt in order to cover up a crime 
committed by a white man. 

It is, of course, possible for a creditable dramatist to 
write a bad play; we have had sufficient instances of merit 
suddenly and for the nonce descended to mediocrity; but 
I doubt if any playwright so surpassingly worthy as Sartre 
has been touted by his disciples to be has produced one 
quite so impeachable as this. Quite aside from its other 
infirmities, it indicates in its supposedly super-cerebellar 
author an ignorance beyond the melodramatically super- 
ficial of subject matter and a speciousness of approach 
that turn it at times not into something merely approxi- 
mating caricature but caricature outright. And without 
the veneer of the 1 Existentialist philosophastry which pre- 
viously has bedazzled the high-strung into imagining that 
there was much more to his plays than the less twittery 

260 Church Street and Respectful Prostitute 

could manage to detect in them, it shows up both itself 
and its author in a sizzling light, as his idolators in France 
and England have reluctantly and with pain been embar- 
rassed to admit, and as even his local votaries have had 
some visible agony in disbelieving. That, however, despite 
their momentary mild hesitations they will presently and 
with all the old fervor return to the tonic is not hard, if 
one reflects on past statistics in similar directions, to sur- 
mise. It took many years to disillusion the stanch be- 
lievers in even the Cardiff giant and Henry George. 

That Sartre's local constituency was partly deceived by 
Eva Wolas, his translator, is to be allowed. The precau- 
tionary lady has deleted from his original script a little of 
its imbecility, has here and there edited into it a measure 
of credibility that it was wholly without, and has lent it 
a small share of theatrical conviction. As Sartre wrote the 
play, it was often so ridiculously alien in its approach to 
its theme that even the French critics had no trouble in 
sniffing its absurdities and making sport of them. As it 
now stands, it is still a cut-and-dried lynch melodrama 
with a few effective theatrical moments but, while an im- 
provement upon the original, nothing that any third-rate 
American playwright could not write, and indeed has. 

In such reflections on Sartre's standing, I confine myself 
relevantly to his dramatic efforts; his novels are apart from 
the appraisal. It is these plays of his, so admired by his in- 
fatuates, that in the main present themselves to drama 
criticism as so many shoe-box bombs, their dollar alarm 
clocks ticking like mad and their wires of a startling prob- 
ability, but minus any. real explosives; all, however, pros- 
perously scary to such as do not trouble to investigate them 

When, on March 16, the company moved uptown into 
the Cort Theatre, Thornton Wilder's The Happy Journey 
was substituted for the Robinson play as a curtain-raiser. 
Written seventeen years ago its original title was The 
Happy Journey To Trenton and Camden and since 
played by various amateur groups, it is a highly sentimen- 
talized trifle about a family's trip in an old car to visit its 

February 9, 1948 261 

offspring in her married estate. Wilder employs the bare 
stage technique which was later to serve him in Our Town. 
Meg Mundy's performance in the Sartre play indicated 
an uncommon talent in an actress of so little previous ex- 



FEBRUARY 10, 1948 

A revival of the satirical political comedy by George 
Bernard Shaw. Produced by the Dublin Gate Theatre, 
sponsored by Richard Aldrich and Richard Myers in as- 
sociation with Brian Doherty, for 8 performances in the 
Mansfield Theatre. 


HODSON Norman Barrs 

TOM BROADBENT Hilton Edwards 
TIM HAFFIGAN Reginald Jarrnan 


Micheal Mac Liammoir 
FATHER KEEGAN Edward Golden 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. The home and office of Doyle 6- 
Broadbent, Civil Engineers, Great Georges Street* Westminster, London. 
A summer evening, 1904. Scene 2. A hillside near Roscullen, Ireland. An 
evening some days later. Scene 3. The Round Tower near Rosct&en. 
Later that evening. Act IE. Outside Cornelius Doyle's house, Roscullen. 
After breakfast the next morning. Act III. Scene 1. Parlor in Cornelius 
Doyle's house. The same day. Scene 2. The hillside. Later in the evening. 

Director: Hilton Edwards. 

NORAH REELLY Meriel Moore 

AUNT JUDY Nor a O'Mahony 

BARNEY DORAN Patrick Nolan 

AN THE GRIND of nightly reviewing, often seemingly with- 
out end, you come willy-nilly to the point where merely 
relative values occasionally upset your critical poise and 
where, after plays for some time have been jumping on 
you and squashing you, you find yourself tickled to toss 
yourself into the air for one that conducts itself even a lit- 
tle more benignly. Such is the case, at least in a manner 
of speaking, with this John Bull's Other Island which, 
though very far from the best of Shaw, is still so markedly 
superior to most of the things we have been getting this 
season that under the circumstances it takes on the look of 
something right out of a first-class jeweler's window. That, 
for all its several deserts and one's comparative delight 

February 10, 1948 263 

in it, it is not out of any such window or even out of its 
author's second top drawer, is, of course, the more sober 
critical fact, which I here say the hell with. It is plenty 
cockle-warming as things go these nights and I, for one, 
am grateful to get it, particularly as it is acted by most of 
the visiting Irish players. 

With any play -as old as this, it is the habit of the re- 
viewers to allow that everybody is probably already so 
familiar with it that there is no sense in repeating what it 
is about. The dodge is a convenient one, since it simul- 
taneously not only flatters the wide dramatic knowledge 
of readers perhaps not more than one out of a thousand 
of whom knows anything at all about the play, but also 
frees the colleagues from telling at length the plot, which 
is one of the most irksome things about the reviewing 
business. While I appreciate that my particular clientele 
is on the other hand on entirely intimate terms with dra- 
matic literature from 438 B.C. to the present, it is still re- 
motely possible that there may be one or even two amongst 
it whose notice the Shaw play has somehow escaped. So 
I report for their sakes that it deals humorously with 
the contrasting English and Irish temperaments and with 
the dreamy but nonetheless gimme Celts as opposed to the 
pseudo-realistic, matter-of-fact, and obtuse British. 

Plot as plot has never much interested Shaw. He is, to 
be sure, sharp enough to realize that you have to have 
some kind of story, however slight, to get away with wit, 
however meritorious, at the box-office, and so has not neg- 
lected a thread of it. The thread is a visit to Ireland by a 
pair of codgers from England, one o whom is bent on up- 
lifting a hypothetically martyred people about whom he 
understands nothing, the other, an anglicized Gelt who 
views all reform and altruism as so much flumdiddle. The 
Irish begin by laughing at their quixotic saviour but in 
the end cagily accept him at his own value for the material 
benefactions he promises to bestow on them. As is his cus- 
tom, Shaw views the plot, or what there is of it, simply as 
a hook on which to hang his hat upside down and let his 
ideas spill out. The ideas in this instance may no longer 

264 John Buffs Other Island 

be as green as grass, but he sprinkles them into a sem- 
blance of that hue with the hose of his intellectual wag- 
gery and admirable literary style. 

"It's all rot/' remarks the English uplifter of a speech 
made by the English cynic. "It's all rot, but it's so brilliant, 
you know." Reviewing the play when it was first produced 
in London almost forty-four years ago, Walkley wrote, 
"Here, no doubt, Shaw is slyly taking a side glance at the 
usual English verdict on his own works. The verdict will 
need some slight modification in the case of John Bull's 
Other Island. For ... the play is not all rot. Further, it 
has some other qualities than mere brilliancy. It is at once 
a delight and disappointment." To which, with some quali- 
fication of the word "rot," we may say, stet. 

The presenting Gate company, as intimated, is in the 
aggregate a good one. I am well aware that there is often 
a tendency to overestimate alien actors when they offer 
themselves in another land in a play in which they por- 
tray characters indigenous to their own. But I trust I re- 
tain a composed enough eye to detect in this Irish aggre- 
gation the talent that is in some of its members. 

In respect to the scanty physical production, Micheal 
MacLiammoir, co-founder with Hilton Edwards of the 
Gate and one of its present acting company, states, "The 
play, as I see it, remains not as a sidelight on the parlia- 
mentary passing show of 1904, but as a portrait, incom- 
plete but penetrating and faithful, of two countries, two 
states of mind, two points of view about life. It is as dated 
as an old family photograph, as artless and as revealing. 
And that is perhaps why Edwards and I have thought it a 
good thing to paint its furniture (which nobody would 
think of sitting on any more but just of pointing at and 
remembering a little) on the backcloth." The explanation 
and apology are scarcely convincing. It would take a con- 
siderably mofe expert syllogism to make absorbent any 
such flagrant Irish skimping. Mr. MacLiammoir seems to 
have forgotten that if you paint furniture, "which nobody 
would think of sitting on any more," on a backdrop, it 
is a give-away to have nevertheless a few articles of it on 

February 10, 1948 265 

the stage and to disclose the characters not only thinking 
of sitting on them but frequently depositing themselves 
on them. 

My old friend, Ivor Brown, dramatic critic for the Lon- 
don Observer., has lately vented his indignation at the 
'little fuss-pots" who allow that some of Shaw's plays and 
opinions have dated, and Eric Bentley in his recent other- 
wise commendable book on Shaw has similarly permitted 
himself to look askance at those who have ventured that 
the great man "has had his day." Admiration and respect 
for Shaw, in which the twain surely do not stand alone, 
seem to have overcome their critical balance. That certain 
of Shaw's plays and opinions show their age must be evi- 
dent to anyone this side of blind idolatry. This John Bull's 
Other Island is just one example. But to show age, whether 
in work or in person, is no great smirch, however much 
in the former direction it may be theatrically luckless. 
One does not speak of trash ageing, since it is already aged 
at birth. When one speaks of superior work having aged, 
it is a tribute to work that has been esteemed. Mr. Bentley 
in this connection also disturbs the judicious. In his gen- 
eral ardor for Shaw and speaking of his readings on him, 
he writes, "I found praise, but most of it naive or invidi- 
ous. I found blame, but most of it incoherent and scurri- 
lous." May one doubt if Mr, Bentley's readings, though 
broad, have been quite broad enough? What he says is true 
so far as he has read and quotes, but surely there has been 
praise of Shaw, and a good deal of it from highly percep- 
tive quarters, that has been in no degree either naive or 
invidious, and blame from equally intelligent quarters 
in no degree incoherent and scurrilous. Mr. Bentley, of 
course, supports his contention with carefully chosen quo- 
tations. I believe that I, among a lot of others, might 
match him and even double him with others chosen with 
a like finesse. 

Nor is he sometimes wholly exact. He speaks in his fore- 
word of Edmund Wilson and myself as having written of 
Shaw as of a man who had had his day. So far, again true. 
But it was a very long and very brilliant day, and when a 

266 John Bulls Other Island 

writer crosses life's November one may scarcely expect of 
him that that day shall still be lit by the earlier dazzling 
sunshine. Criticism cannot be sentimental, nor can it con- 
found fact with hope, unfortunately. Surely, if the reader 
will forgive him, there is no superior and condescending 
note, as Mr, Bentley seems to imply, in this from your 
present reviewer's last essay on Shaw: 

"The great man is nearing the threshold of the here- 
after. The theatre has not seen his like before and will not 
see it soon again. He has brought to it a merry courage, a 
glorious wit, a musical tenderness, and a world of needed 
vitality. He has laughed at the old gods and, to give them 
their due, the old gods have enjoyed it. And outside and be- 
yond the theater he has let a wholesome breeze into more 
assorted kinds of national, international, private and pub- 
lic buncombe than has any other writer of his period. 
Therefore, hail, Shaw, hail and I hope I shall wait long 
before saying it farewell!" 



A play by Joseph L. Estry. Produced by Harold Barnard 
for 5 performances in the Booth Theatre. 





Ronald Alexander DR. FLEMING Donald Foster 

MRS. HAMILTON Netty Malcolm PAUL HARRIS Drake Thorton 

SYNOPSIS; The entire action of the play takes place in Dr. Far- 
rar's office* laboratory and treatment room. Act I. The present. Act II. 
Scene 1. Three weeks later. Scene 2. One week later. Act III. Scene 1. 
Ten days later. Scene 2. One hour has passed. 

Director: Don AppeU. 


OSEPH L. ESTRY is alleged to be a pen-name adopted by 
one Maxwell Maltz, a stage-struck New York plastic sur- 
geon who doubtless will not be remembered as the author 
of the book of the musical show, The Lady Says Yes, which 
also will doubtless not be remembered, providentially. 
Mr. Maltz, a modest man, on the previous occasion cau- 
tiously and wisely resorted to the pen-name, Clayton 
Ashley. In that case as in this, as if sagely anticipating the 
worst, he has stoutly denied that either Estry or Ashley was 
or is himself, which is a matter that perhaps will not figure 
too importantly in history. If he is not Estry, 1 offer him my 
congratulations, since the play under present considera- 
tion, a scientific tiddledewink dealing with cancer re- 
search, is what the less refined are accustomed to describe 
as a smeller. 

The hero of the little daisy is, like Mr. Maltz and con- 
sentually Mr. Estry, a plastic surgeon of fashionable cut 
whose particular genius lies in the reshaping of the unwel- 
come noses of his tony clintle. To his office comes one 
day a beautiful young woman with a scar on her face, 

268 Doctor Social 

which he diagnoses as a cancer. Aided by the customary 
elaborate program notes consisting o quotations from 
such great scientific journals as Newsweek, he experiments 
on the fair one with a spleen extract which Newsweek 
contends is a potential arrester of carcinoma and not only, 
surely to his own and probably to Newsweek's surprise 
and satisfaction, cures her but, to the surprise if not satis- 
faction of no one who has gone to the theatre more than a 
couple of times, falls in love with her. The scientific and 
amorous elements in the play are as dovetailed as a beer 
keg and baby go-cart; the writing enjoys all the flavor of a 
schoolboy's earliest attempts at belles-lettres; and the act- 
ing, except for a shrewd histrionic retirement from her 
role by Miss Stoddard, is minor summer-theatre. The only 
real professional note is to be found in Stewart Chaney's 
setting of the medical quarters. 

When, in such cases, there is no thought, wit or literary 
sleight to compensate one in part for the chlorotic stage 
doings, it is as difficult to keep one's mind on the latter as 
it is to keep it on the repetitional calypso and umbilicus 
shows described in an earlier chapter, and one finds it 
scooting off in all kinds of directions. Purists in respect to 
drama criticism may blanch at the idea of recording such 
digressions, but since drama criticism would be wasted 
on any such exhibit as this and hence judicially is not en- 
tered into here, the recording may not be as entirely 
unwarranted as the precisians contend. While, in the 
latter's favor, I will not vouch for the digressions' qual- 
ity, I accordingly submit them as examples of what a 
bad play and a bad playwright sometimes let me and 
you in for. 

Here, then, are some of the things that, often irrele- 
vantly, went through my head while it was optimistically 
expected to be occupying itself with the Estry revelations: 

I am a fool not to have stayed at home on a night like 
this. The title, Doctor Social^ should have been enough to 
warn me. 

February 11, 1948 269 

The critics have made so many jokes about stage but- 
lers that playwrights now seem to be afraid to include one 
of them in their scripts. Instead, they resort, safely they 
think, to maids. I don't like it. A household that properly 
should have a butler, however waywardly comical the 
character may be, is unconvincing when his place is taken 
by a female servant who generally looks as if she had been 
out in the kitchen cooking lamb stew and had whipped on 
cap and apron to announce Sir Esme Paget-Mintz. 

Many of our current playwrights feel that they have 
contrived something extra-commendable if they contain 
the action of their plays within a single day. Most often 
the time economy is transparently arbitrary and fraudu- 
lent. Drama in life on only the rarest occasions confines 
its course to twenty-four hours. Much more often it 
ploughs slowly over days, months, and years before reach- 
ing its resolution. 

I have been accused of prejudice in my comprehensive 
distaste for and avoidance of the motion picture art 
which, its admirers sternly point out to me, has elements 
of beauty, intelligence, charm, sex-appeal, etc., which I 
am missing. All that I can say in reply, if they are right, is 
that Lillian Russell was similarly endorsed for her beauty, 
intelligence, charm, sex-appeal, etc., but that she was 
nevertheless not my type. 

What often seems to impressionables to be symbolism 
in the plays of some contemporary playwrights is nothing 
but confusion of thought presented as deliberate intelli- 

* * * 

If I were an actor, I should train myself to play the roles 
of Chinamen. I have yet to see an actor who failed in such 
a role; it seems to be one of the easiest and surest, whether 

270 Doctor Social 

serious or comical, in the entire catalogue. True, I might 
not get many jobs, since plays and shows with Chinese 
roles, unlike those in the past, are few and far between. 
But when I did get one, I would know that I'd be certain 
to make a hit. If, on the other hand, I were an actress, I 
should look hard for roles in which I would be a Salvation 
Army girl, and for the same reason. You think the remarks 
are silly? Look up the records for the last seventy-five 

* # # 

I am frequently asked if I do not get bored going to the 
theatre night upon night after so many years. I notice that 
the questioner, who has trouble avoiding a trace of pity 
in his voice, is usually some man who has enthusiastically 
been going to a business office day after day for the same 
long length of time. 

The line of dialogue in the Messrs. Lindsay's and 
Grouse's political play, State Of The Union, which was 
most admired by the critics and on which the authors 
were most highly complimented by them was, you may 
recall, "Let's stop thinking about the next election when 
we should be thinking about the next generation." On 
January 12, 1927, many years before, in a prayer offered 
by Glenn Frank, then president of the University of Wis- 
consin, at the fifty-eighth session of the State legislature, 
Dr. Frank said, "Save us from thinking about the next elec- 
tion when we should be thinking about the next genera- 

I assuredly don't want to argue for a return of the old- 
time cloak and sword and kindred dramatic balderdash, 
but there was something impressively romantic about its 
titles which has passed from the titles of plays today and 
which latter bring a suggestion of drabness into a medium 
whose very foundation is romance. Think, for example, 
of In The Palace Of The King, The Song Of The Sword, 

February 11 7 1948 271 

The Pride Of Jennico, The Count Of Monte Cristo, The 
Sprightly Romance Of Marsac, Sweet Nell Of Old Drury, 
When Knighthood Was In Flower, Captain Jinks Of The 
Horse Marines, Under Southern Skies, Alice Of Old Vin- 
cennes, The Helmet Of Navarre, D'Arcy Of The Guards, A 
Gentleman Of France, The Sword Of The King, My Lady 
Peggy Goes To Town, Hearts Courageous, The Proud 
Prince, John Ermine Of The Yellowstone, The Pretty Sis- 
ter Of Jose, Sweet Kitty Bellairs, Dorothy Vernon Of Had- 
don Hall, and The Light That Lies In Woman's Eyes. 

Think also of // / Were King, The Dagger And The 
Cross, The Fortunes Of The King, The Prince Consort, A 
Parisian Romance, A Light From St. Agnes, A Blot In The 
"Scutcheon, The Girl Of The Golden West, The Fascinat- 
ing Mr. Vanderveldt, and The Daughter Of The Tumbrils. 
And of The Embassy Ball, The Prince Of India, King 
Rene's Daughter, The Rose Of The Rancho, The Belle Of 
London Town, The Rose Of The Alhambra, The Royal 
Box, When Knights Were Bold, The House Of A Thou- 
sand Candles, The Flower Of Yamato, The Royal 
Mounted^ and The Prisoner Of Zenda. 

Think of all such purple dandies, and now think of 
what we have got on theatre marquees in later years: Is 
Zat So?, Love 'Em And Leave 'Em, Lady, Behave! , Suds 
In Your Eye, Pick-up Girl, Oh, Brother!, Woman Bites 
Dog, Crazy With' The Heat, Snoakie, They Should Have 
Stood In Bed, Behind Red Lights, Bet Your Life, The 
Fireman's Flame, How To Get Tough About It, Waltz In 
Goosestep, and Battleship Gertie. To say nothing of 
Them's The Reporters, Stick-in-the-Mud, The Sap Runs 
High, Hot-Chal, Move On y Sister, Are You Decent? 
Stripped, Everything's Jake, She Lived Next To The Fire- 
house, She Means Business, A Modern Virgin, A Regular 
Guy, and / Gotta Get out. 

No wonder. 

The remarks of even the most illustrious workers in the 
theatre seem sometimes to be without much sense. Yeats, 

272 Doctor Social 

for example, observes in The Cutting Of An Agate, "Of all 
artistic forms that have a large share of the world's atten- 
tion, the worst is the play about modern educated people. 
It has one mortal ailment: it cannot become impassioned 
without making somebody gushing and sentimental. Edu- 
cated people have no artistic and charming language ex- 
cept light persiflage, and no powerful language at all, and 
when they are deeply moved they look silently into the 
fireplace. . . ." 

Is it possible that Yeats could not have been acquainted 
with a great variety of plays like Shaw's Candida among 
others, Granville Barker's The Voysey Inheritance, 
Schnitzler's Professor Bernhardi among others, O'Neill's 
Strange Interlude, Maugham's Our Betters and The Cir- 
cle, some of the Pirandello plays, etc., etc.? 

The never dying argument as to the relative beauty of 
the women of the theatre in the yesterdays and today over- 
looks, I think, one important point. Even assuming that 
both those of the past and the present have enjoyed the 
same measure of looks, there can be small doubt that those 
of other days seemed the more beautiful, and for a simple 
reason. They were, in brief, unlike most of those nowa- 
days, presented beautifully by the men who produced the 
plays and shows in which they appeared. The good-look- 
ing girl in these times is simply thrown at an audience; in 
the past, she was insinuated into its appreciation. She was 
dressed with elaborate shrewdness; she was set into a lovely 
frame; she was lighted with canny care; she was press- 
agented with an eye to what is currently known in Holly- 
wood as glamour; she was cautiously persuaded by her 
management to be seen only in the properly brilliant res- 
taurants and with the properly important escorts; and she 
was photographed only by the Saronys and Hills and Al- 
fred Cheney Johnstons who knew how to drape her figure 
and pose her in such wise that what attractiveness she pos- 
sessed would be heightened by their cameras. She was, in 

February 11, 1948 273 

a word, even when beautiful on her own, lent an added 
beauty and an added allure. 

The beautiful girl today gets no such treatment, or at 
best very little. She is photographed by some sidestreet 
bulb-squeezer who operates a theatrical mill and turns out 
photographs of all and sundry like so many doughnuts; 
she is an habituee of Sardfs and the steak houses, and gen- 
erally in the company of Broadway nondescripts; she 
dresses in public not in the lovely evening things of her 
sisters of yesterday but as if she were on her way to market 
or a neighborhood movie; her press-agent publicizes her 
behind large hamburgers or with pictures showing her 
perched on a steamship rail with her skirt up to her navel 
and idiotically waving a hand in the air; and her manage- 
ment either casts her in unappetizing roles or pushes her 
out onto a stage dressed for the most part in an unattrac- 
tive manner and lighted by someone whose real forte is 
the illumination of Broadway haberdashery windows. 

It is a belief stubbornly held by the critics that actors 
can not achieve eminence in their profession save the plays 
in which they appear are authentic specimens of the dra- 
matic art. Many actors and actresses have confounded the 
lofty principle. Duse achieved most of her great reputation 
in the rhetorical junk of D'Annunzio. Bernhardt achieved 
hers largely through such stuff as Sardou's and such things 
as Camille and Frou-Frou. All kinds of actors and actresses 
have built their reputations on rubbish: George Arliss 
with plays like The Darling Of The Gods, The Rose, The 
Eyes Of The Heart, etc.; Kyrle Bellew with In His Power, 
Loyal Love, Raffles, The Thief, and the like; Mrs. Fiske 
with a wealth of claptrap; Charles Hawtrey with every- 
thing from The Private Secretary and The Lucky Miss 
Dean to A Message From Mars and The Cuckoo; Rose 
Coghlan with Forget-Me-Not, A Scrap Of Paper, The Sil- 
ver King, Diplomacy, etc.; Madge Kendal with such twad- 
dle as Broken Hearts, A Hero Of Romance, The Wicked 

274 Doctor Social 

World, etc.; and Sir Charles Wyndham with David Gar- 
rick, Pink Dominoes, Dearer Than Life, and Betsy, 

And let the critics not forget E. S. Willard who spent 
his life largely in things like A Pair Of Spectacles, A Fool's 
Paradise, and The Professor's Love Story; the great Mod- 
jeska whose reputation was assisted quite as much by 
Heartsease, The Old Love And The New and Adrienne 
Lecouvreur as by her Ophelia and Juliet; and various such 
others. And what, today, of Helen Hayes? Let them think 
of most of the stuff in which that girl has appeared! 

There is something comical to me in the spectacle of 
men wrapped up in scientific pursuits who, as in this play, 
always in their actor impersonations seem just to have 
come from Michael Arlen's tailor. 

I certainly am a fool not to have stayed at home and 
worked on a possibly readable essay on all such cancer, 
syphilis, tuberculosis and like dramatic entertainments, 
at least as we have had them, with appropriate specula- 
tions on their place in a medium properly the province 
of poets, romancers, wits, visionaries, and star-stabbed 



A revival of the play by Henrik Ibsen. Produced by the 
American Repertory Company and Louis J. Singer for one 
week's performances in the Cort Theatre. 




Eva Le Ga&ienne 

Herbert Berghof 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place at Mrs. Airing's country house, 
beside one of the large fjords in western Norway. The time is toward the 
end of the nineteenth century. Act L Late afternoon. Act n. After din- 
ner; same evening. Act in. Dawn; the next morning. 

Director: Margaret Webster. 


: TRUTH and pine needles, Eva Le Gallieiuie crushed 
to earth will rise again. Though her career has in greater 
measure been marked by frustration, her ardor is inex- 
haustible and year after year she persistently springs up to 
re-court the muse. The so-called American Repertory 
Company indicates a like resilience, perhaps because what 
little is left of it is largely this same determined lady. 
Though it already has failed twice, here at least in name 
it turns up once more. It would be extremely pleasant if 
I could report that the dual resurrection was a consumma- 
tion to exalt the multitude, but I fear that that joy is de- 
nied me. And so yet again it becomes my unhappy duty 
to report that the occasion is scarcely restorative. 

Of the firm opinion that Ibsen's plays call for some re- 
writing and re-editing and that she is the one to do it, 
Miss Le Gallienne, as in the case of John Gabriel Bork- 
man last season, has volunteered her talents to Ghosts, 
with results that approach the bizarre. "When I visited 
Oslo in 1938," she says, "I was honored with a first edition 
of Ghosts. Thumbing the pages of the Norwegian script 

276 Ghosts 

[no language, apparently, Is beyond Miss Le Gallienne's 
facile grasp] I was awed and amazed by the easy flowing 
dialogue that had vitality, spontaneity, wit and humor so 
sadly lacking in the translation o William Archer. . . . 
It is not, as classicists are apt to believe [may one ask what 
classicists?], stiff, ponderous, and replete with symbolism. 
In adapting Ibsen from the original Norwegian, I have 
brought it up to date. People speak in everyday speech, 
unadorned by pompous phrases of Victorian vintage/' 

That Archer's translation of the in its time remarkable 
play is at least in part what Miss Le Gallienne describes it 
as being (one doubts, among other things, its sad lack of 
vitality) , is to be freely admitted. But that Miss Le Gal- 
lienne's version of the -play, while grantedly a little more 
fluid to the contemporary ear, any more assists it is some- 
thing less than an open question. To bring the speech of 
a drama of sixty-seven years ago and one laid toward 
the end of the nineteenth century and concerned with 
problems and points of view peculiar to its immediate pe- 
riod into a present day flavor is not only to make the 
play at times slightly fatuous but to emphasize to its dam- 
age its thematic age. When, in this later era of immediate 
diagnosis and penicillin and fever therapy, it is hoped to 
invest the once startling subject of syphilis with a current 
and equal startle by substituting for Archer's Victorian 
speech dialogue full of such terms and expressions as "let 
yourself go," "aren't I?" and "bitch" when such is the 
fond indulgence, the subject matter, far from being made 
approximately modern, is made only to seem doubly dated. 
It avails little to name an old horse-car Buick. 

I suppose, however, that, in view of what Miss Le Gal- 
lienne in the past has done to other of the classics, we 
should be grateful that she has not seen fit to perform even 
further upon the script. It seems to me that Ibsen remains 
a dramatist whom you either take as he was or leave strictly 
alone. But should Miss Le Gallienne in inevitably still 
another production of Ghosts increasingly think other- 
wise, I suggest that she go much farther than her present 
improvement upon him. Always one to fee of help, I give 

February 16, 1948 277 

her a suggestion in brief outline. Why not change the 
scene to Connecticut, keep the orphanage from burning, 
and convert its barn-like structure into a summer theatre 
with Mrs. Alving as manager? Through his loving mother's 
influence, Oswald is given a place in its acting company, 
since she feels that the occupation will take his already 
tottering mind off itself. But, instead and to her woe, the 
orphanage-bairn theatre acting and production drive the 
sensitive artistic soul of her poor son so crazy that he ends 
up, as the last curtain falls, crying for the Sun and its crit- 
ic's notices on his performances. 

The final tragk irony of it all is bound to exercise its 
spell over a New York audience, since it will appreciate 
that Mr. Morehouse is usually off shooting buffaloes in 
the summer season and does not review the rural play- 

Not merely a proficient but a superlative performance 
is necessary to provoke interest, apart from the historical 
and scholarly, in any present production of a play like 
Ghosts, and this one, except for the Oswald of Alfred 
Ryder, gets not even a faintly proficient one. Miss Le Gal- 
lienne's Mrs. Alving is much less acting in any real defini- 
tion of the term than a recitation of the role. The recita- 
tion is a clear and intelligent one, and hints that she has a 
profitable career open to her as a platform reader of the 
classics; the women's clubs should welcome her like a sis- 
ter. But what she presents on a dramatic stage is merely a 
lesson studiously learned and projected as a lesson. Of 
characterization there is nothing; and of acting nothing 
beyond a fist pounded into a palm to suggest determina- 
tion, hands suddenly clasped to the sides of the head to 
register troubled concern, and a hand abruptly extended 
palm upward to indicate everything from solicitude to en- 
treaty and from skepticism to resignation. When she is 
not speaking and has to sit aside whilst other characters 
are, she disappears from the stage completely; there is no 
sense of her presence; she seems to have done her little act 
and to be resting outside the play until again called upon. 
Her speaking voice is a good and agreeable one, but over- 

278 Ghosts 

all she gives, as heretofore, the impression of a dish of ar- 
ticulate ice-cream. 

Robert Emhardt's Engstrand needs only a touch of Irish 
accent to fit handsomely into John Bull's Other Island. 
Herbert Berghofs Manders, both in makeup and stridor, 
belongs in a burlesque show version of The Passing Of 
The Third Floor Back. And Jean Hagen's Regina seems 
to have come out of the summer stock company which 
drove Oswald out of his mind. Add all this together, sup- 
plement it with Miss Le Gallienne's effort to dovetail the 
First Mrs. Fraser with the first Mrs. Alving, and adorn it 
further with invertebrate direction by Margaret Webster, 
and you begin to savor the picture. 

On the general question of acting, and on Miss Le Gal- 
lienne's in particular, I should like to quote from a letter 
written to the New York Times by the Russian actor, 
Boris Marshalov: 

Recent disputes about the Anglo-Saxon "restraint" and 
the European "over-acting" remind one of the anecdotal 
query: ''Which is more correct to say "ingnoramus" or 
"engnoramus?" When actors restrain the emptiness in- 
side of them they are just as boring as the ones who throw 
at the audiences that same emptiness as so many colorful 
bubbles. Good acting is the ability to express oneself 
simply, naturally, sincerely, convincingly, but also color- 
fully, interestingly and excitingly. It never is some of it; 
it is all of it. When one goes horseback riding, one is not 
satisfied with just the front of the horse or just the horse's 

Critical and public dissatisfaction caused the withdrawal 
of the Ghosts production after a single week's engagement. 


FEBRUARY 17, 1948 

A fantasy by Denis Johnston. Produced by the Dublin 
Gate Theatre under the auspices of Richard Aldrich and 
Richard Myers in association with Brian Doherty for one 
week's performances in the Mansfield Theatre. 


Micheal MacLiammoir 
SARAH CURRAN Meriel Moore 

MAJOR Snm Reginald Jarman 

IST REDCOAT Bryan Herbert 

2o REDCOAT Liam Gannon 

Roy Irving 
Edward Golden 
Denis Brennan 
Patrick Nolan 

ONES } Nora O'Mahony 

Helena Hughes 
Betsy Bogues 
Patricia Kennedy 
Edna O'Rourke 

SYNOPSIS: The action of this play takes place on the stage of a 
Dublin theatre; the time is the present. The opening scene represents the 
garden of "The Priory" the home of John Philpot Curran, dose to Rath- 
farnham, Dublin, on the night of 25th August, 1803. The rest of the play 
takes place in the mind of The Speaker. 

Director: Hilton Edwards. 


.T is, I am told, sometimes bruited of me that I am 
diced in favor of the Irish drama, which, all things con- 
sidered, is like accusing me or anyone else of being preju- 
diced in favor of freshly cooked food as against left-overs 
pulled out of the icebox. Ireland, it seems to me, has for 
some years now been the only country whose playwrights 
in the aggregate, whether successfully or in failure, have 
indicated any real gesture toward dramatic imagination, 
dramatic-literary quality, and contempt for easy popu- 
larity. Some of their plays have been very bad (the recent 
Kathleen was just one horrible example) ; some have been 
faWy acceptable^ or better; some have been grantecfly 
among the masterpieces o our day and age. But whatever 

280 The Old Lady Says "Nor 

they have been, they have with minor exception at least 
tried to swing over drama the lamp of poetry and beauty 
and to sprinkle it with a little of the dust of stars. 

The man in the advertisements who sat down at the 
piano has not tempted any louder laughter than those of 
us who, for what seems a considerable time, have felt that 
way about things. And among the loudest cacklers have 
been the majority of our local producers and their sub- 
servient sheep. It is the humor of these that has kept from 
our stage all the new works of the matchless O' Casey and 
all the new imagery of a dreaming Dunsany and almost all 
the later efforts of their more accomplished countrymen, 
and for the greater part has blessed us instead with scrim 
backdrop fancy, tin-horn realism, and potential movie 
screen fare. 

It has accordingly been a pleasure to have this Dublin 
company pay us a visit and afford us a glimpse for a change 
of some of its native writing. In the case of the play under 
consideration, by the author of the admirable The Moon 
In The Yellow River,, it would be comfortably jolly for 
me if I could jump onto my little bandwagon and shout, 
"See, I told you so; here is another Irish masterpiece, writ- 
ten all of eighteen years ago, which the American stage has 
spurned!" But, such is the mean trick the theatre occasion- 
ally plays on me, I am afraid that I will not be able to do 
it. The play is no masterpiece. But it is nonetheless an ex- 
citing adventure in the theatre; it is far and away the most 
imaginative play seen here in some time; it touches the 
hem of radiance and wonder; and over-all it brings to a 
stage worn and tired and feeble a renewed life and a re- 
newed challenge. And it does not stand the ghost of a 
chance to make a nickel in this theatre of ours as that 
theatre presently stands. 

The story, in the first place, which deals with an actor 
who suffers an injury to his head while playing the role of 
the idealistic patriot, Robert Emmet, and who in his de- 
lirium moves despairingly through the chzyos and corrup- 
tion of the modern Irish spirit, is confusing to the local 
mind. It moreover in the telling a& racmeats/ confuses it- 

February 17, 1948 281 

self, and now and then is repetitious. It is also a bit too 
long, and it descends here and there from its purple 
heights into the gully of relatively damp expression. But 
all the same and with all its slips it remains a proud and 
brilliant effort, and it was to be recommended to those 
few remaining theatregoers amongst us who still view the 
stage as Shaw viewed it and its critics. "But there really 
was something to roar at this time/' he wrote. "There was 
a real play . , and for me, at least, there was a confirma- 
tion of my sometimes flagging faith that a dramatic critic 
is really the servant of a high art, and not a mere adver- 
tiser of entertainments of questionable respectability of 

What Johnston has set himself to do is to evolve a dra- 
matic pattern based on the principles of musical composi- 
tion. Though his attempt goes sometimes awry, the tech- 
nical plan comes through save for an incorporated scherzo, 
treating of the dilettante element in present day Dublin, 
which has the effect of violating the preceding and subse- 
quent movements. What he has further set himself to 
capture in the direction of technique is, to quote his 
spokesman, the mixing of all the elements in his story in a 
nightmare's cauldron. "The Old Lady who says 'No!' be- 
comes a caustic vision of modern Ireland, a degraded Kath- 
leen ni Houhlihan, and is confused in the mind of Emmet, 
her lover, with Sarah Curran (his sweetheart) and with 
Beatrice whose image haunted Dante in his journey 
through die infernal regions; with the fulfillment of his 
own soul; and with the discovery of the secrets of life and 
death." The characters, we are reminded, are not so much 
individuals as general types, symbols of ideas or attitudes. 
And the dramaturgical plan lies somewhere between a kind 
of Greek choral tragedy and a modern farcical satire. The 
undertones are those of Joyce and Freud, the overtones 
those of O'Casey and Yeats. The result is now and again 
a little perplexing; so much is piled upon so much; but 
the final impression is of a play in which the sun strikes 
through the clouds much more often than the clouds ob- 
scure it 

282 The Old Lady Says "No!" 

The direction meets ably the difficulties imposed upon 
It; the choral business is handled with an uncommon pro- 
ficiency; and the acting company is at its best. The scenic 
backgrounds, however, are at cheap fault. 

Only a small portion of the local critical reaction to the 
play was favorable. In larger degree, the verdicts were ex- 
pressed in such terms as "doggedly chaotic and often very 
dull,'* "pretty cumbersome and steadily untheatrical," 
"gives you the willies,'* "a dismal center of disappoint- 
ment/' "tedious and exasperating,'* and "it is as difficult 
to sit through as it is to read through Joyce's Ulysses. Both 
are confusion rampant. Both send you to commentators 
who think they know what the shooting is all about and 
are not backward in explaining it to you. You can have 
our share of both." As to the confusion hi understanding 
the play, I like Mr. Kronenberger's "As for understanding 
every bit of it, it is far less of a misfortune not to know 
what a play is all about than to know what it is all about 
within the first four minutes." 

What our theatre seems to want, in brief, is not any such 
valorous drama, any such attempt to reach up into the 
boughs of imagination and poetry, but rather merely good, 
loud, rough laugh shows like Mister Roberts*, whereon I 
quote from the tributes of the same reviewers quoted 
above: "A magnificent drama,'* "a moving drama that no 
one who witnesses it will soon forget," "everything which 
is wonderful about the theatre," "a salty and grand play," 
"a play that held me on my chair's edge, laughing out- 
rageously with tears behind the laughter/' "among the 
finest/' and "a triumphant example of drama." 

Page Mr. Shaw. 



A play by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan based on 
the novel of the same title by Heggen. Produced by Leland 
Hayward for the rest of the season's performances in the 
Alvin Theatre. 




Henry Fonda 



Robert Keith 
Joe Marr 
Wfltiam Harrigan 
Harvey Lambeck 
Ralph Meeker 
Karl Lukas 
Steven HUl 
Robert Baines 

John Campbell 

David Wayne 

Casey Walters 

Fred Barton 

James Sherwood 






LIEXTT. ANN GIRARD Jocelyn Brando 



Marshall Jamison 

Murray Hamilton 

SYNOPSIS; Scene: Aboard the U. S. Navy Cargo Ship, AK 601, 
operating in the back areas of the Pacific. Time: A few weeks before 
V-E Day until a few weeks before V-J Day. 

Director: Joshua Logan. 



HILE ON THE ROAD previous to its New York appear- 
ance, the play was heralded in terms only slightly less hys- 
terical than those which half a dozen years before had 
touted the approach o the Ringling Brothers* Gargantua. 
Unlike Gargantua, who turned out to be no invigorating 
man-eater but a monkey so docile that he had to be fed 
quarts of vodka to induce him to make even moderately 
ferocious faces at the customers, it is found to be a spund 
attraction. It is, true, contrary to what we had been led to 
believe was ari exalted specimen of ars dramatica* worthy 
of the ecstasies of the higher criticism, scarcely anything in 
that line. But, purely as a theatrical show and nothing 
else, it is bawdily amusing stuff, admirably directed by 
Joshua Logan, excellently acted by a cast headed by Henry 

284 Mister Roberts 

Fonda, David Wayne, Robert Keith and William Harri- 
gan, and aptly designed by Jo Mielziner. 

Laid on a Navy cargo ship operating during the late 
war in the back areas o the Pacific far from the scenes of 
battle, it portrays the effect of the long and deadly monot- 
ony on the members of the crew and centers on the des- 
perate efforts of one of the ship's officers to get away and 
into action, with the troubles he encounters both with 
the captain and his shipmates who misunderstand his mo- 
tives. The language is tough, the humor Restoration-plus, 
and the resulting hilarity loud. So much for that. When, 
however, it comes to analyzing the proceedings, which is 
about as gratuitous as analyzing a burlesque show or a 
pretty and amusing girl, the findings are not entirely so 
congenial. My personal acquaintance with life in the Navy 
is scarcely profound and has been confined largely to a 
single experience in my youth with Navy Plug Cut, which 
I may say was not conducive to inspiring in me any over- 
whelming desire to become a part of it. But, while I ac- 
cordingly am happy to leave the intimacies of the subject 
to those who know more about them, I can not resist the 
impression that the play itself is often very much like A 
Young Man's Fancy, or any other such boys* camp or 
school play, gone to sea. It consists, in short, mostly in a 
succession of more or less familiar schoolboy pranks, or 
free adaptations thereof, performed by men with bare 
chests dripping glycerine sweat and to the accompaniment 
of the language commonly identified with sailors, and in- 
terrupted periodically by the equally familiar plot of the 
boy (in this case a naval lieutenant junior grade) whom 
the other boys suspect of something or other but who 
eventually proves himself to be as good as gold. All that 
is missing from the fundamental picture are the school 
pennants, together with the inevitable "Visit Atlantic 
City" one, on the cabin walls and the off-stage baseball or 
football game. 

Present, for example, are the episodes in which the boys 
peer through binoculars at a distant window which re- 
veals a girl taking a shower-bath, in which they concoct an 

February 18, 1948 285 

alcoholic tipple out of daffy ingredients, in which they 
plan to place a large firecracker under the head-master's 
(the captain's) bed, and in which they muss up his pet 
palm plant. Also the ones in which they prepare for the 
advent of a female by dolling up the room (the ship's 
cabin) with sofa pillows bearing saucy legends, in which 
they return from a party with clothes disarranged and still 
obviously under the influence of drink, in which they dis- 
cuss their amorous relations, or their hopes for them, with 
the girls, and in which one of the boys after a fight shows up 
with a black eye and minus his apparel. Also, as well, the 
ones in which the boys, who have been loafing, pretend 
upon the captain's sudden appearance to be deeply en- 
grossed in their work, in which they pull out from under 
the covers on their beds various forbidden, secreted arti- 
cles, in which they outwit the police officer who comes to 
make trouble for them, etc. 

In another direction, the show provides the standard 
scenes in which the boy wrongly thought by the others to 
be guilty of something manfully sticks to the word of 
honor he has given another and remains silent in the face 
of the accusations; in which his loyal friend who is privy 
to the facts sets his lips tightly in his temporary inability 
to help him out of his predicament; in which his friends, 
at last understanding, gather sentimentally to bid him 
farewell and present him with a small token of their affec- 
tion which they have fashioned out of their meagre re- 
sources; and the later reading of a letter which brings the 
sad news that their hero has been killed in action. The 
language throughout, as already intimated, embraces a con- 
stant employment of such terms as "bastard" and "son-of-a- 
bitch," which are doubtless authentic enough, and the 
general dialogue flavor is reflected in some such line as that 
describing the captain's award of a small palm tree "for de- 
livering more toothpaste and toilet paper than any other 
Navy cargo ship in the safe area of the Pacific," along with 
the one properly to be anticipated in any exhibit dealing 
with sailors, "There's only one thing you ever thought 
about for a half hour in your life." 

286 Mister Roberts 

Nevertheless, if you are not given to such objectionable 
prying, the whole, to repeat, constitutes a lively and en- 
tertaining show, with enough sex added to it to persuade 
an audience that it is not essentially a schoolboy play at 
all, but a realistic picture of life aboard a ship in the 
United States Navy. And, unlike The Old Lady Says 
"Not", it will unquestionably make a fortune. 


TONIGHT AT 8:30. FEBRUARY *o, 1948 

A revival of a series of six short plays by Noel Coward. 
Produced by Homer Curran, Russell Lewis and Howard 
Young for 26 performances in the National Theatre. 


Gertrude Lawrence, Graham Payn, Philip Tonge, Norah Howard, Valerie 
Cossart, Sarah Burton, Rhoderick Walker, William Roerick, and Booth 

Director: Noel Coward. 


LR. COWARD'S SUCCESS in the light-minded theatre is 
largely predicated on three diligently rehearsed and even 
more diligently executed capers. The first is a fancily su- 
perior contempt for the standard morality made accept- 
able to the laity by airing it through characters who bear 
only the faintest resemblance to normal human beings 
and whose dicta are therefore as amusedly tolerated as 
are those, say, of politicians on ethics. The second is the 
trick of passing off a calculated impertinence for wit by 
lodging it in the mouths of glossily dressed characters and 
directing it to be spoken in fastidious accents through 
elevated noses. The third is an abstinence from any pos- 
sible intelligence and an evasion of the dran^atic conse- 
quences by whimsicaHy deprecating what remote symp- 
toms of it the characters may seem to ventilate. 

That Mr. Coward is a shrewd and clever artisan is ob- 
vious; and I am no more reflecting on his shrewdness and 
cleverness than I would presume to reflect on the same at- 
tributes in a watch repairer who triumphantly persuades 
qne that the main-spring is broken, convincingly holds the 
^atch for dyree weeks, and then puts a couple of drops of 
qijt into the works and charges one ten dollars. Such things 
require a virtuosity, of sorts, and when it comes to getting 
^way with tlie few drops of oil Mr. Coward is one of the 
very best in the business. But to regard him at all seriously 

288 Tonight at 8:30 

as a dramatist is, I suspect, a pleasure reserved to oil-drop 
criticism. Whenever he has defiantly ventured beyond the 
minor cocktail and cigarette drama and beyond the chichi 
and frou-frou aspects of character, he has found himself 
still up to his neck in the old adhesive marshmallow ic- 
ing. For his tricks are alien to an interpretation of life in 
any of its more important phases and what he has to 
bring to the job is merely the familiar silk hat with a false 
bottom, but minus any rabbit. 

In his own little field, however, he has had fairer worldly 
fortune and he has amply deserved it, considering the de- 
light he has given in his role of clown performing for 
audiences of crippled children. That that performance is a 
professional one is scarcely to be doubted. Since those audi- 
ences in considerable degree are composed of people given 
to the aggressively fashionable life, he is experienced 
enough in that quarter to realize, for example, that, despite 
the cynical view of those who are no part of it, what is re- 
ferred to as the set's small talk at least makes a little sense, 
whereas its efforts at talk of even slightly greater bulk 
make none whatever. And it is such small talk that he ac- 
cordingly and not without sagacity implants in his dipsy- 
doodle characters. 

His acquaintance with humanity, though apparently 
gained at some distance, has also imbued him with other 
equally heady concepts which he has embroidered into 
prosperous theatrical fare. Having concluded, for instance, 
that love as demonstrated by most of its victims consists 
only in a coincidental inflammation of dormant senti- 
ment and a suspension of active intelligence, he leaves 
any further investigation of it to his playwriting colleagues 
and engages himself aloofly to treat of it as of a piece with 
nibbling a contaminated violet. Having also deduced that 
men go to the theatre to forget and women to remember, 
he profitably flatters both with the deception of female 
characters who contrarily forget and males who remember. 

Nor does his immense ingenuity stop there. Privy to the 
fact that little is more discommodious to the patience of 

February 20, 1948 289 

the type of audience he attracts than lengthy dialogue 
speeches possessed of some literary distinction, he gives 
his characters the kind of monosyllabic utterance favored 
by inarticulate foreigners attempting English for the first 
time. The result is such discourse as "How d'you feel?" 
"Frightful/' "So do I." "Good!" which, while it may im- 
press others as indicative of the intercourse of half-wits, is 
revelled in as the height of smartness by his swank, verb- 
ally bankrupt admirers. He further appreciates that, with 
his special clientele, it is risky to go too far in meritorious 
epigrammatic expression and that it is better to keep it 
on an amateur and easily digestible level. The result in 
turn is such eligible scintillations as "Being married to 
eminence requires a little forbearance, especially if the 
eminence is dear to you"; "Pangs of conscience are tire- 
some; they're also exceedingly bad for you"; and "The 
dead at least have the sense to be quiet." 

There is also the matter of what our French friends 
call ton. Mr. Coward, when it comes to ton, is as high- 
toned as a calliope. Not high-toned, that is, in the manner 
of a Sheridan, Wilde, Pinero or any other such dandy, but 
rather in that of a boutonniere on a pajama top. His plays 
beam with "members of the Country Club," Samolan 
boys in silver earrings and bracelets serving trays of drinks, 
"insufferable cads," allusions to exclusive restaurants, 
"lovely creatures exquisitely dressed and with great charm 
of manner," gaudy butlers and valets, catalogues of the 
more recherch ocean liners and dukes, "gloomy dinners 
at the Embassy," and characters who collapse wearily on 
sofas. And in the promotion of the tone, the dialogue is 
enriched with endlessly ejaculated "too utterlys," "too 
fantastics," "terribly drearys," "frightfully embarrassings," 
and "how terrifyings." 

While such Fauntleroy adventures in Wildeana may 
rank with criticism not materially above the average musi- 
cal show book, they nevertheless, as has been s recorded, 
rank high in the estimation of the kind of audiences who 
regard a strict mental and literary dtiet as vital to the 

290 Tonight at 8:30 

health of comedy and who view as an affront to polite post- 
dinner theatregoing anything o more depth than a finger- 
bowL Mr. Coward well knows the people he has to sell 
and gives them the finger-bowls they want, now with a 
rose petal, now with a slice of lemon, and then again 
merely neat. But it always remains the same finger-bowl, 
filled with tepid water. 

Sometimes, while the vessel is being served, he supplies 
a little music, which no end tickles his guests' vanity in 
their clever recognition of it as warmed-over Grieg, Puc- 
cini or Lehar. Sometimes, there is the fillip of a little 
saucy conversation, usually of an eccentric sexual nature, 
made comfortable to the select company by couching it 
in serio- travesty speech. And sometimes, by way of cajol- 
ing his guests into imagining that the finger-bowl is the 
Thames, with Maugham punting on it, he goes to the 
length of describing his characters partly for the human 
caricatures they are. But in the end what it all amounts to 
is still only the small receptable for fingertip dipping in 
the midst of such snazzy chitchat as "Prince and Princess 
Jean Marie de Larichon have left the Hotel George Cinq 
en route for the Riviera/* 

The revived short plays, both light and serious, are 
Ways And Means, Family Album, Red Peppers, Shadow 
Play, Fumed Oak, and Hands Across The Sea. Their es- 
sential nature may be limned in a few strokes: 

Ways And Means. "The scene is a bedroom in the 
Lloyd-Ransomes' home, Villa Zephyre, on the Cote d'Azur/" 
Dialogue sample: 

Stella: Here's a letter from Aunt Hester. 
Toby: Is she well and hearty? 
Stella: Apparently, 
Toby: To hell with her. 

Family Album. "The music plays softly; an under-cur- 
rent to grief." Dialogue sample: 

Emily? It lias stopped raining, 

Richard: Not quite, Emily, but it is certainly clearing. 

February 20, 1948 291 

Lavinia: It was fitting that it rained today. It has been a sad 

day and rain became it. 
Jasper: True, very true. 
Jane: A little sunshine would have been much pleasanter 


Red Peppers. Samples of the vaudeville characters' dia- 

George: What's the matter with my singing? 

Lily: What isn't the matter with it! 

George: Don't you think I could ever do anything with my 

Lily: Well, it might be useful in case of fire. 

Bert: What's wrong with my orchestra? 

Lily: Nothing, apart from the instruments and the men 

what play 'em. 

Shadow Play. Consult foregoing general description of 
its author. 

Fumed Oak. Theme: Vide W. S. Maugham's The 
Breadwinner. Dialogue samples: 

Doris: Pity you don't go and live with Nora for a change. 

Mrs. Rockett: Nora hasn't got a spare room. 

Doris: Phyllis has, a lovely one, looking out over the rail- 
way. I'm sure her hot-water pipes wouldn't annoy you, 
there isn't hot water in them. 

Henry: Stop ordering me about. What right have you got to 
nag at me and boss me? I'm the one that pays the rent 
and works for you and keeps you. 

Hands Across The Sea. "The scene is the drawing-room 
of the Gilpins* flat in London." Samples of dialogue: 

Piggie: Marvellous. You're axi angel, Ally I must take ofi 
these clothes, I'm going jnad -* ." 

292 Tonight at 8:30 

Walters: Her ladyship is changing. Ill tell her you are here. 
Mrs. Wadhurst: Thank you, 
Mr. Wadhurst: Thank you very much. 

Bogey: Cocktail? 
Clare: Thank God! 

Piggie: You'd better come and dine tonight I'm on a diet, 
so there's only spinach, but we can talk 

And in over-all Joycean stream: 

"Beastly ... so charming it's positively nauseating . . . 
The Fenwicks will be arriving to play golf in a minute . . . 
There isn't always music, and moonlight . . . You rang, 
madame? Make a cocktail, will you, Ernest, a dry Martini. 
Very good, madame . . . Bring some fresh cocktails, Ernest. 
#es, madame . . . Oh, it was all horrid; he was much older 
than me; very rich, fortunately; we went to Italy, Como first 
and then Venice, it was lovely * . . But charm, that's what 
counts, darling . . . Have you finished with the cocktail 
things, madame? . . . You're so foolish up on your roman- 
tic high horse how often have you ridden it wildly until 
it went lame and you had to walk home . . . That's what 
made the sadness in your eyes . . . Have you had many 
lovers? . . . You've been married twelve years. How naive 
you are. . . . There's a little brooch between us, a little 
brooch with emeralds and sapphires that someone gave to 
Leonora years ago . . . Love is a very comprehensive term, 
my sweet * . . How does it feel to be so desirable, to be 
wanted so much? . . . The Rawlingsons, who the hell are 
they? . . . Frightfully, my sweet, frightfully . . . Why don't 
you have them down for the weekend? Don't be so idiotic. 
They probably wouldn't have the right clothes . . . Let's 
have a drink. Cocktail? No, a long one, whisky and soda 
... I recognize her from the Taller; she was Lady Hurstley, 
you know, &en she was Lady MacFadden ... I do hope 
Lady Dalborough will be here * . . SheV the niece of the 

February 20, 1948 293 

Duke of Frensham, her mother was Lady Merritt . . . Mix 
a cocktail, Bogey, I'm a stretcher case . . , Give me another 
cocktail, Piggie, I want to get so drunk that I just can't hear 
any more . . . Are you going to Nina's Indian ding-dong? 
... So tiresome, so terribly, hideously tiresome, my sweet 
. . . Are you happy with that cocktail or would you rather 
have tea? ... I adored Wally, he was a darling . . . Give 
me a cocktail, I haven't had one at all yet and I'm exhausted 
. . . Oh, my God, that was the most awful half an hour I've 
ever spent . . . Come on, Ally, I've got to dress . . . You 
know perfectly well I hate Freda's guts . . . Oh, goodbye, 
it's been absolutely lovely ... It isn't the money, it's the 
lack of consideration, my sweet ... I knew marrying you 
was a mistake at least seven years ago but I never realized 
the thoroughness of the mistake until now . . . You will be 
interested to hear that Mrs. S. J. Pendleton gave a small din- 
ner party for Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Weir at the Hotel Nor- 
mandie in Le Touquet last night . . . Elena's splashed her- 
self from head to foot with the last precious drops of my 
scent this morning . . . Among the guests were Lord and 
Lady Haven, the Countess Pantulucci . , . How thrilling! 
. . . Something really humiliating, like being sick at a Court 
Ball . . . It's insufferable. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Al- 
ford have returned from Vichy and are staying at the Cril- 
lon, they are to be joined in a few days by Mrs. Alford's sis- 
ter, Lady Croker ... A little Madeira, Emily? . . . Mr. 
and Mrs. Toby Cartwright have left the Villa Zephyre under 
a cloud . . . Bon jour, Gaston . . . My merriment is en- 
tirely a social gesture . . . Backgammon, seven thousand 
francs . . . It's the most awful bore, my sweet ... I loved 
Dimitri dreadfully; do you mind if I take a little of your 
scent? . . . We're going up to Venice to lunch . . . Don't 
be silly, darling, we've overstayed frightfully but we were 
having such a lovely time . . . The car will be waiting for 
you at twelve-thirty ... I do feel so horrid about it ... 
Go into Cannes this afternoon and pop them . . . It's mad- 
ness, stark, staring madness ... Is there no justice in the 
universe? Absolutely none, dear, I remember remarking that 
to Nanny only the other day when the stopper came out of 

294 Tonight at 8:30 

my nail varnish . . . She appears to have been a mean old 
bitch ... It seems a pity that you can't turn your devastat- 
ing wit to a more commercial advantage; you should write 
a gossip column . . . She sleeps alone, you know; Irving is 
separated from her by the bathroom; it would be deliciously 
easy . . . My poor sweet! . . , Get into bed, darling 1 
you're beastly to me, I'll yell the place down . . . Stella, be 
quiet, your behavior is in the worst possible taste . . . Have 
you gone mad? . . . Touche, Jasper ... As you say, Lawy, 
but my throat is cruelly dry . . . You shock me appallingly, 
Emily, I'm almost sure you do ... It was a waltz, of course 
it was, don't you recall it, my dear, we danced to it years 
later, at a ball . . . You rang, Mr. Jasper? . . . The Due 
and Duchesse de Fauchois are at the Meurice with . . ." 

The felicitous Miss Lawrence, as heretofore, shone in 
the leading feminine roles of the plays and was supported 
by an in the main competent company. It was the general 
critical opinion, however, that Graham Payn was not 
suited to the parts played originally by Mr. Coward. It is 
my personal opinion that the general critical opinion was 
correct. Mr. Payn, though a very commendable performer, 
enjoys an unmistakable masculinity that scarcely harmo- 
nizes with the falsetto tone of the Coward characters. 

The speedy failure of the enterprise possibly pointed 
to the unthinkable thought that Mr. Coward's long hold 
on his admirers may be waning, or, even more unthink- 
ably, that his admirers have grown up a bit. 



A fantasy by Micheal MacLiammoir. Produced by the 
Dublin Gate Theatre company under the auspices of 
Richard Aldrich and Richard Myers in association with 
Brian Doherty for 2 week's performances in the Mansfield 


ROBERT TWOMEY Denis Brennan 
REX DILLON Boy Irving 


Edward Golden 

SHEELA McCANN Patricia Kennedy 
MRS. DEMPSEY Nora O'Mahony 
EILEEN Helena Hughes 

MARTIN Micheal MacLiammoir 

SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place in Sophia Sheri- 
dan's house in Dublin at the present day. Act I. A night in April. Act II. 
The next morning. Act III. The last night in April. 

Director: Hilton Edwards. 


,T SEEMS TO ME that what playgoers denounce as destruc- 
tive criticism is sometimes confined very much less to the 
incriminated critics than to the playgoers themselves. The 
critics* destructiveness has as its object such plays, pro- 
ducers and performers as are inimical to the health and 
progress of the theatre. Its purpose is to prevent the spread 
of plague by isolating the infected. The destructive criti- 
cism at times demonstrated by the playgoers, and which 
consists in resolutely remaining away from plays and pro- 
ductions of merit, on the other hand contributes to the 
theatre's decline and opens it up to further mediocrity, 
thus only making the critics do double duty in their efforts 
to curtail the pox. 

The local failure of the worthy Dublin Gate company, 
of its worthy aims and of two of its worthy presentations 
is accordingly to be laid not so much to any destructive 
opinion they suffered from the in this case lapsed mer- 
chants of criticism as to the playgoers who, for all their 
gepsure of them, seem nevertheless docilely to follow them, 

296 Where Stars Walk 

and who by their absence helped to bring misfortune to 
the visitors' earlier ventures. 

When it comes to this third and last offering, however, 
neither the critics nor the playgoers were to blame, at least 
in the destructive quarter described. Most of the former 
were rather to be blamed for seeming to discern excel- 
lences in it that were not visible to any other eye, and most 
of the latter were to be complimented on not following 
them, for a change. Though Mr. MacLiammoir's play tries 
hard to achieve the strange beauty implicit in much of the 
drama of his countrymen, it achieves instead only some- 
thing that, in view of its occasional similarity to the Car- 
roll play, might well have been called Shadow Without 
Substance. It mistakes a round candy box for the moon, 
and its flights of imagination too often are grounded by 
engine trouble. The acting and direction, moreover, were 
on this occasion so consistently stock that the playwright's 
weaknesses were unassisted by anything in the way of 
crutches. And, incidentally, one more play about the old 
Irish gods and goddesses and kings, unless it be written by 
a dramatist of real gifts, will find me, in case anyone is 
looking for me, in the nearest bar. 

Mr. MacLiammoir has taken for his theme the verse by 

how a Princess Edain, 

A daughter of a King of Ireland, heard 
A voice singing on a May eve like this, 
And followed, half awake and half asleep, 
Until she came to the land of Faery, 
Where nobody gets old and godly and grave, 
Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise, 
Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue. 
And she is still there, busied with a dance 
Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood 
Or where stars walk upon a mountain top. 

With this as the key, he brings into the house of an ac- 
tress in Dublin in the present day two servants who are 
the reincarnations of the Edain and Midhir of Irish legend, 

February 24, 1948 297 

the one the daughter of an old king, the other her trans- 
cendental wooer in the old misty line. The actress at the 
moment is rehearsing a play in which the twain figure and 
is given to operating a planchette board to communicate 
with their spirits. The two figures renew their courtship 
between their menial duties, make their mystical presence 
felt by her to the larger comprehension and advantage of 
the dramatic role she is to play, and eventually take their 
departure from the earthly scene in the shape of swans. 

That there is a fanciful play of sorts in the materials is 
evident even from the crude outline, but Mr. MacLiam- 
moir has failed to extract it. He has difficulty in dovetail- 
ing the fanciful and the real; his fanciful is largely a mat- 
ter of two players affecting set, far-away looks on then- 
faces, reading their lines in that manufactured tremolo 
which passes for a whimsical beyond-world quality, and 
moving about with a wistful hesitation opposite to their 
sprightly gait in the mundane scenes and all to an ob- 
bligato of suddenly dimmed lights, a stage colored by off- 
stage lavender gelatine slides, and hidden music. And his 
contrasting real is merely poor drawing-room comedy, re- 
plete with the customary whiskey decanters, telephone 
calls, derisive remarks on the English, and observations on 
the virginity or lack thereof in the female guests. There 
are moments when his imagination seems about to tri- 
umph over the stereotypes, but they are evanescent, and 
the end impression is of two plays, neither satisfactory, 
which have been pined together by a crooked tunnel 
through which for the most part funnels only a damp, 
precocious, poetasdrical wind. 

That the aim here once again is elevated and that the 
play in intention once again shames the deliberate com- 
mercialism of so many of our American f writers for the 
theatre is clear enough. But that it does not come off is 
equally clear, which to a more sensitive critic than my- 
self might in view of his earlier high remarks on the Irish 
drama be a bit mortifying. In such junctures, a critic of 
that species would have but one self-protective course open 
to hitim y to wit, the rccb&rse to a trick well-known to sales- 

298 Where Stars Walk 

men of the critical art, which is the substantiation, in the 
face of uncomfortable contrary evidence, of a previous 
long and stoutly held opinion by the shrewd manipula- 
tion of sophistry into at least a momentary semblance of 
logic. That the resort to any such artifice is lamentable is 
naturally not to be argued, yet it has been employed by 
some of the otherwise best and most honorable critics the 
world has known, and it has been surprisingly successful 
in fooling all save the few more alert minds among their 
readers, whose only retaliation has been the dispatching 
of disgusted messages to the offenders which the latter, it 
need not be said, have carefully kept from outside knowl- 
edge and which hence have not embarrassed their stand- 
ing in the slightest. I am, of course, so upright that I 
would not deign to stoop to any such speciosity, but if I 
were not I should probably proceed as follows: 

What seems to be the faulty dovetailing of the two ele- 
ments in Mr. MacLiammoir's play may, after all, be not 
so faulty as appears to the casual critic, since the elements 
in point may be regarded as separate movements, as in a 
musical composition, and so be dramaturgically condoned. 
This, of course, is bosh, but it has a fairly plausible sound. 

Secondly, I should contend that, though the play deals 
again with the Irish legendary gods, goddesses, kings and 
princesses and deals with them in scarcely satisfactory dra- 
matic-literary terms, the author at least brings a novel 
touch of humor to the business and thus makes the old 
stuff, despite its poor treatment, a little more palatable. 
While this also may have a moderately convincing ring, 
it is essentially bogus, since the humor, though present, 
is not any more satisfactory than the dramatic-literary 

Thirdly, it would be easy to argue that, whatever the de- 
fects of such a play, it possesses the charm common to so 
much of Irish drama. But just how a play so lacking in 
general quality can have charm of any kind, I would be 
careful not to explain. 

Fourthly, I should pretend that the drawing-room ele- 
ment in the play by its very routine nature tends to 

February 24, 1948 299 

heighten the fanciful, romantic element, and that the 
routine nature was possibly deliberate on the part of the 
playwright, which, obviously, is nonsense for all its super- 
ficial reasonableness. 


But I daresay you get the idea. 



A revival of the play by Henrik Ibsen. Produced by Louis 
]. Singer and the American Repertory Company for 2 
weeks' performances in the Cort Theatre. 



Marion G. Evensen 
BERTA Merle Maddern 

GEORGE TESMAN Robert Emhardt 

MRS. ELVSTED Emily McNair 

JUDGE BRACK Herbert Berghof 


Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. 


SYNOPSIS: Act I. Drawing-room of Tesmans villa, in the west 
end of Christiana. Morning. Act II. Scene 1. The same. Afternoon. Scene 
2. The same. The follotving morning. Act III. The same. Evening. 

Time: Early 1890's. 

Director: Eva Le GaUienne. 

AGAIN in the case of the ice skating shows, one re- 
view of Miss Le Gallienne is perforce much like another. 
The monotony of the former is matched by the monotony 
of the lady's long, ambitious and manly but unsuccessful 
efforts to establish herself as an acceptable actress. That 
she is a completely sincere, hard-working, and extra-theat- 
rically intelligent person is obvious. That she further has 
conducted her career on no low level but has sought to do 
the higher things in drama is similarly obvious. And that 
she has, unmistakably*, been motivated by a commendable 
desire to assist the theatre in every way within her small 
means is not less so. But, and I believe that most of my 
colleagues at last agree, her limitations as an actress are so 
serious and her intelligence is so generally at theatrical 
fault that her labors unfortunately seem bound to come to 

When I speak of Miss Le Gallienne as an actress, I use 
the term only with the greatest liberality. What she is, 
as I have often remarked before, is rather merely an expert 

February 24, 1948 301 

reciter of the roles in which she casts herself, with acting 
in any strict definition no part of her performances. She 
reads her lines well, but she does not dramatize them in 
her person and seems unable to achieve character more 
than half an inch below her vocal organs. She impresses 
us, in short, as one who is letter-perfect at the first re- 
hearsal of a play which is thereupon abandoned. She is, 
in the second place, also possessed of so arctic a personality, 
despite her attractiveness of face and figure, that her per- 
formances take on the air of an Icetime Of 1948, minus 
only such a show's proficiency and audience appeal. She 
is so cold that a spectator is sometimes surprised that a 
frosty mist does not issue from her mouth when she opens 
it to speak her lines. And, thirdly, that chill is accompanied 
always by one of the most damaging qualities in an actress, 
which is the suggestion that her mind is constantly operat- 
ing over rather than under her lines and is putting her 
emotions in their place, with a whip. She should learn her 
Rachel. "Think out your role thoroughly before the cur- 
tain goes up," said that famous actress, "and then forget 
everything and let go." Even in roles themselves intrinsi- 
cally cold, like this Hedda, Miss Le Gallienne carries ice 
to Newfoundland. 

She additionally exploits herself too greatly in other 
directions wherein her competences are doubtful. She sets 
herself to adapt various classics to her personal advantage 
as an actress and in the process rips much of their life from 
them. She sets herself to direct plays, and her direction im- 
parts to her fellow players either a share of her own re- 
frigeration or here and there such a violently contrasting 
heat that the stage seems to be occupied by a number of 
firemen feverishly trying to put out a Frigidaire. And, 
when serving in the capacity of her own producer, she al- 
lows her conviction that she is gifted with histrionic versa- 
tility to resolve itself into repertory programs which only 
accentuate her shortcomings. 

"I begin to have bopes of a great metropolitan vogue 
for that lady How," Shaw once wrote ironically of Janet 
Aetiurch after viewing her performance as Shakespeare's 

302 Hedda Gabler 

Cleopatra, "since she has at last done something that is 
thoroughly wrong from beginning to end/' Were he to 
have seen Miss Le Gallienne's Mrs. Alving and Hedda, he 
would, I fear, have omitted fifty percent of the sentence. 

There are several different justifiable ways to play 
Hedda, but Miss Le Gallienne's is not, I feel, among them. 
Connoisseurs of the absurd may, for example, recall with 
delight her previous venture into the role some years ago 
when she equipped it with a modern sports costume and 
a carton of Lucky Strike cigarettes, and further played it 
as if Hedda had just stepped into it for a few minutes 
from a Michael Arlen comedy and was on her impatient 
way into one by Maugham. In this later interpretation 
she does not permit her idiosyncrasies to go quite that far, 
but she nevertheless gives every evidence of still accepting 
too literally Grant Allen's nineteenth century view of 
Hedda: "I take her into dinner twice a week," and of be- 
lieving that the character is out of the pages of Town And 
Country, that the Stork Club is situated just around the 
corner from Tesman's house, and that Lovborg in some 
ways resembles Don Ameche. In other words, her attempt 
to invest the character with an approximate modernity 
invests it only with caricature. 

I appreciate that almost everyone has his prejudice as to 
the one manner in which Hedda is best to be played and 
that, for all the fact that I personally do not hold anything 
of the kind and believe, as I have said, that there are sev- 
eral ways in which the role may honestly be acted, I never- 
theless will be charged by the reader with the single con- 
ception. Very well, I accept. My idea of the way it should 
be played is to play it for the greater part in exactly the 
opposite way to the way Miss Le Gallienne plays it. Which 
is to say to act its cold calculation into some projectional 
warmth; to compose its artful deliberation not merely and 
solely in features set into an expression which hints at a 
paralysis of the facial muscles; to realize that under its 
icy surface, as under all icy surfaces, there is fluidity, and 
that that fluidity is not without some depth; and prac- 
tically to dramatize the periodic absence of what is con- 

February 24, 1948 303 

ventionally called emotion not into a vacuum but into 
something at least histrionically implicative. 

One o Miss Le Gallienne's severest personal and pro- 
fessional handicaps seems to be a lack of humor. It is, for 
example, her periodic observation to interviewers, as it is 
Miss Margaret Webster's, her associate in various produc- 
tions, that she has little use for criticism of her endeavors 
and that, accordingly, she does not elect to read what the 
critics say of them. As one of the critics whom she does not 
choose to read, I certainly have no criticism of her on that 
score. But, though she says that she does not read criticism, 
she seems in some occult way nevertheless to wax very 
angry at what the critics whom she does not read have 
written of her and her enterprises, as does also Miss Web- 
ster, which, it may be allowed, is slightly puzzling even to 
the more accomplished rebus addicts. I do not say that my 
or anyone else's criticisms of her work would, if she read 
them, be of benefit to Miss Le Gallienne, since she is 
evidently altogether sure of herself as she is. But if she 
were imaginably to read them and did not like them, it 
would, I think, be advantageous to an acquisition of the 
humor she presently lacks, and to consequent ingratiat- 
ing publicity which she could stand, were she to profit by a 
lesson from the late G. K. Chesterton. 

Chesterton, though few of his admirers, I believe, are 
aware of it, once essayed for an English provincial news- 
paper the role of dramatic critic and proved himself very 
apt at it. The occasion was a reply to the practising critics 
of the time who had found fault with his venture into 
dramaturgy, the play called Magic. Since it has never to 
my knowledge been printed in this country, I here quote 
from it at some length* in the conviction that it should 
prove instructive to those of our American playwrights 
like Maxwell Anderson, Clifford Odets, et aL, who have 
worked themselves into a mighty indignation and rancor 
when critics have similarly found fault with their exhibits 
as well as, obliquely, to actresses like this Miss Le Gal- 

"The author of Magic" wrote Chesterton, "ought to be 

304 Hedda Gabler 

told plainly that his play, like most other efforts of that 
person, has been treated with far too much indulgence in 
the public press. I will glide mercifully over the more 
glaring errors which the critics have overlooked as that 
no Irishman could become so complete a cad merely by 
going to America; that no young lady would walk about 
in the rain so soon before it was necessary to dress for din- 
ner; that no young man, however American, could run 
around a duke's grounds in the time between one bad 
epigram and another; that dukes never allow the middle 
classes to encroach on their gardens so as to permit a doc- 
tor's lamp to be seen there; that no sister, however eccen- 
tric, could conduct a slightly frivolous love scene with a 
brother going mad in the next room; that the secretary 
disappears half-way through the play without explaining 
himself; and that the conjuror disappears at the end with 
almost equal dignity. Such are the candid criticisms I 
should address to Mr. G. K. Chesterton were he my friend. 
But as I have always found him my worst enemy, I will 
confine myself to the criticism which seems to me most 
fundamental and final. 

"Of course, I shall not differ from any of the dramatic 
critics: I am bursting with pride to think that I am (for 
the first time) a dramatic critic myself. Besides, I never 
argue except when I am right. It is rather a curious coinci- 
dence that in every controversy in which I have been 
hitherto I have always been entirely right. But if I pre- 
' tended for one moment that Magic was not a badly writ- 
ten play, I should be entirely wrong. I may be allowed to 
point out the secret of its badness. 

"By the exercise of that knowledge of all human hearts 
which descends on any man (however unworthy) the 
moment he is a dramatic critic, I perceive that the author 
of Magic originally wrote it as a short story. It is a bad 
play because it was a good short story. In a short story of 
mystery, as in a Sherlock Holmes story, the author and the 
hero (or villain) keep the reader out of the secret. Conan 
Doyle and Sherlock Holmes know all about it; and every- 
body else feels as silly as Watson. But the drama is built 

February 24, 1948 305 

on that grander secrecy which was called the Greek irony. 
In the drama the audience must know the truth when the 
actors do not know it. That is where the drama is truly 
democratic; not because the audience shouts, but be- 
cause it knows and is silent. Now I do quite seriously 
think it is a weakness in a play like Magic that the audi- 
ence is not in the central secret from the start. Mr. G. S. 
Street put the point with his usual unerring simplicity 
by saying that he could not help feeling disappointed with 
the conjuror because he had hoped he would turn into the 
devil. If any one knows any real answer to this genuine 
and germane criticism, I will see that it is conveyed to the 

"There are two more criticisms of which I will take 
note, because they can best be dealt with by an impartial 
critic like myself. The first concerns that paralysis of the 
mind which scientists now call Pragmatism, and which is 
represented in this play as freezing for an instant the in- 
tellect of an Anglican priest. I know it is ignominious to 
talk of artistic aims that aim and do not hit. But the idea 
o the skepticism of the priest was perfectly simple. It was 
that there should be no faith or fancy left to support the 
supernatural, but only the experience of it. There is one 
man who believes and he believes so strongly that he 
wishes he didn't. . . . 

"The other criticism which the present critic may criti- 
cize is the frequent observation that a soliloquy is old-fash- 
ioned and by *old-f ashioned' they always mean artificial 
or unnatural. Now, I should say that a soliloquy is the most 
natural thing in the world. It is no more artificial than a 
conscience or a habit of walking about the room. I con- 
stantly talk to myself. If a man does not talk to himself it 
is because he is not worth talking to. Soliloquy is simply 
the strength and liberty of the soul, without which each 
man of us would be like that nobleman in one of the 
most brilliant and bizarre of Mr. Henry James's tales who 
did not exist at all except when others were present. Every 
man ought to be able to argue with himself. And I have 
tried to do it in this article/' 



A comedy by Gertrude Berg. Produced by Oliver Smith., 
Paul Feigay and Herbert Kenwith in association with 
David Cummings for the rest of the season's performances 
in the Belasco Theatre. 




MRS. 2-c 




Henry Lascoe 

Michael Enserro 

Paula Mitter 

Arthur Cassel 
Charles Furman 

Herbie Hahn 





MRS. SIEGEL Bertha Walden 



MR- MENDEL David Opatoshu 


Margaret Feury 

PIANO MAN George Spelvin 

MRS. GROSS Sarah Krohner 

MIKE David Burke 

MRS. 3-c Bessie Samose Blumstein 
JESSIE Phyllis Liverman 


SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in an apartment in the Bronx. 
The year is 1919. Act I. Scene 1. An afternoon in February. Scene 2. An 
evening, three weeks later. Scene 3. Several days later. Act II. Scene 1. 
An afternoon in April. Scene 2. Several weeks later. Scene 3. An evening, 
mid-summer. Act III. A Saturday in September. 

Director: Ezra Stone. 


JLHE PLAY is an offspring of the radio serial called The 
Goldbergs, of which Mrs. Berg is also the author. The 
serial has been running on the air, I am told, for over six- 
teen years and has more devotees than Hamtet has man- 
aged to acquire in over three centuries. Though I have 
never heard any part of it, my intuition tells me that it 
must be pretty primitive stuff, not because any such whole- 
sale popular devotion is necessarily always incompatible 
with merit, but because all such radio soap operas can not 
in their very nature be otherwise, unless one believes in 
miracles, which have been inconveniently remiss for nine- 
teen centuries. 
The idea that one should presume to express any such 

February 26, 1948 307 

opinion about something one has never heard or seen is, 
of course, execrable to many people, among them those 
who have to see a glue factory before they will believe 
that it is one and who regard the strong and unmistakable 
empyreuma which they smell a mile away as unsubstantial 
evidence. It is these same skeptics who impeached .me 
when some time ago I observed that, while I had not gone 
to the moving pictures since women started talking, I 
nevertheless deemed them in the aggregate only fifth-rate, 
maybe even only tenth-rate, theatre. Though, in truth, I 
had seen several of the pictures, I did not wish to weaken 
my argument by admitting the fact and contented myself 
with the further observation that any moron could go to 
the movies and learn that they were what I had said they 
were, but that it required intelligence not to go to them 
and know it. One does not have to go to the Flatbush gar- 
bage dump every week to appreciate that it isn't Paris. 
Nor, in the'same way, does one have to listen to such radio 
programs as The Goldbergs to know that they are rubbish. 

It all resolves itself, it need hardly be confided, into a 
question of personal taste, and, while my own taste in 
amusement may sometimes be of the low order that in- 
cludes old-fashioned burlesque shows, slapstick comics, the 
more vulgar circus clowns, and grand opera in English, it 
does not embrace anything quite so unelevated as such 
air bills. And the idea of making plays out of them and 
thus punishing me in the professional arbitrary necessity 
for seeing them is carrying things, if I may be so selfish as 
to say so, too far. 

The play made from one of them is in this case scarcely 
a play at all, but rather a stage-televised radio show with- 
out commercial interruptions. Its intention is to portray 
a humble Jewish family that has moved from the lower 
East Side to the Bronx and its difficulties in adjusting its 
economics, to the more exclusive environment. Since it 
deals sympathetically with Jewish people, its bad writing 
and worse dramaturgy are as usual cautiously condoned 
by the newpaper brethren in the allowance that, anyway 
and above all, "its heart is in the right place/' as if a heart 

308 Me and Molly 

in the right place were one of the ultimate desiderata of 
drama, a notion that engenders the disturbing thought 
that plays without a heart in the right place are seriously 
deficient and that such, for example, as a number of Ib- 
sen's, Strindberg's and Shaw's, among a lot of others, are 
not what we have long esteemed them to be. 

As in various such Jewish folk plays, the spectacle is 
compounded of all the stereotypes of the species: the 
young daughter with musical ambitions who dreams of the 
day when she will have a piano and whose dream brings 
heartaches to her parents who can not afford one; the pa- 
terfamilias who encounters the customary difficulties in 
establishing himself in the dress business; the neighbor- 
hood types who troop in and out and fill in the atmosphere 
with dialect; and the stipulated elaborate matchmaking 
on behalf of a young neighborhood girl and a shy suitor. 
Also in evidence are the moving van men of sardonic 
mien one of whom with a small trunk on his back stag- 
gers in as if he were carrying a loaded freight car; the fre- 
quent borrowing of food and household articles by the 
neighbors; the kitchen jars in which the mother stores 
her small savings; and the children, including the brash 
young son who wants to be an inventor and who answers 
his doubtful parents by comparing his youthful position 
with that of Edison, all given to scooting in and out of the 
premises on roller skates. To say nothing of the old uncle 
who sits aside and vouchsafes homely philosophies; the 
fat mother's comical trying on of a party dress; the radical 
young Jew who ventilates his opinions, to the distress o 
the orthodox family, on all occasions; the scene in which 
the mother and father prepare for bed and provide amuse- 
ment by appearing in old-fashioned nightgowns; the 
mother's tender solicitude for the father when business 
disappointment overtakes him; and the last minute good 
news which, at the height of his dejection, promises that 
he will soon be worth a million dollars. 

The author's dialect dialogue is apparently derived less 
from a close audition of such people as she depicts than 
from a sedulous attendance on old-time vatideville 

February 26, 1948 309 

sketches. While my personal knowledge of such patois is 
based wholly on the writings and plays of Montague Glass, 
Arthur Kober and others whose ears have been endorsed 
by people in a position to know, I entertain large doubts 
if such stuff as "I'll go put an eye in the soup/' "your liver 
is standing on the table/' and "take off your head" (for 
"get your mind off the subject/') has any authenticity. 

Mrs. Berg's play, in a word, is theatrical hokum which 
the theatre exorcised years ago as outmoded and which 
since has evidently found a prosperous haven on the radio. 
It is, moreover, acted in terms of an old Aaron Hoffman 
two-a-day sketch, except for the honest performance of a 
child named Joan Lazer; it is directed by Ezra Stone in 
terms of a color-blind traffic policeman; its scenery by 
Harry Horner showing a three-room flat set into a frame 
of skeletonized surrounding buildings looks as if it had 
been assembled from storehouse odds and ends; its senti- 
ment is turned on and off like a sugar tap on a maple tree; 
and its two and one-half hours' attempt at humor does not 
produce a single laugh comparable to any one of a dozen 
in the fifteen-minute Jewish movie skit in Make Mine 



A play by J. B. Priestley. Produced by Maurice Evans for 
7 performances in the Music Box. 


DINAH LINDEN Marilyn Erskine 

Emmett Rogers 

MRS. COTTON Una O'Connor 

MRS. LINDEN Barbara Everest 

REX LINDEN HaUiwell Hobbes, Jr. 
JEAN LINDEN Viola Keats 

MARION LINDEN Cathleen Cordell 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in Professor Linden's study in 
the provincial city of Brumanley in northern England. Early spring, at 
the present time. Act I. Friday. Scene 1. Late afternoon. Scene 2. Two 
hours later. Act II. Saturday. Scene 1. Afternoon. Scene 2. Night, several 
hours later. 

Director: George Schaefer. 


NE OF THE most touching examples of the art of press- 
agentry since Anna Held's milk, Jess Dandy's beer and 
Earl Carroll's champagne baths was the attempt to stir up 
some excitement over the fact that Boris Karloff, the 
screen ghoul, acted in this play, which marked his tem- 
porary departure from Hollywood, the role of a normal 
human being. It might have worked in the movies, since 
if in that medium an actor goes even so far as to shave off 
his established little mustache for a role not only is he 
hailed as an artist of such versatility as has not been heard 
of in the world since Leonardo da Vinci, but they have to 
add extra ushers in the film houses to handle the aghast 
and admiring crowds. In the theatre, however, the circum- 
stance that an actor can play two markedly different kinds 
of roles is regarded not as a phenomenon but, if he can not 
do it, rather as an indication that he ought to go back to 
dramatic school and take lessons along with the other ama- 

In the theatre, in short, a Mansfield Celebrated for his 

March 2 9 1948 311 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde jumps easily from a Prince Karl 
to a Cyrano, and even a supposed one-role actor like John 
Drew from dress suit elegants to Richard Carvel and 
Shakespeare. William Faversham played everything from 
Lord Algy to Stephen Phillips' Herod; Nat Goodwin, 
though a hamfatter, was nevertheless equally at ease as 
Marc Antony and the buckeroo in The Cowboy And The 
Lady; and David Warfield was great stuff in both Weber 
and Fields burlesque and Peter Grimm. Today, youngsters 
like Marlon Brando play the poet Marchbanks one year 
and the tough Kowalski the next, and like David Wayne 
even a musical show leprechaun and a dramatic naval 
ensign in the same season. 

What impression Mr. Karloff made in the theatre was 
based not on his ability to play a role which was the ex- 
treme opposite of his screen roles, but on his ability to 
play a role which, unlike his movie roles, called for some- 
thing approaching acting. His performances in the films 
have been confined largely to hideous makeups and the 
appropriate accompanying faces. They have been to act- 
ing what sulphuric acid is to counterfeiting; in other 
words, the dripping of a caustic solution on a personality 
plate. In his stage role, that of a university professor, he 
found himself with his old hokum makeup off and his 
pants down. No longer could he be an actor in dressing- 
room name only; he had to act. That he came off pretty 
well was no credit to versatility, since what he has been 
showing on the screen has not been any versatility of his 
own but Perc Westmore's, and what he has been doing 
has not been acting but merely Hallowe'en child's-play. 
It was a credit rather to his realization that acting must 
go a little deeper than painting one's face to look like 
curdled pea soup and fastening on six-inch finger claws, 
and that it must have some concern with character beyond 
popping out eyeballs and growling like a bad-natured 

Mr^ Karloflf's vehicle, a prompt failure, was roughly to 
be Described as Donald Ogden Stewart's unlamented How 
of its metaphysical nonsense and given some 

312 The Linden Tree 

slight clarity by a more adult playwright. The story, with 
family overtones, again was of a professor whose ideas get 
him into trouble with the college officials, who is removed 
from the faculty, who refuses to give up his theories and 
gracefully retire, and who determinedly sticks to his guns 
in the belief that he can help in solving some of the prob- 
lems that presently beset mankind. And the aforesaid 
theories once again dealt with the chaos of modern exist- 
ence, the responsibilities of the individual, the atom bomb, 
etc. And once again, too, it all proved that Priestley can 
overtalk a play into a dramatic coma in no time and that 
it would benefit him greatly to reserve some of the talk to 
persuade himself that, if he were to take a little more care 
with his plays, they might get somewhere. His habit of 
turning out three or four a year not only botches his un- 
questioned gifts but so confuses his head that they some- 
times seem ridiculous. In this play, for one example, he 
asks us to accept sympathetically as an important mind a 
history professor who stoutly believes in his competence to 
analyze England's and the world's current ills and who yet 
eventually finds that he has made an awful boner in the 
very beginning (the second sentence, in fact) of his treat- 
ise on the subject. And most of the rest of the ideas, such, 
in further example, as that old age and tender youth are 
alone able to decide what is right and what is wrong seem 
to be more aptly suited to a Tin Pan Alley song writer 
than to a dramatist who invites us to take him seriously. 
The damaging haste in which the play was written be- 
trays itself as well in other of its confusions. The only pre- 
sented specimens of the kind of people the professor might 
influence are two young students. One of these is a girl 
more concerned with the shade of lipstick suitable to her 
and with making an impression on the professor's rich son 
than with any history he tries to teach her. The other is 
a loud, brash oaf who not only pays little or no attention 
to what the professor tries to explain to him, but who is 
not averse to imposing his own incontinent opinions on 
him. The sole believer in the professor's doctrines is 
shown by the playwright to be his yotmgest daughter, yet 

March 2, 1948 313 

when he attempts at the final curtain to elucidate them to 
her, she becomes so bored that she falls asleep while he is 
talking. The philosophy that only the very young and very 
old are able to do anything to rectify the world's impulse 
to wars becomes a little perplexing in light of the fact that 
it is the young whose spirit of adventure notoriously pro- 
pels them proudly into wars and the old who have long 
maneuvered them into them. The collateral notion that 
only the young and old are blessed with spirituality and 
that the middle-aged are ever utterly devoid of it is too 
foolish to be considered. Additional similarly choice arti- 
cles in Mr. Priestley's credo are his belief that an under- 
standing of history would assist the peace of the world, an 
argument which seems to overlook the ample historical 
education of many of those who have provoked wars; his 
conviction that there is something subversive of social 
morality in living well and having a pleasant time once in 
a while; and his idea that a man who works without 
thought of monetary reward is always ipso facto a more 
worthy one than one who operates more practically. 

It is evidently Mr. Priestley's further idea that all that 
is necessary to convert two and a half hours of such 
speeches into a play is to drop into them every now and 
then a "my dear Jean/ 1 a "are you listening, my darling?," 
or a "as I was saying to Professor Lockhart," and mean- 
while to stuff a pipe. What it comes to, one fears, is rather 
a poor novel attemptedly made theatrical by periodically 
inserting a curtain into it instead of a book-mark. And 
what it sounds like is not a play but a non-stop phono- 
graph, out of tune. 

The acting, except for Karloff, Barbara Everest as his 
wife, and Viola Keats as his love-forsaken daughter with 
scientific inclinations, was without any flair, though Em- 
mett Rogers as the young student contrived to picture a 
man with a chronic cold in the nose with an unusual 
realism. The direction followed the regulation pattern of 
insinuating some movement into a static play by having 
the characters stand and walk around the room when nor- 
mally they would have remained quietly seated and in 

314 The Linden Tree 

causing the actors so intensely to listen to one another's 
speeches under the common stage delusion that such 
listening catches an illusion of reality that they all gave 
the impression of being victims of deafness. It also per- 
mitted Una O'Connor to play the comedy-relief house- 
hold servant role with such vaudeville excess that one was 
disappointed when she made her entrances unaccompa- 
nied by a straight man or a trick dog. Peter Wolf's setting 
of the professor's study looked so cosy, comfortable and al- 
together desirable that it was hard to sympathize with his 
family's constant allusions to it as intolerable. And the 
stage lighting, by whoever was responsible, was, as is often 
the case, focused with such severity upon the players that 
the ladies in the company, young as well as old, all seemed 
to have accordion-pleated necks and eyes like Bluepoint 



A play by Rose Franken. Produced by William Brown 
Meloney for 12 performances in the Booth Theatre. 


MRS. HALLAM Ethel Griffies 

ETTA HAIXAM Mildred Dunnock 


GRACE HAT. LAM June Walker 

HELEN HALLAM Mildred Wall 

HARRY HALLAM Frank M. Thomas 
MR. HALLAM John McKee 




SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene: Dining-room of the Hattam residence in 
the east seventies. Manhattan. Time: An evening in spring. Act II. Scene: 
Jerry and Kendrick's apartment. Time: Two weeks later. Act IH. Scene: 
The same as Act J. Time: The following afternoon. 

Director: Rose Franken. 



*HERE ARE NOT many American writers for the stage who 
have a better appreciation of character and motive than 
Miss Franken. In even her poorer plays she here and there 
indicates a perception in those directions which, however 
insolvent they otherwise are, lends them at least a degree 
of conviction. It is, with minor exception, her fault that 
she imbeds the attributes in materials unworthy of them. 
Character and motive, in other words, commendable as 
they are, are frequently made to suffer by setting them in 
an inferior dramatic structure, like precious stones set in 

That character is infinitely more important than plot 
obviously need not be re-stated. But it is not merely plot 
that is referred to, though most of hers are either rehashes 
of old, familiar ones or give the effect of having been 
festooned around the characters like pink paper streamers, 
mostly faded. What one has in mind is rather the fact that 
these plots do not appear to be an outgrowth of her charac- 
ters but seem to be arbitrarily conjured up after-thoughts 
forced upon them, much after the manner of sashes san- 

316 The Hallams 

guinely added to dresses that look too plain. It is for this 
reason that this present family play, the seventy-fourth 
of one sort or another in the last six seasons, while wel- 
comely avoiding the excursions into cosmic philosophies 
dear to the fancy of the Priestleys and while endorsable in 
some of its character appraisal and observation of detail, 
misses in satisfaction. There are, as well, other reasons. 
Though, as noted, the author deals honestly with most of 
her people, they are, alas, essentially dull people and she 
has not the genius, as had Chekhov and Hauptmann, to 
make dulness dramatically and theatrically alive and in- 
teresting. The characters, with two exceptions, are inter- 
esting individually as faithfully recorded examples of 
their dull species, but their dulness in combination not 
only dampens the general picture but contrives to detract 
dramatically from the studies of them singly. As clinical 
specimens, in short, they are one by one creditable, but 
in congress assembled they give the clinic a morguish 

There is still another slightly distracting element in the 
play. As in her Another Language, of which the present 
exhibit is what she describes as a progression in the lives 
of the same Hallam family, and as in one or two of her 
subsequently written plays, the characters, though pre- 
sented as Gentiles, essentially have many of the unmis- 
takable attributes and qualities of Jews. Another Lan- 
guage, in fact, was, we are informed, originally written as 
a Jewish play whose Jewish characters were given Chris- 
tian names, with no other changes in them, when Miss 
Franken was persuaded by her producer, Arthur Beck- 
hard, that it would thereby probably attract a much wider 
audience. Miss Franken seems since at times to have writ- 
ten Jewish characters under the delusion that they are not 
Jewish, with the result in this latest play that, when her 
Gentile matriarch objects to a granddaughter's marriage 
to a Jew, the audience's feeling is that it would have been 
much mdre realistic if she objected to him because he was 
a Baptist. That she is able to make one critically accept 
and believe in her characters in spite of such intrusive 

March 4 3 1948 317 

qualifications is a tribute to her considerable gift. In only 
two instances, as observed, does her skill here desert her. 
Her girl who marries the Hallam grandson is a lay figure 
out of the kind of thing, known in the vernacular as soap 
opera, which women who have nothing more cultural 
than dish-washing to occupy them in the daytime listen 
to on the radio. Her tubercular grandson is no less a figure 
derived from the same source. And the dialogue which 
she has supplied the twain stems directly from a like font. 

The story concerns the opposition of an autocratic ma- 
triarch to the young wife whom the consumptive has intro- 
duced into the family's midst, with her efforts to separate 
the couple, with the wife's determination to remain by 
her husband's side during his illness, with his death, and 
with the ultimate mellowing of the matriarch toward her 
and the hint that she will find release from her grief in 
the connubial arms of the youngest of the matriarch's sons. 

The author's stage direction of her play is first-rate; she 
contrives to give it a sense of natural life even when it is 
remiss in it. And some of the performances, notably those 
of Ethel Griffies as the matriarch and Mildred Wall as an 
outspoken in-law, are very good. The particular weakness 
is in those of Dean Norton and Katharine Bard as the 
young married couple, though their roles are partly re- 
sponsible. But responsible or not, both are out of acting 
key with the general acting composition of the play. Nor- 
ton portrays the tuberculosis victim much as if the disease 
he is suffering from were heliencephalitis, or inflammation 
of the brain from exposure to the sun, complicated by an 
especially aggravated case of arrested development. And 
Miss Bard, an attractive young person, permits a studied 
elocutionary delivery to rob the wife character of any pos- 
sible small vestige of truth. 

Many years ago, David Belasco propounded the idea 
that to the established three dramatic unities there should 
be added theatrically what he described as the unity of 
blood. In other words, that in a play like this the direct 
members of a family should be cast with actors whose 
looks at least in some measure suggest that they are related 

318 The HaOams 

by blood-ties and not, as is so often the case, with actors 
whose appearances belie any conceivable remotest rela- 
tionship. The casting of the several sons of the matriarch 
and her husband in this instance hinted at a big scandal 
in the old lady's early life, since the looks and every other 
thing about them precluded any reasonable supposition 
of their legitimacy. 



A play by Halstead Welles, with songs by Lorenzo Fuller 
and calliope music by Lehman EngeL Produced by the 
Experimental Theatre, Inc., for 6 performances in the 
Maxine Elliott Theatre. 









Nancy Franklin 

Karen Lindgren 

Rita Gam 

lane Hoffman 

Hilda Vaughn 

Philip Bourneuf 

Phttippa Bevans 

Blair Davies 

Harrison Dowd 

Gregory Robins 


BUI Myers 

Leon Askin 


Ruth Vaughn 


Walter Palance 

MR. SMITH Taylor Graces 

UNCLE BENNY Ernest Truex 

SOPHOMORE Shirley Ames 

SENIOR Anne-Marie Gayer 

FRESHMAN Elaine Bradford 

FARMER Car I Judd 

FARMER'S WIFE Natalie Benisch 

Winnie Mae Martin 

POLICEMAN Geoffrey Lumb 

MILLHAND Dion Allen 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in a New England town be- 
tween 11 a.m.., May 29, and the dawn of May 30, 1881. Act I. Scene 1. 
t The office of the President of the Massachusetts Female Seminary. Scene 
2. A willow grove across the canal. Act II. Scene 1. The willow grove. 
Scene 2. Circus tent main entrance. 

Director: Halstead Welles. 

I ox EVERY ADULT in a state of arrested boyhood has 
wanted to run off and join a circus. There are some who 
do not. They prefer to stay at home and enjoy the experi- 
ence vicariously in writing plays about doing it. Mr. Welles 
is one such. A college teacher by profession, he visualizes 
himself in that capacity as a stage character who is invested 
with the moral responsibility of chasing an itinerant circus 
out of the campus environment. In the line of his imposed 
duty* he falls in love with one Mile. Suzette, a beautiful 

320 A Temporary Island 

equestrienne, and is overwhelmed by a desire to join up 
and follow his beloved. In the end, however, Mr. Welles, 
even more greatly overwhelmed by the morality imposed 
upon him by his calling, causes his hero-self to doubt the 
propriety and wisdom of any such happy course and sends 
his replica safely back to the classroom. 

In Polly Of The Circus, produced more than three dec- 
ades ago, it was a gentleman of the cloth who was made to 
follow much the same procedure with a fair equestrienne, 
though in that case he was not such a poltroon and re- 
mained with his inamorata. And before then and since, 
we have been presented both here and abroad with various 
paraphrases of the theme. 

Mr. Welles' play, like most of the others, is hardly a 
pippin, in fact, infinitely less of one than any of the species 
we have hitherto engaged. It gives the impression that the 
very idea of doing any such thing as considering even for 
a moment an attachment for a circus lady is offensive to 
his sense of respectability. One furthermore gains the im- 
pression that he is a little ashamed of having thought of 
such a shocking idea and is determined cautiously to edge 
around it by relating it in language, and tons of it, that 
will evade the direct issue. It is his device, accordingly, to 
distract attention from his theme with a plenitude of sub- 
sidiary characters and episodes and with such high-sound- 
ing and aimless talk as suggests that it was assembled 
from the careless thumbing of a thesaurus. The final effect 
is of his having dropped what he daringly treasured as a 
diamond of an idea into a jar of hydro-fluoric acid and its 
complete disintegration and disappearance. 

The author's direction of his play only confounded it 
the more, and the performances were mostly in the nonde- 
script, routine mold. 

I should like to add a word on the stage lighting, which 
will fit that of numerous other productions as well. Little, 
if seems to me, has been more damaging to these produc- 
tions than the kind of theoretically improved illumination 
which for years now has been poorly adapted from Euro- 
pean sources. While its intent is admirable, its accomplish- 

March 14, 1948 321 

ment is often disastrous. Not only does it so trickily light 
plays that one's attention is frequently focused on its elab- 
orate mechanical performances to the plays' loss, but it so 
overdoes the lighting of the actors and actresses that they 
seem much less to be the characters they are supposed to 
be than suspects in a police lineup in a jail run by Dizzy 
Gillespie. In the case of the ladies, the situation, as I 
have noted in an earlier chapter, is especially embarrassing, 
I frequently wonder, indeed, if Lillian Russell would have 
achieved her great reputation as a beauty had she been 
lighted by Moe Hack, or if Irene Bentley, Lotta Faust and 
all those lovely girls would still sing in our memories had 
they been lighted by other of our current geniuses. When- 
ever I go to a theatre these days and, before the curtain 
rises, observe enough balcony and proscenium projectors 
to illuminate a half dozen Mardi Gras carnivals and, after 
it rises, some thirty thousand dollars' worth of stage equip- 
ment to amplify them, I not only feel sorry for the poor 
actresses who are about to suffer their combined challenge 
of nose, chin, and neck shadows, but think back, not with- 
out a sigh, to the days when simple footlights, a couple of 
gelatine slides in the wings, and a single gallery spotlight 
made better plays perfectly acceptable and the actresses 
in them look like human beings and not, as nowadays, like 
dried apricots smeared with whitewash. 



A revival of the comedy by George Bernard Shaw. Pro- 
duced by the Theatre Guild in association with Alfred 
Fischer for 5 weeks' performances in the Martin Beck 


DOLLY Patricia Kirkland 


MAH> Scott Douglas 

PFTTT.TP Nigel Stock 

MRS. CLANDON Frieda Inescort 

GLORIA Faith Brook 

CRAMPTON Ralph Forbes 

McCoMAs Walter Hudd 

WAITER Leo G. Carroll 

BOHUN William Devlin 

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place at a seaside resort in Devon, 
England, in August, 1896. Act I. Valentines room. Morning. Act II. The 
terrace of the Marine Hotel. Noon. Act III. A sitting-room in the hotel. 
Afternoon. Act IV. Same as Act III. Evening. 

Director: Peter Ashmore. 


HAVE ALWAYS cast my plays/* once saucily wrote Shaw, 
"in the ordinary practical comedy form in use at all thea- 
tres; and far from taking an unsympathetic view of the pop- 
ular preference for fun, fashionable dresses, a little music, 
and even an exhibition of eating and drinking by people 
with an expensive air, attended by an if-possible-comic 
waiter, I was more than willing to show that the drama can 
humanize these things as easily as they, in undramatic 
hands, can dehumanize the drama/' You Never Can Tell 
jinksfully follows that pattern and after fifty-one years still 
retains a deal of its original amusement. Not only did Shaw 
thus snatch any contemplated f acetiousness out of its critics' 
mouths, but he added injury to insult by insisting that he 
had written the comedy practically to order. In his own 
frank manner he allowed that it was an attempt to comply 
with the many requests for a play in which the much para- 
graphed brilliancy of Arms And The Man should be 
tempered by some consideration for the requirements of 
managers in search of fashionable comedies for West End 

March 16, 1948 323 

theatres. The critics, of course, as was their habit, declined 
to take his word for it and again put down both statements 
as examples of his customary prankishness. But he was 
nevertheless telling the perfect truth and simply garbing 
it in humor, which always has the effect on dimwits of 
making it dubious and unacceptable .for what it really is. 

Some of the once pert wrinkles in the farce-comedy are 
now, as might be expected, not quite so salty and some of 
the devices have since been repeated in the theatre to their 
later day debility. But once more the old rascal's lively wit, 
character observation and literary velvet come to the rescue 
and make even some of the drier aspects of the play bubble. 
He proves, as always he has, that an ability to handle the 
English language, despite the apparent superstition of a 
large number of our American playwrights, is quite as im- 
portant an asset as the ability to handle the stage, and that 
it also is not such an odious notion, when you are writing 
a comedy, to have a few ideas lying around. That some of 
these ideas, to repeat, have rusted is not news, except to 
those who are so "surprised at any ideas at all in a play that 
they consider their simple presence not only a token of 
ultra-modernity but even insurrectionary. But, if some of 
the conceits have faded, the play on the whole has not, 
since Shaw's character sense and sense of intelligent comedy 
and even farce retain their gay attraction. And, above all, 
there is the magnetism of his superior nonchalance. As 
usual, he masters the trick of making his audiences think 
that the play was just tossed off casually; that he considers 
it more or less a trifle; that if it is entertaining he could 
handily, if he wished to trouble himself, make it three 
times as entertaining; and that what ideas he peddles in it 
are only minor samples of his wholesale stock. 

That is one of the most captivating of his many capti- 
vating subterfuges. The plays of nine-tenths of our play- 
wrights have the air of being their entire immediate capi- 
taL They suggest that they have given their all to them, 
and that there remains nothing more for them to say on 
the subjects. But, save possibly for Saint Joan, there has not 
been a play of Shaw's which hasn't insinuated that, were 

324 Yot/ Never Can Tell 

he to choose to do so, he might unload into it resources 
which he has not even faintly touched. In this lies perhaps 
the reason for at least a small measure of his intellectual 
celebrity. He is a past-master of the stratagem of intellec- 
tuality by suggestion. By throwing out merely intimations 
of profundity, shrewdly couched in what seems an off-hand 
wit and humor, he not only persuades his auditors that he 
regards them as simply the foam on his cerebral beer, but 
tantalizes them like so many fish jumping at quickly with- 
drawn bait. This is plainly not to say that he hasn't a mind 
superior to every other dramatist of his time. It is rather to 
say that he fully appreciates the theatrical value of mer- 
chanting it only piecemeal and substituting implication 
for what in the very nature of a theatrical audience would 
be tiring complete statement. 

It is thus that what is usually called Shaw's audacity is 
not audacity at all, but caution. If he were really auda- 
cious, he would let himself go and talk his audience bril- 
liantly to death. But he knows that that way lies theatri- 
cal failure, and, as he himself has always w openly admitted, 
he likes the money too much to do any such foolish thing. 
So he foxily restrains himself and, like an artful candy 
butcher, rattles his wares at the audience and deceives it 
with a magnificent spiel into believing that there are genu- 
ine diamond brooches in every twenty-five cent package. 

There has not in his day and age been a dramatist-show- 
man to match him, and there is not an expedient he does 
not know. Over and over again he succeeds in selling the 
same Crackerjack simply by wrapping it up in different 
colored paper and prefacing it elaborately with the old, 
brilliant come-on. Over and over again he bamboozles his 
customers through the device of making verbal surprise 
pass for dramatic surprise, through the trick of impressing 
his off-stage personality upon his on-stage activities, and 
through the hocus-pocus of allowing the yokels to pick the 
shell hiding the pea the while he cheerfully picks their 

He is ^wonderful, is this grand old, great old boy. Age 
may wilher him, but custom can not stale him, much. If 

March 16, 1948 325 

some of his plays date on the score of their philosophies, 
the spirit he has injected into them remains alive and 
kicking. It is that spirit, that persistently chuckling, laugh- 
ing, youthful spirit, which, like the phosphorescence on 
the dial of even a sometimes run-down clock, outlasts the 

Shaw once observed in connection with his difficulty in 
understanding certain foreign plays, that, while he knew it 
was lamentable, it was useless for him to attempt to conceal 
his hopeless deficiencies as a linguist. "I am very sorry/ 7 he 
said, "but I cannot learn languages. I have tried hard, only 
to find that men of ordinary capacity can learn Sanscrit 
in less time than it takes me to buy a German dictionary. 
The worst of it is that this disability of mine seems to be 
most humiliatingly exceptional. My colleagues sit at 
French plays, German plays, and Italian plays, laughing 
at all the jokes, thrilling with all the fine sentiments, and 
obviously understanding the finest shades of the language; 
whilst I, unless I have read the play beforehand or asked 
somebody during the interval what it is about, must either 
struggle with a sixpenny 'synopsis* which invariably misses 
the real point of the drama, or else sit with a guilty con- 
science and a blank countenance, drawing the most ex- 
travagantly wrong inferences from the dumb show of the 

While I am not up on Sanscrit, I happen to know 
French and German and some Italian and so, unlike Shaw, 
do not suffer too much trouble with plays in those lan- 
guages, apart from the ability inconveniently to under- 
stand quite a number of them. My difficulty, unlike Shaw, 
lies in understanding plays in English, even if there con- 
ceivably is something to understand in them, when they 
are played by supposedly English-speaking actors from 
England. The manner of speech employed by many of 
them is not only Sanscrit but Greek and even Choctaw to 
my ears; I know in a vague way that it is English, even if 
the sounds are not familiar to me; but I can not for the 
life of me, strain as I will, make out what they represent 
and what the actors are talking about. And if the play is 

326 You Never Can Tell 

couched in the Cockney dialect, it might as well, so far as 
I am concerned, be in pig-Latin. 

I am told that all this indicates simply that I am an 
American with the usual overtones of vulgarity and hence 
incapable of appreciating and assimilating the British lin- 
guistic elegances. Perhaps. But I nevertheless think it 
would be a little considerate of these English actors when 
they come over to my vulgar country to learn, on behalf 
of the many vulgar Americans like me who have to foot 
the bill, to vulgarize their speech at least to the small 
point where we could make head or tail of it. 

It is the chief merit of the present production of the 
Shaw comedy that it has been cast not only with some Eng- 
lish actors who exceptionally speak the tongue with a suf- 
ficient respect for American ears but in greater part with 
English actors who have been working over here for 
years and who have thus achieved a welcome clarity of 
diction. The stage direction, however, is often so atrocious, 
what with its conversion of the juveniles into leap-frog 
players and its self-consciousness in the verbal delivery of 
the Shavian whimsicalities, that much of the humor to its 
distress is rammed into the audience with a sledge-ham- 
mer. Tom Helmore, in the Valentine role, is furthermore 
allowed so many acrobatics, accompanied by a fixed music 
show grin, that all he seems to lack is a pair of hard shoes 
to amplify his performance with an occasional tap dance. 
The rest, especially Leo G. Carroll as the waiter, Walter 
Hudd as the solicitor McComas, and William Devlin as 
the waiter's barrister son, are good enough, though Frieda 
Inescort's sharply clipped reading of Mrs. Clandon has 
little more shading than a cactus bush and though the 
two young people, Nigel Stock and Patricia Kirkland, the 
latter the only American in the cast, are, as has been noted, 
privileged such an excess of animal spirits that they seem 
to be the progeny of the Cramptons much less than the 
offspring of Agnes de Mille and the late Ned Wayburn. 



A play by Allan Scott. Produced by John Houseman and 
William R. Katzell for the rest of the season's perform- 
ances in the Plymouth Theatre. 



FLOYD Michael Dreyfuss 

MILDRED Lois Halt 

EDITH WHAM Peggy Haley 


Myron McCormick 
TILWORTHY Harris Brown 

ANN WOOD Marsha Hunt 


JOHN V. HOPPER Clay Clement 

SYNOPSIS: The entire action of the play takes place in the of- 
fices of Alexander Soren, Vice-President in charge of production of Atlas- 
Continental Pictures. Time: The present. Act I. Late afternoon. Act II. 
Scene 1. A few days later. Late at night. Scene 2. One week later. Mid- 
day. Act III. Two days later. Late afternoon. 

Director: Jules Dassin. 


Walter F.Appier 

SAMPSON Hal Gerson 

MR.WILCOS: Theodore Newton 
HARRY Sam BonneU 


Morris Carnovsky 
Beverly Thawl 
Blanche Zohar 
Jeanne J or den 
Vicfa Carlson 



LR. .SCOTT'S PLAY is the regulation Hollywood table 
d'h6te into which he has incorporated, as a fillip, a tirade 
against motion picture censorship and an impassioned 
plea for art on the screen. The fillip is scarcely sufficient 
to salt the dry materials and has the further slight handi- 
cap, as he presents it, of being asinine, since his crusading 
hero is a film producer whose major contributions to the 
estate of the cinema are announced to have been a movie 
called Clara the most classical feature of which was a scene 
between a man and a woman about to indulge, in sexual 
intercourse while wrapped up in a fish net and a subse- 

328 Joy To The World 

quent epic called Katie whose most colossal scene was a 
literal duplication of it. The author's large indignation 
over the threat of official suppression of such balderdash 
and his zeal for the aesthetic progress of the screen are 
consequently not without some symptoms of mirth. 

The characters figuring in the twaddle are the following: 

The aforesaid producer who indicates his genius by 
maintaining throughout the play a look of frozen con- 
tempt, by abruptly dismissing from his presence at regular 
intervals anyone around the moving picture studio who 
politely seeks counsel of him, and by constantly seizing 
up one or another of the numerous telephones on his desk 
and loudly telling the caller to go to hell. 

His dry, disillusioned press-agent, given to the bottle, 
who periodically interrupts the proceedings with a wise- 

The comely young woman in charge of the studio's re- 
search department, who is a Phi Beta Kappa from a mid- 
Western college and hence full of ideals about the movies 
and who urges the hero at great length to fight compro- 
mise and to go on to higher things, which naturally causes 
him to succumb to her physical allure and in the end to 
propose marriage to her. 

The chairman of the board who will not listen to any 
art talk, who is such a bounder that he thinks his moving 
picture company should make a little money, and who, 
when he is taken to task for his low views by the studio 
aesthetes, demands their immediate resignations, heatedly 
thrusting his pocket pen at them to accelerate matters. 

The timid head of the story department, with horn- 
rimmed glasses. 

The studio manager who blusters in and out of the 
producer-genius' office, which looks like a drawing-room 
designed by General Motors, who comments irascibly on 
economic waste in the studio, and who regularly gets 
kicked out by the producer-genius. 

The loyal female secretary, ready to stick to the hero 
through thick and thin. 

The comic office-boy, his mouth constantly agape. 

March 18, 1948 329 

The aged producer, once in the cloak and suit trade, 
who began in the movie business in its nickelodeon days, 
who has amassed a fortune in it, who sympathizes with 
the young director-genius' dreams as delayed dreams of 
his own, and who hands over to him his elaborate outfit, 
plus fourteen million dollars and a sentimental speech 
of what seems a like amount of words. 

The haughty movie star, the very peak of haut ton. 

The man who has been sitting in the outer office for 
weeks vainly waiting to get an audience with the great di- 

The voluptuous blonde upon whom the male members 
of the cast clap lascivious eyes and to whom with a wink 
at one another they offer a screen test. 

The lines provided the characters include the usual al- 
lusions to such Hollywood illuminati as Darryl Zanuck, 
et al.; the stage business includes the usual slaps on 
women's posteriors; and the direction in large part fol- 
lows the movie chase sequence pattern. The gentleman 
responsible for the latter, one Dassin, a screen director by 
profession, observed to the press before the play opened, 
"I don't want to give the impression that Joy To The 
World is a propaganda play. It isn't. It's simply about a 
man and his job, and his job is making movies. He loves 
to make movies and he's good at it and when we first meet 
him he thinks that's all, that's enough. But by the time his 
experience is over in the play, he realizes that just making 
movies won't do, unless they reflect the good and hopeful- 
ness in you." 

It was apparent that Mr. Dassin either had not read the 
script or, if he had, did not digest exactly what it was 
about. Not only is the play clearly a propaganda play, but 
it is, as has been noted, a propaganda play, aside from 
its gladiatorial jabs at censorship, for high screen art as 
opposed to the present Hollywood commercial product. 
And not only, to confound matters, does its protagonist's 
eventual imposing resolve take the form of a picture on 
Samuel Gompers which even at best could not in view of 
his previous competences be anything more artistically 

330 Joy To The World 

exalted than some of the biographical films that the in- 
dustry has already turned out, and not only in its nature 
could it not be hoped to equal such already produced and 
profitable art pictures as Henry V or, for that matter, even 
such art turkeys as Mourning Becomes Electra, but, in im- 
mediate point, it is pretty hard to reconcile an arbitrary 
emphasis on "good" and "hopefulness" with authentic art 
in any direction, whether in literature, painting, music, or 
even the films. There have, Mr. Dassin should be told, been 
neither of those boluses in what are locally venerated as 
some of the outstanding artistic pictures made in France 
and Italy, or in Germany before the war. 

I am told that the idea still stubbornly flourishes in 
Hollywood that the New York critics are so prejudiced 
against screen players, "despite the stage success now. and 
again of one or another of them," that the latter are tak- 
ing their lives in their hands if they venture into the 
theatre. The theory should take its place in the category 
of other rococo ideas like technocracy, semantics, existen- 
tialism, salvarsan, and the efficiency of dog mange cures in 
promoting such a growth of hair on the human head as 
will abash the bowels of a Victorian sofa. Far from being 
hostile to the movie actors, the critics, it begins to look, 
are so favorably disposed toward them that even those 
who can not act at all sometimes get notices so sugary that 
newspaper readers economize by putting them in their 
breakfast coffee. The film actor who fails to get praise con- 
sequently has become such a phenomenon that people 
rush around to see him out of sheer curiosity, with the re- 
sult that the play he is in occasionally enjoys something 
of a run. It is the stage player, indeed, who seems rather 
to suffer the critics* prejudice. Expecting much more of 
him, the critics make demands of him that they evidently 
are only too willing to remit in the case of the Hollywood 
immigrant. Screen actors have been charitably let down 
on performances that stage actors would have been vigor- 
ously denounced for, and things have come to the point 
where at least eight of our better young players who have 

March 18, 1948 ' 331 

not been sufficiently approved by the local reviewers have 
sagaciously betaken themselves to Hollywood so that on 
their ultimate return they may benefit by the reviewers' 
newly acquired enthusiasm for them. 

The records of the present season indicate clearly that 
the love feast for film players which got under steam last 
year with Ingrid Bergman, Paul Muni and James Stewart 
is still going full tilt. Paul Kelly, June Lockhart, Jessica 
Tandy, Henry Fonda, John Garfield and Ethel Griffies, 
among others, have got such notices as were not surpassed 
by those of Edwin Booth and Ada Rehan in their heyday. 
Screen youngsters like Kim Hunter, Joan Tetzel and Ro- 
berta Jonay have made many of the reviewers turn hand- 
springs that they never have on behalf of more competent 
kids who have always done their bathing indoors. Anthony 
Quinn came off almost as handsomely as ever did Jame- 
son Lee Finney in his prime, and Boris Karloff, though 
his vehicle, too, was appropriately taken for a ride, got 
notices in general quite the equal of those once provided 
E. S. Willard and Sol Smith Russell. Charles Laughton 
was eulogized here and there for a performance so hammy 
that Walter Hampden would have been hung for it. And 
even John Loder and Neil Hamilton got by with the 
kind of acting that would have made show boat critics 

The most recent example of the attitude of the critics 
was to be had in the instance of Marsha Hunt, who came 
on from Hollywood to make her stage bow in this Joy To 
The World. Miss Hunt is a lovely and charming girl with 
a heap of what our fathers used confidentially to describe 
as sex appeal; her personality and manner are completely 
winning; and, since such attributes are certainly not to 
be sneered at even by her severest critics, I should, as one 
such, be only too delighted to take her out to supper any 
time she gives the word* But to praise this fair and de- 
lightful creature for any real dramatic acting ability, as 
quite a number of the colleagues have done, is, I think, 
going a little too far in their equally personal admiration 

332 Joy To The World 

for her, even if she is of a pleased mind to have supper 
with them instead of with me, foolishly. When it comes 
to the matter of acting (which, of course, I would cleverly 
refrain from mentioning over the hot bird and cold bot- 
tle) , Miss Hunt, I fear, still has something to learn. 

She should be instructed, for example, that the con- 
stant pretty profile acting dear to the screen is not only 
dispensable on the stage but, if indulged in, ruinous by 
reason of its obvious self-consciousness. She should also 
have been told that, while it is all very well never to look 
directly into the camera, a desperately painstaking aver- 
sion of the eyes from the stage's fourth wall takes on a 
strained and studied air that can be disquieting. She 
should furthermore be coached out of the restricted physi- 
cal movement appropriate to screen photography and into 
a fluidity more relevant to the stage. And she should, too, 
guard her enunciation and not pronounce "specific" as 
"suspific" and "obsolete" as "obsolit," or what sounds very 
much like it. She is, in short, a darling, but she needs some 
lessons in a craft which its Hollywood counterpart only 
remotely resembles. 

There is in addition, I hear, a belief among Hollywood 
writers that they are taking a dangerous chance in the 
theatre with plays dealing with Hollywood, and that the 
local critics, being not interested in Hollywood, are even 
more hostile to them than they are to Hollywood players. 
The writers seem, at least superficially, to have something 
in their favor there, since, including Joy To The World, 
there have been ten failures out of ten such plays in the 
last ten years. They may, however, be reassured that the 
plays have failed not primarily because they were about 
Hollywood, but because they were very bad plays and 
would have failed just as quickly if they had been about 
London, Paris, or Passaic, New Jersey. And they may, in- 
cidentally, be further reassured by the fact that in the 
same ten year period fifteen plays dealing in one way or 
another with religion and the Bible have also failed, 
which doesn't necessarily prove that the critics are disin- 
terested in and hostile to God. 

March 18, 1948 333 

Let one of the Hollywood writers write a Hollywood 
play as good as Once In A Lifetime and he will have 
nothing to worry about, particularly, as it seems, if he is 
wary enough to cast it with a lot of screen players, prefer- 
ably not too gifted in acting. 


MACBETH. MARCH 31, 1948 

A revival of the Shakespeare tragedy, with incidental music 
by Alan Bush. Produced by Theatre, Inc., in association 
with Brian Doherty for 29 performances in the National 


Stephen Courtleigh 
Michael Reitty 
Michael Redgrave 
Geoffrey Toone 
Whitfield Connor 
John Cromwell 
Hector MacGregor 
John Straub 
Paul Mann 
Thomas Palmer 
Ken Raymond 
John McQuade 
Arthur Keegan 
Flora Robson 
















LADY MACDUFF Beatrice Straight 

SON TO MACDUFF Jttdson Rees 


John McQuade 

Robinson Stone 

RusseU Collins 

AN OLD MAN Blair Cutting 

SEYTON Harry Hess 




A LORD Lamont Johnson 


Martin Balsam 

A DOCTOR Russell Collins 

A GENTLEWOMAN Penelope Potter 
Two WATCHMEN J Michael Reilly 
ATDuNSiNANE 1 JohnStraub 
A SINGER Arthur Keegan 

A PAGE Sonny Curven 

(Robinson Stone 
Martin Balsam 
Harry Hess 
(Gillian Webb 

I Ann Hegira 

AN ARMED HEAD Whitfield Connor 
A CHILD CROWNED Marcia Marcus 

SYNOPSIS; Scene. Scotland and, in one scene, England. 
Director: N orris Houghton. 

LHE MACBETH ROLE has been played by various actors 
in often markedly various ways; I have in my day wit- 
nessed performances that were so wholly at odds with one 
another that they were sometimes befuddling; but, though 
they occasionally appeared to be absurdly exaggerated, I 
have never seen one that could not, if one cleverly argued 

March 31, 1948 335 

the case with oneself, be more or less justified critically. 
This does not mean that the actual performances were 
not at times poor, since it is not acting I refer to; it is the 
matter, rather, of conceptions of the role. 

The more common of these has been one that lays the 
emphasis on the warrior's physical person, resulting in a 
stage projection remindful of the bull-ring style of acting 
which adorned the Wilson Barrett and Sienkiewicz Chris- 
tian versus Pagan melodramas of the last century and 
which in that same remote era made most of the Othellos 
resemble so many Zbyszkos with a pain in the groin. While 
liberal traces of this interpretation still remain, a more 
recent one has tended to lessen the stress on the purely 
physical aspects of the role and to picture the character 
as having at least a few ounces of brain, not a bad idea 
since, despite some striking modern evidence to the con- 
trary, Macbeth happened to be a king. The stage projec- 
tion in this case has taken the form of interrupting the 
earlier unrelieved bellowing with periods of meditation 
at least relatively so quiet that one might hear a tholepin 
drop and which have suggested the character's pained cogi- 
tation in scowls of such furrowed depth that one could 
plant turnips in them. 

Another concept is the dimissal in still larger measure 
of the physical element and the centering of the portrayal 
in the character's mentality, which gives rise at times to 
a performance which seems to be a muted cross between 
Hamlet, John Gabriel Borkman and Abe Hummel. This 
generally makes a considerable impression on the younger 
critics, who believe that any actor who gives emotions a 
full rein is ipso facto a ham, whereas any who does not, 
even if emotionalism in full tide is called for, is to be es- 
teemed as an artist of very high intelligence. There is, 
also, a view of the character which shades the barbaric in 
him and invests him with symptoms of a later-day civili- 
zation, which latter in stage depiction assume the form of 
shearing off part of the established voluminous face whis- 
kers, managing a gait devoid of strutting and more like 
that of a character in one of the less indignant dramas of 

336 Macbeth 

Eugene Brieux, and eliminating some of the conventional 
booming from the voice. 

Still another idea is to play Macbeth like a combination 
Richard III, Ingomar and Max Schmeling, which is to say 
as a consomme of the sophisticated guile of the first, the 
barbaric guile of the second, and the doomed pugilism of 
the third. The acting out of the idea in turn resolves itself 
into a performance heavily laden with sudden vocal dimin- 
uendos, indicating craftiness; intermittent abrupt changes 
from strong postures to slouches, indicating certain inner 
Machiavellian attributes; and periodic fiercely skeptical 
shadow-boxings with oneself. This 'has been known to be 
enormously successful, since, while the whole may con- 
ceivably not be satisfactory to an audience, the parts in 
their conciliatory nature are here and there bound to be, 
and since no one is thus in the end entirely disgruntled 
and everyone, indeed, left safely in some doubt as to the 
entire validity of his own analysis of the role. 

There are, as well, other variations, some of them super- 
ficially not less eccentric, but those described are probably 
the most recognizable. And all, however now and again 
in whole or in share seemingly a little fatuous, may, as 
hinted, be reconciled in some degree with the tangled in- 
consistencies of the textual character which, full of splen- 
dor as it is, nevertheless, like a star sapphire, is susceptible 
to different rays of light, albeit some of a bluish tinge. For, 
as Hazlitt put it, "all is tumult and disorder within and 
without his mind ... he has, indeed, energy and manli- 
ness of soul, but 'subject to all the skyey influences.' He 
is sure of nothing. All is left at issue. He runs a-tilt with 
fortune, and is baffled with preternatural riddles. The 
agitation of his mind resembles the rolling of the sea in 
a storm. . . ." 

Each and every interpretation thus naturally has its 
partisans, though the actor offering it may for one reason 
or another be found wanting in the merchanting of it 
and, contrarily, though there have been some actors who, 
though their concepts of the role have not met with ap- 
proval, have yet been acceptable in much the same way 

March 31, 1948 337 

that Babe Ruth always remained admired even when he 
struck out. Hazlitt, while he could not abide most of 
Kean's interpretation, still could not conceal his essential 
admiration for him in a review which, arriving at the act- 
ing of the scene after the murder, ended with the valen- 
tine that "it was a scene which no one who saw it can ever 
efface from his recollection/* John Forster exceptionally 
could not in any degree stomach either Forrest's idea of 
the role or his execution of it: "Mr. Forrest is more sing- 
ularly devoid of anything like an imaginative power than 
any actor we ever beheld"; but there have not been many 
unqualifying Forsters. There have been many more like 
Lewes who, in his review of Kean's performance, found, 
like Hazlitt, that "bad as the performance was, it had its 
fine points/' 

The fine point generally seems to be that the confusions 
of the role, while sometimes resolved by the critics to 
their own satisfaction, remain sometimes unresolved when 
it comes to the acting of it. Not the acting of it in what 
are or should be its more obvious aspects, but the acting 
of it in its more recondite particulars. These, however 
much the critic may confidently imagine that he has ac- 
counted to himself for them, continue to be somewhat 
shadowy; they may be rightly argued from one, two, even 
three viewpoints; and it is an obdurate critic indeed who 
in the circumstances refuses to be persuaded of the possi- 
bility of any other interpretation than his own. I have 
seen some Macbeths portions of whose conception and 
projection have seemed to me to be downright goosy, yet, 
as I have said, I have realized that it would not be too dif- 
ficult to discover at least a small measure of reason for 
them in the cloudiness of the character. Three of the 
worst performances I have set eyes on were those of John 
E. Kellard, Philip Merivale and Lionel Barrymore, but 
if one looked hard enough one could find certain ele- 
ments in them that disturbingly met the severest, intelli- 
gent test. And the same with the performances of Robert 
B, Mantell, Ben Greet, and a number of other such de- 
fectives. Novelli, in a class apart from the foregoing, on 

338 Macbeth 

the other hand was paradoxically most effective at those 
points in his performance when his conception o the role 
seemed from almost any critical position to be askew. I 
was too young to have seen Forbes-Robertson in the role, 
but I am told that, though his theory of it was frequently 
confounding, the net effect of his performance was emi- 
nently satisfying, quite as asparagus served out of course 
can still be both tempting and appetizing. These are only 
a few examples pro, con, and even pro-con out of many. 
But they sufficiently indicate the dizziness of the whole 
matter, which has equalled, if at times not exceeded, the 
fluster of the Hamlet question. 

The latest exponent of the role is Michael Redgrave, 
the English screen actor. Though his approach to it may 
in part find substantiation in the text, you will have to 
search far for any substantiation of his performance of it 
in any text on the art of acting. With the concurrence of 
his director, Norris Houghton, he not only spends most 
of the evening downstage giving the audience the cute 
rolling eye and with dimpled smirk reciting his speeches 
but, when forced by the more violent action upstage, pre- 
sents an excellent impersonation of a circus sideshow wild 
man conniving to become boss of the lot. His posturings, 
furthermore, are at moments a little comical, and his sud- 
den shifts from Chopin to Wagnerian utterance stand in 
sore need of the ministrations of an orchestra conductor. 
Many of his readings, moreover, provide sounds to marvel 
at, notably in the banquet scene, where the delivery has 
the effect of the voice first timidly wetting itself at a waters' 
edge and then howling in childish alarm at its feel of cold, 
and in the passages relating to Duncan's coming, where 
the reading combines a kind of Foxy Quiller musical com- 
edy hush-hush with the sort of coyly subdued physical 
pantomime associated with stock company ingenues when 
the juveniles overwhelm them with the long anticipated 
declarations of matrimony. The colloquy with Lady Mac- 
beth following the murder becomes a mere schoolroom 
platform recitation made to pass for acting only in the 
circumstance that the Thane is in costume and makeup. 

March 31, 1948 339 

The "Is this a dagger" speech is read in the style of a stage 
prestidigitator prefacing a levitation act; and the "To- 
morrow and tomorrow" lines with such bebop inflections 
that they acquire the sound of spoken jazz. 

Flora Robson's Lady Macbeth, despite an air of star 
actress remoteness, is some better, but the fact remains 
that the role is not the difficult one legend has made it out 
to be. Women have occasionally failed in it, but any ac- 
tress not too young and sufficiently experienced has not had 
too much trouble in giving a pretty fair aoxmnt of it, for 
all the necessity seemingly felt by some critics to analyze 
the role out of its simplicity. The supporting company is 
mostly without distinction and appears to have been 
shoved to one side in order that the audience's atten- 
tion may not be distracted too greatly from Mr. Red- 
grave's chance at an Oscar. The Banquo business is well 
handled and the duel scene better than usual, and the 
Paul Sheriff settings are pictorial enough and of a prac- 
tical flow; but the performance on the whole gets only 
the thunder of the tragedy without any trace of its light- 

In conclusion, part of a proclamation by Mr. Redgrave 
in connection with the presentation: 

Another angle we are aiming to emphasize even more 
in the American production that in the London one is the 
keynote of contemporary realism. Very often costume 
plays in recent years have been criticized because their air 
of elegance, courtliness, of a highly civilized world of vel- 
vets and satins where everyone is scrubbed, scented, care- 
fully combed, even the soldiers fresh from battle, gives 
audiences the feeling they are watching folk in fancy dress 
at a party. We are aiming in this Macbeth to reach back 
into a world of semi-barbarism, to mirror accurately a 
primitive people who slept in their clothes, had no time 
for haircuts, who didn't shave just before a battle for their 
lives. Down to the mud spattered on their boots, our 
Scotsmen we hope will look like they were, a wild, violent, 
strange race. 

340 Macbeth 

So far, good enough. But when the realistic effort to 
bring Birnam Wood to Tobacco Road has its appropri- 
ately costumed, tousled and bedraggled warriors lighted 
by an elaborate stage electrical equipment like the actors 
in Music In My Heart and a Macbeth in the person of Mr. 
Redgrave who very evidently has hurried to his dressing- 
room between scenes to freshen his lip rouge, the other- 
wise reasonable plan goes to pieces on the reefs of ab- 



A bill of three one-act plays. Produced by the Experimen- 
tal Theatre, Inc.,, for 8 performances in the Maxine Elliott 



Philip Robinson 

E. G. Marshall 

George Mathews 

Robert Alvin 





Lou Gilbert 

Daniel A. Reed 

Fredric Martin 

Jabez Gray 










Directors: 1. Joseph Kramm; 2. Joseph Anthony; 3. John 

Hilda Vaughn 

ELLEN BELLE Sally Grade 

Perry Wilson 

TOM James Karen 

Warren Stevens 


Helen Marcy 

' Philippa Bevans 

Eleanora Barrie 

Ellen Herbert 

Dan Morgan 

Fred Stewart 

John Morley 

Joseph Kramm 

Stanley Tackney 


Syl Lamont 

Lynn Masters 

Clement Brace 


Ed Kaufman 

Mary Patton 

Joseph Kapfer 

Joan DeWeese 

Joseph Anthony 

ANN Norma Chambers 

-HE FIFTH EXPLOIT of what, to say it again, seems to be 
an experimental enterprise in little more than name as- 
sumed the shape of a program of three one-act plays. Be- 
fore considering their nature, we may be justified in ask- 
ing just where there is anything like genuine experiment 
in putting on such short specimens of drama of any kind. 
The American commercial and professional theatre in the 

342 Six O'clock Theatre 

last forty years has already produced more one-acters, 
many of them deserving, than one can record without 
spraining a wrist. Among the producers of them have been 
such well-known managers and actors as the Lieblers, 
Charles Frohman, George Tyler, Morris Gest, Henry E. 
Dixey, Mrs. Fiske, James K. Hackett, Frank Keenan, Sarah 
Cowell Le Moyne, Arnold Daly (with no less than three 
or four separate programs), Holbrook Blinn, John C. 
Wilson, and divers others. The plays have included, 
among foreign dramatists, those of Rostand, Strindberg, 
Schnitzler, Yeats, Browning, Zangwill, Barrie, et al. } and, 
among Americans, a number of whom were tyros, the 
playlets of all sorts of writers like Clay M. Greene, Julian 
Street, Arthur Hornblow, George Ade, Gladys Unger, 
Charles Frederic Nirdlinger, Edmund Day, John Luther 
Long, C. J. Bell, Charles Kenyon, Edward Ellis, Russ 
Whytal, C. M. S. McLellan, et al., and, if you must know, 
about four decades ago, a particular little cabbage by a 
boy named George Jean Nathan. 

Non-professional groups have also been giving a hospi- 
table hearing to native one-acters since and before the 
Provincetown Players ventured O'Neill's cycle of short 
sea plays, and vaudeville in its heyday often embraced in 
its bills playlets by a variety of American and foreign play- 
wrights, among them, in the American department, Bron- 
son Howard, O'Neill, Richard Harding Davis, Frances 
Hodgson Burnett, and lots of others. Three so-called 
"museum pieces" in the way of American short plays by 
John Howard Payne, Colin H. Hazelwood and John M. 
Morton were presented for a month's engagement eleven 
years ago in Daly's Sixty-third street house by a producer 
named Verdi. The Irish Repertory Theatre offered a pro- 
gram of Irish one-acters about twelve years ago, and even 
the Children's Art Theatre gambled on a program of four 
at about the same time. Eight years ago, Eugene Endrey 
offered a bill of four down in the Provincetown Play- 
house; the New York Players Company did the same the 
year before, including playlets by Albert Maltz and Thorn- 
ton Wilder (the same The Happy Journey recently re- 

April 11, 1948 343 

vived by the New Stages group) ; and the Lighthouse 
Players o the New York Association For The Blind in 
the same season put on three with blind young actresses 
forming the casts. Another such company, the Guild Cen- 
ter Players, followed suit with four one-acters 3 three by 
Americans, and all similarly performed by blind players. 

The late Federal Theatre duly put on short plays; the 
New Theatre League sponsored two Negro groups in one- 
act play programs in 1938; the Workers' Laboratory The- 
atre some seasons ago produced a program of American 
short plays for a successful engagement in the Nora Bayes 
Theatre; the Yorke Center group followed with a program 
of four; and one loses count of all the rest. In the present 
season, we already had seen in the professional theatre two 
bills of three brief plays each by Noel Coward and the 
Jos Ferrer bill of four short Chekhov plays. I described 
in an earlier chapter one of the other ventures of the Ex- 
perimental Theatre as being as experimental as pouring 
ketchup on beans. The present one enjoyed all the greater 
experimental daring of eating the beans after the ketchup 
was poured on them. 

The first of the three little plays that comprised the eve- 
ning was Hope Is The Thing With Feathers, by Richard 
Harrity. Relatively the best of the lot, it has to do with a 
group of vagrants, gathered by night in Central Park, 
. whose problem is getting something to eat. One of them 
evolves several schemes to snare one of the ducks floating 
on the lake and, though the others deride him, persists 
in his quest but haplessly winds up instead with a mon- 
key. The sardonic idea plainly has possibilities, but, while 
the author has realized some of them, the little play misses 
full achievement on three grounds. The comments on the 
breadwinner's stratagems by his fellow tramps appear 
sometimes to be studiously written into the characters in- 
stead of seeming to issue naturally from them; the dnoue- 
ment involving the monkey, while perfectly legitimate 
ironic comedy, is in the handling a little too pat and in 
the nature of the tag of a musical show blackout skit; and 
there is occasionally the feeling that the down-and-outers 

344 Six O 9 Clock Theatre 

have been observed by the author through a proscenium 
arch rather than through eyes trained upon fact and actu- 
ality. There is, in other words, a suspicion of Dusty 
Rhodes and Nat Wills in the characters, the sense of a 
slight touch of greasepaint, the comic strip, and vaude- 
ville. Yet, under it all, Harrity betrays a glimmer of talent 
that may develop. 

The second item was Celebration, by Horton Foote, an 
attempted serious picture of the degeneration of Southern 
aristocracy. It is a forced and artificial job so exaggerated 
that it seems to be a refugee from an old Minsky show. 
There would scarcely have been any experiment in its 
production even if produced as part of such a burlesque 

The third short play was Afternoon Storm, by E. P. 
Conkle, whose longer play also about the young Abraham 
Lincoln, Prologue To Glory, saw local production ten 
years ago. In this case, the author considers the doubts that 
assail Abe regarding Mary Todd just before the marriage 
ceremony. Mary is presented with a lack of sympathy bor- 
dering on contempt, and Lincoln as a monologist torturedly 
informing himself at some length that it isn't desirable to 
marry a woman whom one doesn't love, the while being 
persuaded by the spirit of the deceased Ann Rutledge that 
honor is honor, that he is stuck, and that there is no other 
course open to him but to lie in the bed he has made for 
himself. A few moments of Abe's rationalization of his 
predicament come across the footlights with some convic- 
tion, but the play for the most part bogs down in a swamp 
of attitudinized words. 

The incidental general use of the familiar bare stage 
technique hardly added to any sensational experimenta- 



A play by Keith Winter. Produced by James S. Elliott for 
4 performances in the Booth Theatre. 


MANN Arthur Gould-Porter 

WEYLAND Victor Wood 

CHETWOOD Bert Jeter 



Colin Keith-Johnston 
JANE CLAYDON Jeanne Stuart 

TILLY SHANE Rett Kitson 

SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place at Fallgates, a pre- 
paratory school in Northumberland, over a period of seven months. Act I. 
The beginning. Act II. The middle. Act III. The end. 

Director: James S. Elliott. 


BADLY MUDDLED playwright's badly muddled play has 
been even worse muddled by his producer and stage di- 
rector, industriously assisted by his actors. To start, the 
rats of Norway that figure in the author's symbolic title 
are the lemmings the oft-told tale about which, he says, 
provided the inspiration for the writing of his play. His 
program note thereon is as follows: 

There is a town on the coast of Norway from which, ev- 
ery few years, many thousands of lemmings swim south 
into the North Sea. They swim on and on until they are 
all drowned. The reason for this eccentric conduct on the 
part of the lemmings is that many years ago there was an 
island some distance from the coast. The island is now 
submerged. No lemming has ever returned to tell the tale, 
so the great battalions continue to set forth on their fatal 
emigration. In the play, the story centers around two pairs 
of lovers, one young and romantic, the other mature and 
passionate. Both are seeking blindly and with an increas- 
ing desperation for a perfection of love which the very vi- 
olence of their search prevents them from finding. So, like 

346 The Rats of Norway 

the rats of Norway, they finally drown their spiritual selves 
in their quest for the impossible. 

It might have profited both Mr. Winter and his play 
if he had taken the trouble to explore the myth, as Bergen 
Evans has in his The Natural History of Nonsense. "'The 
actual lemming," he notes, "does no such thing/' referring 
the skeptic to Charles Elton's Voles, Mice and Lemmings 
(Oxford: The Clarendon Press) . "The march to the sea/' 
he continues, "is merely a crowding into the coastal plains 
o excess numbers that are periodically bred in the hills. 
It is an irregular movement of individuals and often takes 
years. The creatures are able to swim small streams, and 
it is possible that some reach the ocean, swim out beyond 
their power to return, and drown. But the grim phalanx, 
the death march, the fatal instinct, and the cosmic irony 
of it all axe figments of modern pessimism.^. . ." Even 
Masefield, who in The Lemmings succumbed in small part 
to the fable of the fatal urge, allowed, as Evans observes, 
that it seizes the rodents only once in a hundred years. 

Furthermore, granting Mr. Winter his faith in the truth 
of the fable, he yet giddily confuses himself in the analogy 
of the search for perfection of love, since it is very hard to 
make out a search for perfection of any kind on the part 
of the lemmings, who are concerned simply with getting 
a foothold on dry land. This is not to say that the author's 
thesis, apart from the superstition, may not be reasonable 
enough. That violence in a search for perfection of love 
may very well prevent its achievement and bring ultimate 
pain is probably not questioned by experts in such mat- 
ters. Nor doubtless is the argument that such perfection 
is impossible. But Mr. Winter so quickly loses all grasp 
of the idea and so rattles himself that the theme flies right 
out the window, flapping its tin wings like a mechanical 
toy bird and making noises like a corkscrew trying vainly 
to open a bottle of soda pop. His older couple, for ex- 
ample, far from any noticeable search for perfection in 
their amorous attachment, are selfishly concerned, on the 
female side, with financial security and the safeguarding 

April 15, 1948 347 

of social position, and, on the male, largely with an ob- 
jection to the discomforts of al fresco cohabitation. And 
his younger pair imply that it is not perfection they are 
intent upon but, on the female side, rather the safety to 
be had in a speedy marriage and, on the male, the avoid- 
ance of the sexual act and the equally puzzling quest of 
a woman who will determinedly refuse to mold herself to 
his tastes and prejudices. In other words, what the charac- 
ters actually impress one as being after, in the case of both 
couples, is not perfection but imperfection, which, if wit- 
tily handled, might have made a much more intelligent 
and better play. 

The author's dramaturgical technique, which follows 
the old German custom of alternately bringing on the 
couples to conduct their colloquies, only adds to the feel- 
ing that what is going on on the stage is not so much a play 
as a series of static duologues. And when at rare moments 
there is the faint suspicion of a play, the director does 
everything possible to allay it. He also, in his capacity of 
producer, has augmented the over-all jumble by publish- 
ing in the program brief accounts of the various charac- 
ters which fail to dovetail with the characters one sees on 
the stage. The faculty member in love with the head- 
master's wife, for example, is described as one "who clings 
to reality as a drowning man would to a life-preserver," 
whereas the play reveals him as one who seeks desperately 
to avoid reality in drink* The wife, it is noted, is a woman 
''whose brains make up for Robin's (her husband's) in- 
effectualness," but the stage shows her as having no brains 
whatsoever. And so with several of the others. 

It is of course possible that Mr. Winter's play, which 
was produced successfully fifteen years ago in England, has 
been edited by other hands into a measure of its present 
disorder. Some of the dialogue certainly does not sound 
as if it had been written by the author of The Shining 
Hour, which at least was literate. I am told, indeed, that 
his novel of the same title from which he derived the play 
had points of merit. But the exhibit as we here get it 
is garbled at times into a dramatic and thematic chaos 

348 The Rats of Norway 

that offers, among its other contradictions, a potential 
homosexuality in the two men who are presented by the 
dramatist as fiercely possessed of passion for their lady 

The acting company could scarcely be worse, though 
direction must take its full share of the blame. Colin 
Keith- Johnston, ordinarily a congenial actor, indicates the 
elderly gravity of the headmaster of the boys* school 
mainly by pressing his chin down hard upon his collar 
and issuing such sounds as suggest he has swallowed an 
operatic dog. John Ireland plays the headmaster's wife's 
moody lover by withholding his chin from his collar but 
nonetheless managing to issue sounds not materially dis- 
similar; and stage direction has further imposed upon him 
the necessity, when a heart attack overcomes him, of fall- 
ing with a crash upon the keyboard of a piano, a piece of 
business one thought had abandoned the theatre for the 
films years ago. As the philandering spouse, Jeanne Stuart 
spends the evening composing herself into a series of aloof 
living pictures, which, I take it, are supposed to denote 
her mental superiority to the other characters but which 
insinuate rather that the actress is so fascinated by herself 
that she is rooted admiringly to the spot. William Howell 
and Rett Kitson, as the younger couple, perform as if a 
big television show were going on in the auditorium and 
as if they were so engrossed by it that the play, to their 
obvious impatience, gets in their way. Of the others, only 
Victor Wood, in the role of a cynical member of the fac- 
ulty, manages not to be too silly. 

When they come across a review like this, various critics 
of these annuals are in the habit of deploring what they 
uniformly allude to as "Mr. Nathan's occasional savage- 
ness/' Certainly not in any extenuation but just for the 
fun of it, I quote from my more charitable colleagues' 
opinions of the play: 

The more genteel Mr. Atkinson, in the Times: 'In time 
the actors and the audience will recover, but at the mo- 
ment the play, which was dumped on the stage at the 

April 15, 1948 349 

Booth, seems to have added ten years to the life of every- 
one on both sides of the footlights." 

The more benevolent Mr. Watts, in the Post: "Terrible 
. . . dull . . . ridiculous. One of the most incredible 
things in writing, direction and acting encountered all 

The more tender-hearted Mr. Barnes, in the Herald 
Tribune: "It takes a number of factors to drive a lot of 
first-nighters out of their seats before a final curtain. The 
Rats Of Norway has them. A ridiculous script badly acted, 
woefully staged and preposterously designed. A series of 
cliches which defy description." 

The more spirituel Mr, Morehouse, in the Sun: "Dread- 
ful stuff. A dull and doltish play, and the acting is fairly 
monstrous. Everything is woeful and doleful and the final 
curtain falls on tragedy. It just didn't fall soon enough. 
One of the most frightful performances a cast of profes- 
sional grown-ups has given in my time." 

The more indulgent Mr. Chapman, in the Daily News: 
"An occasion of acute discomfort, like double pneu- 

The more benign Mr. Garland, in the Journal- Ameri- 
can: "Even two-legged British lemmings couldn't be as 
dim-witted as their trans-Atlantic setup makes them out 
to be." 

The more forbearing Mr. Hawkins, in the World-Tele- 
gram: "The general lack of civility is simply offensive. 
Trite . . . embarrassing. Gives the feeling of a period 
piece and sounds as if the radio and telephone had not 
yet been invented." 

The more beneficent, compassionate and merciful Mr. 
Coleman, in the Daily Mirror: "The biggest bore of the 
season. The curtain seemed as if it never would fall. The 
running time is npt excessive, but an evening at the Booth 
seems like a veritable lifetime. Packed with cliches which 
sent the first-nighters into spasms of laughter, that is, those 
first-nighters who suffered from insomnia and the on-stage 
noises. How the actors waded through Winter's stilted, 

350 The Rats of Norway 

pretentious twaddle without howling is a mystery. They 
must have wonderful control of their facial muscles. If 
any organization has a spare medal around for the most 
feeble and futile play of the season, they might consider 
The Rats Of Norway" 



A play by Eva Wolas. Produced by New Stages, Inc., for 
2 weeks' performances in the New Stages Theatre. 


ADAM Anthony Randall 


Raymond Edward Johnson 
ZILLAH Judy Somerside 

WOMAN Jean GUlespie 

(Florence James 
George Stephens 
Georgette Clark 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. An early morning. Act II. Scene 1. Tea time; 
one week later. Scene 2. That evening. Act III. The following morning. 
Scene: The Palace Primeval. 
Director: Ezra Stone. 

.y FIRST SORTIE into belles-lettres, at the ripe age of 
ten, like that of many other school children was what I 
was pleased to speak of as an "essay" on Adam and Eve. 
And one of my earliest theatrical recollections, of the 
same period, is of either a Charles Yale or Hanlon Broth- 
ers extravaganza I can't quite remember which that 
opened with a scene in the Garden of Eden. While I do 
not profess to be an expert in the Freudian metaphysic, 
it is my guess that the tale's spell over youngsters lies in 
what seems to them its scandalous nature, and it is not a 
guess but a certainty that what has appealed to musical 
show producers about it has been the chance it has af- 
forded them to present, safe from moralist interference, 
the spectacle of a female in a state approximating the al- 
together. Since a number of such American and European 
producers have not been much advanced beyond adoles- 
cence, the stage has duly regaled us from time to time with 
the old papier-mich.6 trees and bushes, the green grass 
mat, the rubber snake coiled in the foliage, and, for double 
safety behind a scrim, the show-girl either in a skin-tight 
white silk union suit or with her virginal body covered 
with enough whitewash to plaster the Sistine Chapel, and 

352 To Tett You the Truth 

in both cases with a fig leaf the amplitude of the coco- 
palm species coyly attached to her center. So enticed, in- 
deed, has the musical stage been by the idea that only the 
scene in Hell has outfavored it, and the dramatic stage, 
in each instance, has rivalled if not surpassed it, though 
somewhat more circumspectly in an anatomical direction. 
From twelfth century plays like Le Mystere d'Adam to 
seventeenth like Adam In Exile, that stage in far days 
fondled the idea with a motherly affection, and the affec- 
tion has continued into modern times with all kinds of 
performances from Shaw's Back To Methuselah to Capek's 
Adam The Creator and from one such Broadway para- 
phrase as the Bolton-Middleton Adam And Eva to another. 
All but a notable few have approached the theme more or 
less obviously, and all without exception have very evi- 
dently been tempted to it by the comparative novelty of 
its background, which at least in these later years has 
plainly come to enjoy all the newfandanglement of the 
Hell business. 

Miss Wolas is the latest playwright to be overcome by 
the moldy conceit, and her treatment of it, if it must be 
told, is as sallow as can be imagined, even by a fancy with 
the wings of an eagle. From the beginning, when she pro- 
ceeds from the orthodox battle-between-the-sexes view- 
point, to the middle, when she indulges in the old stuff 
about Adam and Eve discovering, to their surprise and 
pleasure, the physical perquisites of love, and on to the 
end, when Adam is banished from Eden for his sin and 
Eve follows him on the road to a future Cecil B. DeMille 
movie, there is not the slightest wit, taste, or invention. I 
do not wish overly to boast, but I have a feeling that that 
school-boy essay of mine which, as I recall, drew an anal- 
ogy, if excessively juvenile, between Adam and Eve and 
Crown Prince Rudolf and Marie Vetsera, the great ro- 
mantic scandal of the day, was at least a little more fertile * 
in originality. 

Miss Wolas' details are not less of a starkly unimagina- 
tive nature. Her Adam has visions of Woman as being 
lighted by the stars, only subsequently to find her a com- 

April 18, 1948 353 

monplace, practical and nagging creature. Her Eve, follow- 
ing the cut-and-dried modern historical spoof pattern, is 
pictured as being identical with a present day messing 
housewife. Her Serpent, as may be guessed, is a kinder- 
garten raisonneur out of a Mae West saucepot who coun- 
sels Adam that the best way to go about handling Eve is 
to get down quickly to what may euphemistically be 
termed bedrock. And she has her last curtain fall on the 
twain's exit into the world with the hint that they will go 
on bickering until the end of time. In the whole there is 
no trace of illumination save that provided by the stage's 
electrical switchboard, which doesn't work any too well at 

The style in which the play is written pursues that fav- 
ored by contemporary writers of drugstore shelf anachron- 
istic fiction, which is to say a mixture of the vernacular, 
Biblical quotations, and the kind of sex suggestiveness 
once miscellaneously sprayed over the local stage by the 
Wilson Collison school of farce plumbers. The characters 
are drawn and played much as their counterparts were in 
the college musicals of our youth, though girls here act the 
girl roles in place of boys. The Serpent is thus a young 
woman clad in a sausage-skin of black lace who depicts 
Temptation by slinking around the stage like Harpo Marx 
in lascivious underwear and making wicked eyes at 
Michael, the guardian angel. Eve, when Adam begins to 
show signs of restlessness, duly restimulates his interest by 
arching a bare shoulder at him and simultaneously un- 
covering her leg up to the legal limit. Adam is the antici- 
pated combination of Keith Winter protagonist and La 
Belle Hdldne caricature. And Michael, like the play alto- 
gether, misses only the wires to pull him out of sight into 
the flies. 



A dramatization by Louis Paul of his novel., Breakdown. 
Produced by Paul Czinner and C. P. Jaeger for 31 perform- 
ances in the Music Box. 


MRS. BOSSHARDT Beverly Bayne 
ELLEN CROY Elisabeth Bergner 

DR. BROEN Philip Tonge 

JOHN CROY Mi llard Mitchell 
WALTER FOWLER John Carradine 

JAMESSON Louis Hector 

ANN Iris Mann 


William Robertson 
DR. DENNING Martin Wolf son 

PEEWEE U. T. Atherton 

SHEILA VANE Arlene Francis 

GRACIE Hope Emerson 

SYNOPSIS: Act I. Scene 1. The Croys* apartment, 10 p.m. Friday. 
Scene 2. Walter Fowler's home, Saturday afternoon, six weeks later. 
Scene 3. The Croys' apartment, that night. Scene 4. The same, next 
morning. Scene 5. The same, late the following afternoon. Act II. Scene 
1. Dr. Dennings office, afternoon, ten days later. Scene 2. Lundeman's of- 
fice, early the same evening. Scene 3. The Croys 9 apartment, a few days 

Director: Paul Czinner, 


JLISABETH BERGNER, it has come to be recognized, is an 
actress of mannerisms all compact. As a student of man- 
nerisms, I lay proud claim to some experience, since 
among those of many others which I have investigated I 
may number my own, which at times have been known so 
to irritate people that they have catapulted themselves 
from my presence with such precipitant haste that at least 
thirty, including a child of ten, have tripped over one 
another in the grand rush and broken their legs. Miss 
Bergner may be no more conscious of hers than I, alas, 
have been of mine but, unlike me, she has the misfortune 
to have to make a living out of the public on a stage and, 
if only a relative handful of the public can't stand mine 
in private, I don't see how she can expect any such hand- 
ful to be multiplied into box-office thousands by eccen- 

April 20, 1948 355 

tricities which far exceed even my own, adequately vexa- 
tious, I blush to record, as they seem to be. 

As in Miss Bergner's case, I am sorry to report that I 
seem to be most unacceptable when I secretly imagine 
that I am most fascinating, and, also like her, I am ap- 
parently least desirable when in my own estimation I am 
little short of irresistible. The difference between us is 
that, being a critic by profession, I am able to recognize 
what is wrong with me, though I can't help myself, and 
that she, being like almost any other actress without the 
critical gift, isn't able to do any such thing, doubtless ad- 
mires her behavioristic frillery, and probably wouldn't do 
anything about it if she could. 

Though her well-meaning critics have been pointing 
out to Miss Bergner for a long time now that her manifold 
affectations are damaging to her stage impression, she con- 
tinues to go sublimely on her way and year after year per- 
mits them seriously to weaken the effect of her perform- 
ances. Like some other actresses who are convinced, some- 
times rightly, that the critics do not know what they are 
talking about and that, even if they do, it is beneath an 
actress' dignity to listen to them, she will not unlearn 
what, in her case, she inexpediently learned under German 
direction in the days of her Berlin career and, unlearning, 
adapt herself more accommodatingly and a lot more wor- 
thily to an American stage where her idiosyncrasies seem 
all too exaggerated and even invested with something of a 
burlesque sauce. 

At this point, however, I am beset by the feeling that 
perhaps I am doing her a slight injustice and that it is pos- 
sible she may at last be realizing the danger of her ex- 
cesses. The feeling overcomes me in view of the character 
of this most recent play which she has elected as a vehicle. 
It is conceivable that the central role in it, that of a female 
alcoholic, struck her by its very nature as a legitimate 
cover-up of and apology for her fantastic singularities, 
since even the dumbest critic might have a deal of trouble 
finding fault with the physical and vocal peccadillos of an 
actress playing the role of a woman on the road to delirium 

356 The Cup of Trembling 

tremens. If Miss Bergner did this deliberately, I tender her 
my congratulations on her shrewdness, even if the play she 
has chosen gives me the heebie-jeebies along with her. It 
makes all her bad acting attributes seem under the dra- 
matic circumstances to be a proper part of the role which 
she portrays; it converts her irritating artificialities into 
logical appurtenances of the boozy character; and it fools 
many members of her audience into believing that, as 
with the late Henry Irving in A Story Of Waterloo, she is 
an artist extraordinary when what she analytically is is 
rather only a second-rate actress more or less successfully 
concealing the fact in a role manufactured for that very 

Mr. Paul's play is based on his novel, Breakdown, which 
was another of the numerous recent recesses from litera- 
ture picturing the horrible consequences of alcoholic in- 
dulgence. The play is even worse than the book. The plot 
may easily be guessed: the woman who gradually finds 
herself in the grip of the bottle, her disintegration, the 
futile attempts of her loved ones to rehabilitate her, and 
her eventual redemption at the combined hands of psy- 
chiatry, the organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous, 
and the author. To work my own redemption after it was 
all over required the combined hands of two bartenders. 

Miss Bergner's great success with past German audiences 
has often been a source of local speculation. I think it may 
be explained in at least one direction. It has been com- 
monly believed as an article of the American Credo that 
the Germans* admiration was always reserved for women 
and actresses who most closely resembled over-developed 
beer barrels, both fore and aft, or what is known in our 
lingo as the Hausfrau type, and that any one of some physi- 
cal delicacy was impatiently waved aside as an ogre. Like 
many other American ideas about foreigners, the theory 
has small basis in fact. Far from a distaste for the more 
unsubstantial specimens of femininity, of which Miss 
Bergner was one, the German in those days and before, as 
doubtless still, elected just such German women, aside 
from any acting ability, as his favorites, both on the stage 

April 20, 1948 357 

and screen. I name a few in illustration: Helene Thimig, 
Lillian Harvey, Renate Mueller, Hertha Thiele, Marlene 
Dietrich, Camilla Horn, Meta Illing, Gertrud Eysold, 
Maria Orska . . . 

Anyone who knew Berlin in the years between the 
Kaiser's reign and the rise of Hitler need hardly be in- 
formed on such matters. For the Germans then and it 
was in that period that the young Bergner came to emi- 
nence had the same affectionate eye to slender loveli- 
ness that we have and did not, as the comic strip historians 
would have us think, reserve their personal ecstasy solely 
for the talented tubs of lard who disported themselves in 
the classical drama and on the grand opera stage. 

The acting of the supporting company and Czinner's 
stage direction are as spurious as the playwright's apparent 
theory that a person suffering from alcoholomania may be 
completely cured, restored to perfect health, and delivered 
into the lap of God in little more than a week. 



A revival of the comedy by Ferenc Molndr, adapted by 
P. G. Wodehouse. Produced by Gilbert Miller in associa- 
tion with James Russo and Michael Ellis at the season's 
end for indeterminate performances in the Booth Theatre. 


ILONA SZABO Faye Emerson 

ALMADY Arthur Margetson 

SANDOR TURAI Louis Cdhern 

MANSKY Ernest Cossart 

ALBERT ADAM Richard Hylton 


Frauds Compton 
SYNOPSIS; The three acts are laid in a room in a castle on the 
Italian Riviera. 

Director: Gilbert Mitter. 

MEIX Claud Attister 

( Fred Wentler 

LACKEYS t TedPaterson 

ONLY a great deal of water has passed under the 
bridge since the comedy was first shown here in 1926, but 
on its surface has floated so many plays-within-plays that 
the comparative novelty of the piece has become a bit 
gray at the edges. I say comparative because the play- 
within-a-play device, together with the written evolution 
of the play within the play as in this case, was already 
familiar to local audiences before Molndr again employed 
it. It was indeed already familiar considerably previous to 
its repeated use by the Messrs. Hamilton and Thomas in 
The Big Idea back in 1914, and how many times it has 
been resorted to since and before Sheridan by playwrights 
both in America and Europe only a toilsome search 
through the records would disclose. Molnir's handling of 
it is superior to most, since he is a man of style and wit, 
and his comedy, for all its dramaturgical dust in that di- 
rection, consequently still contributes to the theatre a 
pleasant evening. 

The plot, it may be recalled, deals with a young com- 
poser who, accompanied by two older friends who are his 

April 28, 1948 359 

collaborators on his first undertaking in the operetta line, 
unexpectedly one night visits the habitat of a well-known 
prima donna to whom he is affianced. From her bedroom 
issues conversation with one of her former lovers the tone 
of which the young man can not mistake and which 
prompts him in his disillusion to contemplate suicide. To 
save him from his mortal despair, one of his collaborators, 
a playwright, persuades the deceitful lady of his sentimen- 
tal passion and her lover to help him work out a short play 
in which the incriminating sexual conversation will figure 
as part of the dialogue. The little play is subsequently 
acted; the young composer is overwhelmed by joy to learn 
that his suspicions were base and that his beloved was 
simply rehearsing the dialogue when he eavesdropped the 
bedroom doings; and all ends commodiously. 

It is plainly as difficult to attend any such trick play 
twice and still be held by it as it is to be held a second 
time by any mystery or detective play. In this instance, 
however, the playwright's delicate waggery serves to make 
one not too greatly conscious of the trick machinery, and, 
as noted, the evening is hence much more acceptable than 
in the case of most similar plays. For, in addition to the 
author's smooth jocosity, there is for anyone professionally 
interested in drama his uncommon skill in technique. The 
trick itself may be all too recognizable, but the way in which 
it is done is so dexterous that it becomes a fascinating trick 
on its own account. 

Though Hungarian is a language omitted from my ed- 
ucation, I had always suspected, despite assurances to the 
contrary, that the play had not only been toned down for 
local consumption in its bedroom episode but that some 
of the humor in it was so little like Molndr that it was 
probably incorporated by the adapter. My suspicion has 
been confirmed by Professor Emro Joseph Gergely in his 
recently published treatise on Hungarian drama produced 
in New York in the 19081940 period. He points out that 
some of the original spicy dialogue has been softened and 
also that the adapter has interpolated some humor of his 
own, as, for example, such passages as 

360 The Plays the Thing 

Why are you so late? 
I fell down stairs, sir. 
Well, that oughn't to have taken you so long. 

And, when the butler serves an elaborate breakfast with 
the observation, "It was a labor of love, sir. My heart is in 
that breakfast," Turai's reply, "Your heart, too?" 

While the present company in the aggregate is not as 
finished as the earlier one (at this point let me say that if 
the customary worm either contends that memory is play- 
ing pranks on me or, worse, that I am one of those old 
duffers who arbitrarily believe that what they saw in the 
past is always better than what they see today, I'll step on 
him) , it is in fair degree accommodating enough. Some of 
the sheen and gloss is missing, and a little more ease 
wouldn't hurt, but, in view of everything, it will do very 
well, particularly as regards the Messrs. Margetson, who 
as usual proves himself to be a first-rate comedian, Cal- 
hern, and Allister, who has been resurrected from the orig- 
inal troupe. 


INSIDE U.S.A. APRIL 30, 1948 

A revue with music by Arthur Schwartz , lyrics by Howard 
DietZj and sketches by Arnold B. Horwitt, Moss Hart, and 
Arnold Auerbach. Produced by Arthur Schwartz at the 
close of the season for indeterminate performances in the 
Century Theatre. 


Beatrice .Lillie, Jack Haley, Estelle Loring, John Tyers, Thelma Carpen- 
ter, Valerie Bettis, Eric Victor, Carl Reiner, Jane Lawrence, William Le- 
Massena, Lewis Nye, and Herb Shriner. 

Directors: Robert H. Gordon and Helen Tamiris. 

.Y SENTIMENTAL AFFECTION for the female sex in the 
mass, if manifestly not in the particular, is of an enormity 
almost equal to that which I feel for Philadelphia scrapple 
and people who kick dogs. But, whatever its lamentable 
lack of volume, it still remains sufficient to make me gag 
at most women who offer themselves on the stage as low 
comedians. There is something about the spectacle of such 
wornen making obscene cartoons of themselves that is not 
only far from funny but that, though I am not an overly 
fastidious man, has much the same effect on me as the 
smell of banana oil. Since most of those who follow the 
peculiar profession are gargoyles to begin with, the view 
of any such one exaggerating her countenance and person 
into the semblance of an even more hideous monstrosity 
is not what I would enthusiastically describe as priceless 
humor. And when the gargoyle further adds to the picture 
the croaks, yelps, howls, leaps, grimaces and physical con- 
tortions concomitant with the stage species, my pleasure is 
comparable to that which I might derive from a bad case 
of hookworm. 

There are, I am aware, men who feel differently and 
who find themselves highly entertained by anatomical 
ugliness, sexless ferocity and debased femininity masquer- 

362 Inside U.S.A. 

ading as comedy. And on the rare occasions when for a 
moment or two the material is sharply relevant to the 
spectacle I can understand their reaction, in a measure. 
But in the general run the material isn't anything of the 
kind and is further of the sort that would be pretty toxif- 
erous even if performed by the most beautiful woman in 
the world, and all that consequently remains is the pa- 
thetic vision of a woman befouling every possible appe- 
tizing quality of her sex and in the process sickening all 
but the sourest misogynist. 

One of the few exceptions to the genre is Beatrice Lillie. 
Not only is she agreeable to the gaze in the suitable biologi- 
cal departments, but she is so exceptionally endowed with 
the comic gift that she has no need, as have many of her 
sister professionals, for indulgence in obstreperous gro- 
tesqueries to hide an absence of it. She can accomplish more 
with a flutter of the hand than they can with their entire 
repertory of physical gyrations, and more with the simple 
wink of an eye than they are able to with all their raucous 
vocal bursts, displays of gnarled knees, and savage facial 
distortions. She is able, in short, to be amusing without de- 
forming her person; she can make one laugh without the 
disturbing consciousness that one is laughing at a cripple; 
and she can entertain with no recourse to the wit of an 
anatomy clinic. Happily assisted by Jack Haley, a sprightly 
comedian in his own right, she, with him, works wonders 
with a show that short of the twain might find itself in 
large difficulties, even though it contains several assistant 
performers of merit. But since it is not the business of a 
reviewer to depress himself with such possibilities and 
rather his duty to report on matters as they are, the eve- 
ning by and large may be said to be passable enough. 
After all, the world we live in may have many things 
wrong with it, but one can nevertheless find elements in 
it to amuse if one looks hard enough. 

Looking thus into this show, there* are several good 
songs, one or two fairly diverting sketches, some rousing 
dancing by Valerie Bettis, and a nightingale in the person 
of Estelle Loring with a fresh green salad appearance, all 

April 30, 1948 363 

of which, I suppose, should suffice to make up for its arid 
spots. Not much imagination has gone into the evening, 
but imagination is a quality that has not been too visible 
in most of our revues for some years now, and its presence 
might conceivably upset audiences who apparently do not 
like comfortable habit to be disturbed. Though, for ex- 
ample, the show is supposed to be based on John Gun- 
ther's exploratory tome of the same title, its only relation 
to it is a few ditties with such titles as "Come To Pitts- 
burgh" and "Rhode Island Is Famous For You/' and 
some scenic backdrops faintly picturing various cities like 
New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. The whole 
hasn't even the coherence of the several past shows based 
on Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days and 
less even than the ones that have borne such local titles as 
About Townj On The Town, and Make Mine Manhattan. 

It is not my job to rewrite musical revues, but it might 
have been suggested to the authors that there was a pos- 
sibly available satiric idea in indicating through a shifting 
American panorama that New Yorkers, for all their much 
touted sophistication, are not at bottom any different from 
the people in Bugtussle, Texas, that the balloon-busting 
nights at the Stork Club have their counterpart in the 
bubb'le-busting nights at Herman's Tip-Top Tavern in 
Pascagoula, Mississippi, and that there are more native 
born New Yorkers in Omaha than are left in New York. 
Inside U.S. A. as it stands is for the most part simply Inside 
Glen MacDonough or inside any of the other writers like 
Harry B. Smith, Edgar Smith, George V. Hobart, Sydney 
Rosenfeld, et al> who were concocting revues at the turn 
of the century. 

But, as I have often remarked, one no more goes to such 
a show in a strictly critical mood than Leigh Hunt went 
to a cock-fight. When it is good, there is nothing to com- 
plain about, and when it isn't you can divert yourself by 
looking at one of the prettier girls. You go, in a word, not, 
unless you are inexperienced in such things, in the hope of 
being stimulated by wit and novelty but much as you go 
to visit a tolerable old aunt, in the hope of getting at least 

364 Inside U.S.A. 

a few cookies and, if the old girl is 'a relative on your 
father's side, maybe even a bit o a tipple. It isn't so bad, 
at that, particularly, in both cases, if and when a good- 
looking daughter happens to appear on the premises. 

And so, since these annuals conclude their reports with 
the dawn of the first of May, another theatrical year ended. 

You are now, ladies and gentlemen, about to get the 
most seditious communique ever put into print by a dra- 
matic critic at the conclusion of any such period. At the 
close of each season, as you are only too well aware, it has 
long been customary for members of the clique to pull 
out of the mothballs the old testimony as to how weary 
they are after ten months spent in the artificial world of 
make-believe and what a rapturous relief it will be to 
betake themselves back to nature, whether in the country, 
the seaside or foreign parts, where the welcome smell of 
fresh earth and reality will assuage their souls. I am now 
soon also about to take leave of the theatre for a while and, 
along with the others, to seek a holiday among the bees 
and the flowers and, as for me, I say the hell with it. I am 
fed up not only on the bees and the flowers but on the 
seaside and foreign parts, and I would not mind it a whit 
and would even enjoy it if some good plays were over- 
night to be announced for immediate production which 
would keep me right here. I would get a deal more pleas- 
ure and rest any day looking at an interesting play or an 
amusing show than fighting against bugs and mosquitoes, 
cutting my feet on beach pebbles and colliding with 
squashy jellyfish, or paying fifteen dollars for a sliver of 
horse-meat slathered with oleomargarine mayonnaise in a 
Paris black market restaurant. And it would be much bet- 
ter all around for what is left of my soul. 

But not, apparently, for the colleagues, to hear them 
tell it. Even the least of them, come this time of the year, 
seem suddenly to become nature lovers, and with such a 

April SO, 1948 365 

passion for the highroad and wide open spaces as has not 
been matched since Fra Diavolo. The running brooks, an 
acquaintance with which has previously been confined to 
the Leone restaurant's fish stream or the outdoor garden 
at the Ritz, promptly acquire a consuming fascination for 
them, though dampness of any kind in the ten earlier 
months has disturbed their sinuses to the point of un- 
speakable agony. The sound of the sea waves, which for 
years they have loftily ridiculed when it has reached their 
ears in plays like Granite, 'Ception Shoals, South Pacific, 
and even Medea, becomes irresistible to them. And foreign 
parts which presently offer all the comforts of a third-rate 
American slum suddenly achieve in their eyes an over- 
whelming allure. 

They can have them. While, like them, I am off to the 
wilds from long habit, I should a lot rather stay put. I 
shall come back, I know, with a sun tan which will per- 
suade idiots that, since I look so well externally, I must 
be as physically fit on the whole as a youth of twenty. I 
shall lie that I had a wonderful time, that there is nothing 
like getting away from the grind for a spell to reinspirit 
one with the old pepper, and (with the usual wicked 
wink) that I met no less than a dozen girls of enough ani- 
mal magnetism to put Ringlings' circus out of business. I 
shall have spent all my money, sprained an ankle or two, 
eaten a lot of foul food, protestingly drunk cocktails made 
of indecent gin> suffered a wrecked sacroiliac from sleep- 
ing on corduroy mattresses, and been bitten on the eyelid 
by a wasp. What is more, it will take me at least two 
months to get back to writing anything that will conceiv- 
ably be worth reading. 

In the several volumes of The American Credo which 
I published years ago, I seem to have failed to include, 
among the innumerable beliefs and superstitions of my 
fellow-countrymen, this nonsense about vacations. Yet 
more than almost any other, it continues to exercise its 
witchery over them. It is not, I daresay, that most people 
honestly feel the necessity for a holiday. It is rather that 
it has become traditional that they take the holiday 

366 inside USA. 

whether they wish to or not, and so they obediently go 
through the annual routine much as they automatically 
make an annual shambles of often gratuitous house-clean- 
ing. Nor is it by any means only the congenital sheep who 
succumb to the buncombe. There surely has never been a 
dramatic critic it is with such that I am principally 
dealing who has been more intelligently, even asser- 
tively, independent, most of the time, than Bernard Shaw. 
Yet in the end he deferred to the temptations of the manure 
belt like the rest of his craft. 

It is thus when tradition demands of me that I leave all 
the comforts of home, all the fascination and ease and en- 
joyment of the city, and reluctantly drag myself away to 
regions beyond, that a profound dejection settles upon 
me. After an hour or two of lying under the trees and 
staining my trousers with an ineradicable green, I would 
welcome the relief of even another Dr. Social. After get- 
ting my mouth and ears full of salt water and enough sand 
in my hair to fill all the cigarette extinguishing jardi- 
nieres in the Waldorf-Astoria, I yearn for another look at 
even The Rats of Norway. And going to bed in London 
on sheets so watery from fog that I expect the Rhine 
maidens to start singing any moment, or languishing in 
the gardens of the Tuileries on a bench souvenired by 
several babies, or getting dysentery from the quarts of 
olive oil on everything in Italy these, too, are scarcely 
the sort of raptures that compensate me for what I have 
left behind. 

I have not the slightest doubt that much of the success 
of John Gielgud's revival of The Importance Of Being 
Earnest was attributable to Wilde's animadversions on the 
country, since it is one of the well-known characteristics of 
Americans that they enjoy laughing at things which re- 
flect on themselves and their habits. It was, accordingly, 
that those critics who profess never to be so blissful as 
when they are sleeping next to a horse, preferably Per- 
cheron, or a cow, laughed most handsomely at such lines as 
"When one is in town one amuses oneself; when one is in 
the country one amuses other people; it is excessively bor- 

April 30, 1948 367 

ing." By and large, nevertheless, the fact remains that these 
brethren have actually cajoled themselves into believing 
that the country is all that the poets, especially those who 
have never left London, Paris, Venice or New York, have 
claimed for it. It is these brethren who persuade them- 
selves that the birds at Wopplehauser's Crossing sing more 
beautifully than ever did Geraldine Farrar, that the moon 
in the heavens above Mead's Corners, New Jersey, is al- 
ways more golden than Jo Mielziner's, and that the flowers 
in Putchnick Falls, Pa., are more luxuriant than those in 
Wadley and Smythe's. My blessings on them, and may 
they rest in peace. Cockney that I have come to be, I will 
give them all the dripping ceilings, out-of-order plumbing, 
unskimmed milk, damp walls, stuck bureau drawers, mos- 
quitoes, pictures of a stag at bay, rutted roads, soggy bread, 
sleep-destroying crickets and roosters, oil lamps, outhouses, 
cow profiterolles, three-day-old newspapers, rainy Sundays, 
stewed chicken, greenheaded flies, spiders and the rest of 
the bucolic delights for one little room and bath at the St. 
Regis, with the bar not too far away, with the floor waiter 
handy, and with the orchestra below playing Tales From 
The Vienna Woods. 


Especially Interesting Performances 


Cyril Ritchard 
Pamela Brown 
Jessie Evans 


Basil Rathbone 


Paul Kelly 
Stephen Elliott 
Paul Ford 
James Whitmore 
James Holden 


Francis L. Sullivan 

Frances Rowe 


Judith Anderson 


Melville Cooper 
John Buckmaster 
Rend Ray 


Marjorie Rhodes 

Doris Rich 

David Burns 


Oscar Homolka 

Meg Mundy 


Hilton Edwards 

Alfred Ryder 

Micheal MacLiammoir 

Henry Fonda 

Robert Keith 

David Wayne 

Leo G. Carroll 

Ethel Griffies 

Neva Patterson 

Alan Webb 

Frank Allenby 

June Lockhart 


Godfrey Tearle 

Jessica Tandy 
Marlon Brando 
Karl Maiden 



FROM ATHENS Mildred Wall 

Lou Polan 


T/7 j- * o L 7 t Arthur Margetson 

Vladimir Sokoloff & 


John Carradine Beatrice Lillie 

Index of Plays 

Afternoon Storm, 341 

Allegro, 100 

Angel In The Wings, 185 

Angel Street, 219 

Antony and Cleopatra, 158 

Bear, The, 252 

Caribbean Carnival, 168 
Celebration, 341 
Chekhov Bill, A, 252 
Church Street, 258 
Command Decision, 63 
Cradle Will Rock, The, 195 
Crime And Punishment, 190 
Cup Of Trembling, The, 354 

Dear Judas, 77 

Doctor Social, 267 

D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 207 

Druid Circle, The, 116 

Duet For Two Hands, 81 

Eastward In Eden, 146 

First Mrs. Fraser, The, 141 
For Love or Money, 135 

Galileo, 177 

Gentleman From Athens, The, 181 

Ghosts, 275 

Hallams, The, 315 
Happy Journey, The, 260 
Harvest Of Years, 220 
Heads Or Tails, 6 
Hedda Gabler, 300 
Heiress, The, 55 

High Button Shoes, 95 
Hoboes In Heaven, 119 
Hope Is The Thing With Feathers, 

How I Wonder, 59 

Icetime of 1948, 18 
I Gotta Get Out, 43 
Inside U.S.A., 361 
Inspector Calls, An, 113 

John Bull*s Other Island, 262 
Joy To The World, 327 

Kathleen, 249 

Lamp At Midnight, 188 

Last Dance, The, 241 

Laura, 34 

Linden Tree, The, 310 

Long Way From Home, A, 255 

Look, Ma, I'm Dancin*!, 246 

Louisiana Lady, 24 

Love For Love, 13 

Macbeth, 334 

Magic Touch, The, 41 

Make Mine Manhattan, 230 

Man And Superman, 84 

Me And Molly, 306 

Medea, 104 

Medium, The, 3 

Men We Marry, The, 235 

Mister Roberts, 283 

Music In My Heart, 67 

No Exit, 30 


Old Lady Says "No!", The, 279 
On The Harmfulness Of Tobacco, 


Open House, 26 
Our Lan', 47 

Piaf Continental Entertainers, 124 
Play's The Thing, The, 358 
Portrait In Black, 10 
Power Without Glory, 223 

Rats Of Norway, The, 345 
Respectful Prostitute, The, 258 
Respectfully Yours, 8 
Rip Van Winkle, 37 

Six O'Clock Theatre, 341 
Skipper Next To God, 211 
Strange Bedfellows, 227 
Streetcar Named Desire, A, 163 
Survivors, The, 237 

Index of Plays 

Telephone, The, 3 

Temporary Island, A, 319 

This Time Tomorrow, 131 

Tonight At 8:30, 287 

Topaze, 198 

To Tell You The Truth, 351 

Tragedian In Spite of Himself, 252 

Trial By Fire, 167 

Trial Honeymoon, 127 

Under The Counter, 75 
Volpone, 217 

Wedding, The, 252 
Where Stars Walk, 295 
Winslow Boy, The, 121 

You Never Can Tell, 322 

Index of Authors and 

Ackland, Rodney, 190 
Arrieu, Claude, 119 
Auerbach, Arnold, 361 

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 77 
Bell, Mary Hayley, 81 
Berg, Gertrude, 306 
Berghof , Herbert, 37 
Berton, Eugene, 24 
Blitzstein, Marc, 195 
Bodeen, De Witt, 220 
Boucicault, Dion, 37 
Brecht, Bertolt, 177 
Bridgewater, Leslie, 13 
Brown, Forman, 67 

Cahn, Sammy, 95 
Carlo, Monte, 24 
Carroll, Walter, 255 
Caspary, Vera, 34 . 
Chekhov, Anton, 252 
Clements, Colin, 227 
Cobb, Elisabeth, 235 
Congreve, William, 13 
Conkle, E. P., 341 
Coward, Noel, 287 

Dietz, Howard, 361 
Dostoievski, Feodor, 190 
Drake, Ervin, 6 
Druten, van, John, 116 
Dunne, George H., 167 

Eisler, Hanns, 177 
Engel, Lehmann, 77 

Ervine, St. John, 141 
Estry, Joseph L., 267 
Euripides, 104 

Fields, Joseph, 43 
Foote, Horton, 341 
Fords, John, 18 
Franken, Rose, 315 

Gardner, Dorothy, 146 
Gilbert, W. $., 207 
Goetz, Augustus, 55 
Goetz, Ruth, 55 
Goff, Ivan, 10 
Goldbaum, Peter, 241 
Goodman, Randolph, 255 
Gorki, Maxim, 255 
Green, Jr., Isaac, 24 

Haines, William Wister, 63 
Hamilton, Patrick, 219 
Hammerstein II, Oscar, ico 
Harrity, Richard, 341 
Hart, Moss, 361 
Hartman, Grace, 185 
Hartman, Paul, 185 
Hartog, de, Jan, 131, 211 
Heggen, Thomas, 283 
Herbert, F. Hugh, 135 
Hilliard, Bob, 185 
Horwitt, Arnold B., 230, 361 
Hutton, Michael Clayton, 223 

Ibsen, Henrik, 275, 300 
Irving, Washington, 37 


James, Henry, 55 
Jeffers, Robinson, 77, 104 
Johnston, Denis, 279 
Jonson, Ben, 217 

Ladd, Hank, 185 
Lamson, Peggy, 8 
Laughton, Charles, 177 
Lawrence, Jerome, 246 
La very, Emmet, 181 
Lee, Robert E., 246 
Lengsfelder, S. J., 6 
Levy, Benn, 198 
Lewine, Richard, 230 
Littlefield, James, 18 
Logan, Joshua, 283 
Longstreet, Stephen, 95 
Luce, Ted, 185 

MacLiammoir, Micheal, 295 
Macrae, Arthur, 75 
Manning, Samuel L., 168 
Martens, G. M., 1 19 
Martin, Hugh, 246 
Menotti, Gian-Carlo, 3 
Miller, Patsy Ruth, 67 
Molnar, Ferenc, 358 
Myerberg, Michael, 77 

Obey, Andre", 119 

Pagnol, Marcel, 198 
Paul, Louis, 354 
Priestley, J. B., 113, 310 
Purcell, Harold, 75 

Raddock, Charles, 41 
Rattigan, Terence, 121 
Robbins, Jerome, 246 
Roberts, Ben, 10 

Index of Authors and Composers 

Robinson, Lennox, 258 
Rodgers, Richard, 100 
Ryerson, Florence, 227 

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 30, 258 

Sayers, Michael, 249 

Schwartz, Arthur, 361 

Scott, Allan, 327 

Shakespeare, William, 158, 334 

Shaw, George Bernard, 84, 262, 322 

Shaw, Irwin, 237 

Sher, Ben, 43 

Sherman, Charles, 41 

Sherwin, Manning, 75 

Short, Robin, 241 

Sigman, Carl, 185 

Singer, Andre", 37 

Sklar, George, 34 

Smith, Conrad S., 127 

Stavis, Barrie, 188 

Steininger, Franz, 67 

Stewart, Donald Ogden, 59 

Stringberg, August, 241 

Styne, Jule, 95 

Sullivan, Arthur, 207 

Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilych, 67 
Thenstead, Adolph, 168 

Viertel, Peter, 237 

Ward, Theodore, 47 
Welles, Halstead, 319 
Wilder, Thornton, 260 
Williams, Herschel, 235 
Williams, Tennessee, 163 
Winter, Keith, 345 
Wodehouse, P. G., 358 
Wolas, Eva, 258, 351 

Young, Harry, 26 


The text of this book has been set on the Linotype in a type- 
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The typographic scheme and the binding design are by 
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