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April 26, 1925 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1925-04-26

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The Daily's Critic Visits New Yo:
Spring Vacation To View TI

By Robert B. Henderson
It is all as certain as the proverbial
hand-writing: America, New York
with her surfeit of wealth is to be-
come in the next decade the artistic
center of the world. To-day, Broad-
way through its theatre must be, un-
questionably, the equal of any of the
continental capitals The playhouses
themselves are spacious and luxuri-
ous-superior paragons of decorative
taste-the technical problems of light-
ing and modern stagecraft are handled
freshly, with infinite patience, and the
acting, individually at least, is flaw-
less and adroit.
The blistering defect in the cur-
rent productions-now that Copeau,
Reinhardt and Stanislavsky have re-
turned to Europe-is the ensemble
playing of the mobs. The crowds in
"Caesar and Cleopatre," for example,
or "Desire Under the Elms" are al-
most unbelievably amateurish, path-
etically in need of a traditioned tech-
The reason and the remedy, of
course, lies in the European reper-
tory system, the constant association
through dozens of years with the same
players. The idea is growing-the
Theatre Guild is headed pell-mell to-
ward it- and at the end of this ren-
aissance of the decade, it will
come... ..
"Love For Love"
One has heard a great deal through
the scandal press of the shocking,
daring vulgarity of the current suc-
cesses, a bubble that even grew to
the proportions of a play-jury. But
it is little more than a thin illusion to
be pricked. Congreve's "Love For
Love" at the Greenwich Village
theatre, for instance, is reported as
the worst of these- and turns to be
nothing more than a delightfully
frank and artificial Restoration
comedy, played in a charming, experi-
mental manner.
The costumes and settings by Rob-
ert Edmond Jones are a glittering
maze of glass and crystal chandeliers,
gorgeous velvet brocades and stiff
crinkling satins. The play itself is a
swashbuckling meringue, a Ronald
Firbank grown virile and manly. Its
characters have no morals, only man-
ners to extinction, The gentleman of
the company must fall in and about
and out of love with every lady in the
cast; there is Sir Sampson-forty, and
protesting the years; there is the
beautiful Mistress Foresight, comfort-
ably married to a wizard of eighty;
there is the Beau Tattle and the bump-
kin Miss Prue, the hero Valentine and
his blustering brother Ben-all busy
with their vital round of liaisons.
The production by the Province-
town Players is keyed in exactly the
artificial, roistering spirit the farce
calls for. There are songs of "Gather
Ye Rosebuds While Ye May," "If the
Heart of a Man ....." and a sailor's
horn-pipe that brinfs the house down;
above all, the tempo is paced at a
tumbling speed that never slackens
a moment. Adrienne Morrison, the
wife of Richard Bennett, is the scan-
dalous Misress Frail, Helen Freeman
the faithful heroine, and the person-
able Rosalind Fuller romps away with
the honors as Miss Prue.
Of them all, however, Edgar
Stehli-so long with Stuart Walker's
Portmanteau Theatre-gives the most
adroit characterization as Tattle. He
is a little man, a perversion of a man,
with a patch above an eye and on the
chin. He flicks a lace handkerchief
and rolls his bovine eyes; gently,
with but a trace of a bored smile he
shatters a dear lady's sophisticated
reputation, and returns to the diver-
sion of his snuff and brocade buckles.
"Peleas and Meisande" l
As the climax to its most satisfy-
ing season since the death of Caruso

and the loss of the Farrar, the Met-
ropolitan has revived Debussy's
"Peleas and Melisande" with Edward
Johnston, Lucrezia Bori, and Clarence
Whitehall in th eleading roles. It isI
a beautiful production, massive and1
impressive. Of the music there is no!
question; in all literature there has
probably never been a more sympa-
thetic fusion of the poet's intent withi
the composer's imagination. The score
was written in a seventh heaven and
cannot be for ordinary ears. It is
tender and lyric and of the gods:
very'"mere mortals must be content to
sense its vague beauty that is so much
more than sheer music, that is soI
strangely an encompassing, prevad-
ing atmosphere.
Of the play, however, there are as
many opinions as critics. Personally,j
I have always thought it one of the
most elusive, compelling, erotic trag-
edies I have ever seen. It is odd,
rhythmic and repetitious. One must
be sentimental to enjoy its pathos,.
the helpless pity of the lovers andj
their triangle: it is either profound-
ly moving or profoundly boring. The
man next to me-fat and from Iowa-
frankly sank into a trance, longing
for the brisk pertness of "The Mika-
do" ....
The settings by Joseph Urban-ex-
cepting the shallow prettiness of the
Fountain scene-show the Metropoli-I
tan in all its golden glory, and doI
much to counteract the vastness of
the auditorium which often contra-
dicts the intimate atmosphere the
libretto demands. He brings to the
play the overwhelming shadows, the
stars and the sea, the grey musk of
the walls and the vibrant blue of the
tapestries; he brings its crumbling
saints and its fierce yellow sun beat-
ing into the dark vaults; he brings the
tall pillars and the tall trees againstI
which the groping lovers re-live their
mysterious relentless destiny.
For Shaw, the season has been
something of a processional grandly
headed by the Actor's Theatre produc-
tion of "Candida," his mellowest com-
edy. The performance is much of a
triumph for its producers and not a
little for the author himself. Staged
in the period of the eighteen-nineties
with all its preposterous flounces and
bustles the piece becomes a living
picture of a household that can never
be antedated. It is the Divina Com-
edia of the constantly flowering G.
B. S.

r Du ng a really very few. A more accurate brought into the parlor; the father t
estimation, of course, is to say that it nervously insists that, she is only B
is the first great American play, rank- wounded . . . but suddenly the truth
Iing with such epics as "The Power of appears to the mother: her body be-P
ie Season's Plays Darkness" and "The Playboy of the comes rigid with fear, she gives ac
Western World." terrible, piercing scream and rushest
Its theme alone shows a power that convulsively to the child.
O'Neil has never reached before, and It is of such stuff that tremendous
The cast has been repeatedly prais- the rugged dialogue with its primi- moments in the theatre are made; itn
ed by every New York critic. Richard tive earthiness grows almost lyric at is such scenes that grip one's very n
Bird as Marchbanks has had the good times. The story deals with the Am- innermost consciousness, twist and
fortune to present the most vehement- erican peasant and his ingrain love tear it to pieces. Blancho Yurka ins
ly discussed characterization of the of the ungrateful soil he tills; it tells the role of the mother presents as
season. His interpretation is tingling, i of his passions and his lusts, the rock- I monumental portrait-crude, heavyt
almost hysterical, and save for the bound cruelty of the New England and primitive, unspeaking save in this
few moments in the third act when type, one supreme moment. Similarly, the
he carries it just over the line of sin- The characters are three-again the other actors are all but as expert:
cerity to a half-burlesque it is con- triangle: the aging Ephriam Caot, they seem almost inspired, as though,
vincing and thrilling. "full-blown on the bough," his young- ,aced with this unmaleable, ungrateful
Of Peggy Wood as Candida, how- est son Eben, and the young Abbie masterpiece, they were determined to
ever, there are a thousand prejudices. Putnam he takes as his third wife. i wrest the subtlest nuances from its
According to all I have heard, she Once again the "Pelleas and Melis- characterizations with the certaintys
practically imitates Katherine Cor- ande" theme is re-developed in this of skilled artists.
nell's technique:Pshe is motherly and uritan setting of the eighteen-fifties, "The iGuardsman"
beautiful, a symbol of perfect woman- but there is added to it all the fury, The Theatre Guild's production of I
hood filled with all the maternal sym- the blasting reality of America's "The Guardsman" by Ferena Molnar[
pathy and wisdom of the eternal first great dramatic genius, all the is a sophisticated, plangent comedyt
feminine. Her interest in the young pithy irony of the soil on which the !of temperamental manners, now in its(
poet is of the purest, most abstract play is built, charged and re-charged ninth month of capacity houses and n
nature-after all, she adores and re- with its fiery pristine vigor.. deserving every dollar of the fortune'
veres her husband with sweet Victor- The audience, however, was the it is making for the organization.g
ian constancy. most provincial I have ever seen: Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne takes
Obviously, this is a gross and blat- large masses of giggling, doughy the leading roles of the actor and hisa
ant misinterpretation of Shaw's subtl- women, fat, ugly women marring and inconstant wife; the one plays in his3
est most complex creation. Shaw distorting with their sensual appetites usual fleshly, nervous manner with a
himself classified her in a letter to the content of this tremendous work striking interpretation as the guards-
Huneker; ". . . that immoral female of art. But even their stupid lack man by proxy, while the other brings4
Candida," he says, "is as unscrupul- of appreciaton could not discolor the all the hoarse, worldly atmosphere oft
ous as Siegfried: Morell even sees deep pity and terror of this very sin- the continental artiste to her odd1
that; that 'no law will bind her.' She cere drama; after seeing "Desire Und- portrait.t
seduces Marchbanks just exactly as: er the Elms" one can understand what The story fashioned after the first of1
far as it is worth her while to seduce I is meant by the blasting, purging ef- "The Affairs of Anatol," tells of the1
him. She is a woman without 'char- feet of great tragedy. constant Viennese amour, the eternalt
actor' in the conventional sense. With- "The Wild )uck" rou'nd between th lovers far too
out brains and strength of mind she I Of all the plays now running in New susceptible in their own right not toI
would be a wretched slattern and York, the Actor's Theatre producton sisect each other's constancy. Again,
voluptuary. She is straight for natur- of "The Wild Duck" is the most con- Ithe climax centers about the husband
al means, not for conventional ethical sistently, skilfully interpreted. Thei who prefers, just as he reaches the
ones. Nothing can be more cold- actors take this play, always con- bi'ink of final proof, to fall back n
bloodedly reasonable than her fare- sidered among Ibsen's more difficult, the old sentimental faith in his wife.
well to Marchbanks: 'All very well, bewildering tragedies, and re-mould itty
my lad; but I don't quite see myself1 into a vital, living thing-veined with merely a light, brittle artificality of
at 50 with a husband of 35.' It's just pathetic humor, irony, and reality, inconsequential incidents; yet in real-
ity there is beneath its+ delicate sur-
this freedom from emotional slop, this, satire and unerring imagination.y ace vs snto e teicae drI-
unerring wisdom on the domestic All of the maddening symbolism, ness s No one since Schnitzler has i
'plane, that makes her so completely which cloys and deadens the manu-ues o pe stred he eoi
mistress of the situation." script, is suddenly, statlingly cleared quite so rfectly astered the exotic
Thus Shaw on Shaw. The she-devil away in actual perfoilnance. All the careful, laborious framework; it is a
that New York will not see mustabe odd references to "the illusion", the difficult craft, and Molnar, the Theatre
made unerrngly clear in an exact; strange blindness of the child, "theI Guild perhaps, have succeeded: cun-
production of the play. So far this dream of the ideal" become brilliant iningly, exactly in the continental
has never been done, but some day the and obvious. You see a half-pitiable, mould.
impressario who first makes Candida half-ridiculous household wrecked in "Caesar and Cleopatra"
such a woman will wake to find him- the messes of an entangling mass of Critics, all critics, are a mongrel,
self famous. circumstances; the spectacle of a mountebank breed, but the New York
"Desires Lnder the Elms" grandfather, a husband and wife, critics! . . . Robert Bencbley dislikes
E their child, the child's real father "Love for Love" because it is "arti-
Elms" is the most profound Amer- brought from the bliss of ignorance ficial." Stark Young prates of nuance
can drama ever written. After all, to the blistering harshness of un- and timbre. Heywood Broun refers
this is not so broad a statement nor swerving reality, all through the ton- wittily to Eugene O'Nel' s "elums"
S atured self-consciousness of a hope- and Alexander Woolcot convulses the
so great a compliment, when you con-!lesybudrnieast
sider the native plays called signifi- lessly blundering idealist, penny aesthetes by talking for nine-
cant: "The Great Divide," "The The climax of the tragedy is reach- teen inches on the beauty of the New

Guild theatre and not one word on against Lionel Atwell as
heir twice beautiful production of against his poor diction
Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleo- heavy theatricality Somi
patra." Anything, evidently, for a course, must be wrong:,p
clever m ot: it is so m uch easier, you his e pmust i ne emedn ma;
see to be brilliant and lampooning his interpretation seemed ma
than fair and praiseworthy! you could understand every
As a matter of fact, the entire New said, and his entire personals
York season-with exceptions-is power, a majesty that domi
more consistently fine than it has been else while he was on the sta
in a generation. Its plays are not only Helen Hayes, on the otlh
splendidly acted, but are in them- while charming and kittenis
selves so powerful and significant; ingenue Cleopatra, was ne,
they form, in a sense, a complete pro- than a personable Americ
cessional of dramatic literature-- there was completely lackin
"Love For Love," "The Wild Duck," ! pagan spirit of the con
'Caesar andCleopatra," the prophetic Oriental. But the entire
"Desire Under the Elms." And of of the cast-the collosal 1

and his
eone, of
ything he
ity' lent a
mated all
her hand,
sh as the
ver more
an girl;
g all the

them all, "Caesar and Cleopatra" is; of Helen Westley, the Britannusof
the surest, the most brilliant the most Henry Travers, above all, the Apsollo-
scintillating and the most thrilling. doruy of Schuyler Ladd and his pen-
Any man who could in 1900 write feet legs-made te perfoancer-
such a speech as Caesar's in the stantly fresh and interesting for its-
fourth act, so pregnant and throbbing three and a quarter shours.
with the startling insight into the out-I Of course,, any of Shaw's work, es-
come of a war then fifteen years away, I pecially this play of plays, would be
must be one of the profoundest in- fascinating even with an incompetent
tellects of an age. "Do you hear,"i''oductin. When hav owever,
Caesar says to Cleopatra after the clost .h you have, however,
miurder, of Pohinus, "These knockers cloister auditorium settings that are
mudrjfP~iu,"hs at fteShn n h desert and
at your gate are also believers in ven-
geance and in stabbing. You have its stars; when you have all but the
slain their leader: it is right that they finest actors in America and th ar-
shall slay you. If you doubt it, ask' tistic perception of Americas first
your four counsellors here. And then theatre, you thien have-what they
your fou cousetllrs re.t hAnd tnt call perfection, as near a perfection
in the name of that right shall I not, as is ever' reached this side of Gordon
slay them for murdering t'heiir Queen, ig and his sie parGdise n
and be slain in turn by their coun- -____dhs _mps____ard
trymen as the invader of their father-
land? Can Rome do less than slay l , Church of Christ--DischpIes
these slayers too, to show the world "Salvation a Ia Mode" will be. the
how Rome avenges her sons and her pastor's subject for the mooning.
honor? And so, to the end of his-j Student classes will meet at noon
tory, murder shall breed murder, al- with Prof. A. L. Trout. The young
ways in the name of right and honor people's social hour and lunch will be
and peace, until the gods are tired of held at 6:00 o'clock wit Christian
blood and create a new race that can endeavor at 6:30 o'clock. Reverend
understand." A. J. McI cod, a missionary in Thibet
In the reviews, much has been said will speak at the evening service.

1 (I)l



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