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March 29, 1925 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1925-03-29

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VOL. XXXV. No. 135



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Sutton Vane's.Weird Masterpiece Will Be Presented April 1 acd 3 at the Whitney Theatre g Wednesd
Will Open First Amateur Production of the PNay Which Delighted New York and London.

ay's Curtain

Daniel Quirk and Paul

Stephenson Direct the Play









'. .. -



By Robert Henderson
C CCASIONALLY, Gnce in ten or a dozen, a
hundred or a thousand yearh, originality
appears in the theatre. Aristotle, perhaps
someone else, has said that there are only
eight possible dramatic situations. Sutton Vane,
however, has unquestionably presented a theme that,
in the last century at least, has been untouched.
This unknown English author challenged the entire
theatrical world two seasons ago when late in Sep-
tember, backed only by his own conviction, he pre-
sented his play, "Outward Bound", to a dilletante
London audience at the Everyman theatre.
Immediately the piece was transferred to an up-
town house, and early in January was produced by
William Harris in this country. The opening was
in Atlantic City with a cast which included Alfred
Lunt, J. M. Kerrigan, Margola Gillimore, Beryl Mer-
cer, and Leslie Howard. Despite such distinguished
artists, the audience openly disliked the play even
to the point of actual hissing. The 'New York pre-
mier, on the contrary, definitely reversed this criti-
cism, and the unknown Sutton Vane with his start -
ling novelty became the outstanding financial and
artistic success of the season.
The basis for the play's odd effectiveness centers
about the skillful, way in which the situation is un-
folded and the weird story that does not certainly
unravel itself until the final curtain. The opening
scene shows the smoke-room on a small ocean-go-
ing liner, quite a conventional, ordinary place yet
somehow slightly pervaded by an odd, strange at-
wosphere. A Mr. Prior walks un to the bar for a
drink; he is a young man, Prior, but beaten-down
soggy, with a half-snarling attitude toward a world
that has cruelly cheated him. ie is a drunk, on his
own admission, a "weak character"; at the present
moment he is recovering from an unusually thick
night-somehow the exact details escape his mind,
though he dare not admit it even to himself......
Presently the other passengers appear-the boat
is to sail in a. few minutes. First an unassuming
English padre, a naive young clergyman, sincere
but a strange mixture of pat religious nostrums
and bashful simplicity. He in turn is followed by
Mrs. Cliveden-Banks, glorying in her hyphen, and
Mrs. Midget, a prosaic, sallow char-woman, Ann and
Henry, the two lovers, and finally Mr. Lingley with
iis complex of business efficiency.
It seems that no one ca'n actually remember where
there are going. And then there are so many other

Top Row: Valentine Davies, "ScrubbY)";
Barre lill, "Henry"; Jack I-asbebrger, lom
Prior"; Left side, Lillian Bronson, "Mrs.
Cliveden-Banks; Riglt side, Elizabe h Strauss, .

There is the situation, but more vital than the
detailed plot is the reaction of the individual char-
acters to this vague uncertainty and the blasting
way in which it reveals their personalities. Mrs.
Cliveden-Banks finally shows her real nature with
all its mean, crass spitefullness. Lingeley stands
stripped as the unscrupudous, unbending grasper
that he is. So it goes: Prior, Mrs. Midget, the
padre, all of them utterly, pitifully unmask them-
selves as they approach the terrifying uncertainty
of life and it retribution after death.
Kenneth MacGowan in the March, 1924, number
of the Theatre Arts Monthly, in estimating the
power of this strange play, wrote the following
"It is a mystery play, "Outward Bound', a drama
of the hereafter written by a youig Englismnan,
Sutton Vane, who learned something whereof he
speaks through the desperate device of being shell-
shocked in the war. His characterization is merely
a matter of types, and his dialogue is conventional;
yet he seems to possess a rare sort of intuition
about states of mind on the borderland of con-
sciousness, an intuition .which enables him to -estab-
lish an astonishing mood.
"'Outward Bound' begins with something as
ordinary as the smoke room of a steamship. Yet
within half an hour Vane is able to seize and hold
his audience in the grip of a most remarkable sit-
uation. Little by little his characters bear in upon
one another and upon the 'audience that they are
bound for a new world. It is a double discovery, a
discovery for the people who walk through the play
and for the people who watch them. Vane accomp-
lishes it with remarkabel deftness. In the face of
the most ordinary sort of characterzation, he:is

"Anne"; Second row: Paul Vickers, "Mr.
Tingej),"; lInhllis Turnbull, "Mrs. Midget";
Robert Henderson, "Rev. Duke"; Below,
Dale Shafer, "Rev. Thompson."
Alril first and third, at the Whitney theatre marks
the firty-first annual production by this organiza-
tion, the oldest dramatic society on the campus. In
a large measure it is a definite departure for the
club, which formerly, almost without exception, has
justified its name and selected such recognized com-
edies as "The Magistrate", "Bunty Pulls the Strings".
"Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire", or tto name its more recent
(fAerings, "Pygmalion" Mr. Pim Passes By",and
"'Captain Applejack.''
"Outward Bound", of course, is largely saturated
with skilfully balanced humor, but its actual theme
tends definitely toward tense melodrama, toward the
nove Ity of a strange theme rather than conventional
In the absence of Professor Nelson, who has
sponsored Comedy club for the past six years, "Out-
wvard Bound" is being staged by Daniel L. Quirk, Jr.,
and Paul Stephenson, the directors of the Ypsilanti
players. Mr. Quirk, the founder of this nationally
famous group of actors-better know, perhaps,
through the country even th.an in Michigan-has
the significant distinction of heading a Little Theatre
that, now in its tenth season, is not only one of the
most completely equipped playhouses but one of the
most ambitious nonp."ofessional organizations in the
Paul Stephenson has studied under such recog-
nized producers as Maurice Browne, Sam Hume and
Irving Pichel, and has also come closely in contact
with Edward Gordon Craig through a visit last
spring to his villa just outside of Rapallo, Italy. It
is Mr. Stephenson who has taken actual charge of
the rehearsals, and it is his keen, active insistence
on simplicity that must become, the touchstone in
the success of the production.

peared in numerous other campus productions, their
respective repertoire making something of a petty
"Who's Who." John Hassberger, as an example, has
taken important parts in "Captain Applejack", "Pyg-
malion", "Bunty Pulls the Strings", "At the Hawk's
Well", and "Cotton Stockings." Barre Hill has been
one of the leading men in the last two editions of
the Michigan Union Opera; Valentine Davies has
played in "The Admirable Bashville", "The Man In
the Bowler Hat", and "Arms and the Man", while
Phyllis Turnbull has been cast in "Captain Apple-
jack", "The Playboy of the Western World", and
"Hop-o'-my-Thumb." Robert Henderson has ap-
peared in "Beyond the Horizon", "The.Man With the
Flower in His Mouth", "Tickled To Death", and
"The Playboy of the Western World", and Paul Vic-
kers, who took the title-role in "The Admirable Bash-
ville", has been prominent in dramatics at the Uni-
versity of California.
Nothing in the theatre is certain, of course-so
much depends-but aside from all false modesty, the
cast for the production is probably as exact to type
as any that could be assembled on the campus. The
annual Comedy club production is invariably the
most important performance of the year in college
dramatics, and this year, especially, is it significant,
partly because of the directors, but especially be-
cause of the play itself.
An amateur performance, after all, stands or falls
on the striking virtue of its situations. A tenuous,
whimsical comedy, save in rare cases, is almost cer-
tain to result in an undistinguished production, if
only because the plays lack the technique and per-
sonality necessary to hold the interest in thmselvs,
but a melodrama such as "R. U. R."-or "Outward
Bound"-is almost entirely actor-proof. So grip-
ping and compelling is its plot, its tense, breathless
story that it forces attention by the weight of its
own inertia: it is sure-fire theatre. . ...
Arthur Hornblow in the March, 1924, number of
the Theatre Magazine brings out this point even
more clearly. "An extraordinary play," he says,
"Fraught with a simple significance and philosophy
is this 'Outward Bound', this unusual composition
which has so stirred materialistic New York and
London. It move sone to a very poignant pity. Yet
there are touches of acute humor relieving the som-
ber shade of its atmosphere.
'Its contention is that death does not release us
from our struggles nor punish us for our weak-
nesses, but that it only gives us a new start in our

tered: the other world is only this world a fter all-
the dulle t part of this world, at that.
"Yet just, when the situation should be going
most expeditiously to pot, something comes in from
Vane's tortured consciousness to save it. Through
the play glide two strange, shadowy young people.
They are lovers, ecstatic lovers, and they seem tor-
tured by some sense of wrong done in the other
world; nnlik )the rest they aIre ;.ge of neither life
nor death. As they play soems about to close with
a dull thud of protesamit pie, th.se tm take the
cn(tr of w the sage and hold it.

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