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Spring and the Day of Bedroom Farces Arrives-A Speculation Concerning the Subscription Theatre- The Theatre Guild Attains the Rank of Bourgeoisie-More Congreve in Greenwich Village-"The Servant in the House" Limps Back-Bays for Mr. Gatti.

OW that spring is here and the


flood gates are opened for the summer musical plays and bedroom farces, it is a good moment to look back over a season in the theatre of which we have no great reason to be proud. It brought us among American plays but four of first rate interest: "What Price Glory?", "They Knew What They Wanted", "Desire Under the Elms", and "Processional" . . . a small portion but a highly creditable one. The failing lies in the fact that there have been so few plays that were "almost good". They all seemed to have been either excellent or bad. Among the managers there has been a popular cry to the effect that the radio has hurt the attendance at their theatres. This seems to us a fatuous excuse rather than a convincing reason for the dreary list of plays which have lasted from one night to a fortnight. Most of our friends are already sick to death of the radio and have stuck their sets away in the store closet. answer lies not so much in the three tube set as in the low powered stuff which the theatres have offered.


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"The Wild Duck", "Patience", "The Mikado", "Princess Ida", "The Way of the World", and "Love for Love". As one looks back over the season, another element stands out -the success of the subscription theatres. For years, indeed since before the collapse of the ill fated New Theatre, there has been a great agitation in certain circles for endowed theatres which could survive the crass commercial competition of Broadway. Time and again such a venture has been tried without success, proving once more that such things can grow only out of a real need for them, a need expressed by "the peepul" and not imposed upon them. At length the thing has come to pass. The opening of the "new and palatial" Guild Theatre is the triumphant proof. The Provincetown Players have had a season successful commercially as well as artistically. The Actors' Theatre has at last got off to a fine start. now a new group called the Stagers, in which Margaret Wycherly, Mary Kennedy, Don Marquis, and a half dozen other intelligent talented players and writers are joined, has made a beginning in Fifty Second Street, a few doors from the triumphant and luxurious Guild Theatre. All this leads one to the conviction that in New York at least we are coming of age as a nation (despite even such stuff as "Ladies of the Evening", and "The Harem"). It leads still further into the belief that the so called "commercial managers"


are finding genuine competition at the hands of these newcomers in the field. Perhaps in another ten years the theatrical business in New York will centre about a group of subscription repertory theatres, which have sprung up and flourished because "the peepul" really wanted them.

Meanwhile the opening of the Guild Theatre was an event in the history of the American stage. For the occasion the wise board of managers (knowing that they have achieved a corner upon Bernard Shaw's esteem) chose "Cæsar and Cleopatra", a play which is perhaps better as a spectacle than as a sample of the Great Vegetarian's skill as a playwright. Upon the admirable designs of Frederick Jones, the Guild erected against a hot, blue cyclorama a series of magnificent and colorful pictures. Indeed, they were at times so magnificent that one suspected the hand of Morris Gest. Once or twice the scenery ran away with the play. Nevertheless, the whole production had a splendor and a color worthy of so great an occasion.

The New Yorker approached the play with a certain trepidation, having heard that the two leading rôles were to be played by Helen Hayes and Lionel Atwill. He is glad to say that he was pleasantly surprised. Miss Hayes was not too kittenish. She lacked the sophistication which Mr. Shaw, in his directions, assures us belonged to the Egyptian ladies of fourteen, but she succeeded in conveying the cruelty and childishness of the lovely lady. In his whimsical speeches Mr. Atwill had all the lightness of a juggernaut, but in the big scenes he took fire and did them in the grand manner which is so necessary to the rôle and so lacking in most actors of today. Cæsar is a difficult part to cast, demanding at once a farceur and a Shakespearian, and we doubt whether

any other actor now in the American theatre could have given a better performance. Helen Westley, as Ftatateeta, lent the fire and humor which in our theatre belong to her alone. She is so popular with people about town that at the dress rehearsal the audience burst into wild applause at the mere sound of her voice off stage. As Britannus, the mouthpiece for Shaw's usual flings at the British Islander, Henry Travers, in a makeup which resembled closely that of Bairnsfather's "Old Bill", was superb. Schuyler Ladd gave just the proper touch to Apollodorus, who belonged not in Egypt but in the Yellow Nineties.

The play, however, on the occasions of the opening night and the dress rehearsal, was but half the show; the audience was the rest. Everybody, as the saying goes, was there; and between the acts the audience rose as one man and filed into the foyer to look at itself and to lament the belief that now the Guild was so successful it stood in danger of commercialism. A good time was had by all, save perhaps Philip Moeller who directed the piece and happened to sit immediately in front of us, so that our memory of "Cæsar and Cleopatra" will always be punctuated by such soliloquies as: "My God! Why did they do that?" and "For Heaven's sake, why don't they lower the curtain?" and "I told her not to stand like that."

At the Greenwich Village Theatre Robert Edmond Jones achieved a triumph of art and economy in the costumes and setting of the revival which the Provincetown group made of Congreve's "Love for Love". Of the acting, not so much can be said. seemed to be a division of opinion as to whether Congreve was to be played in the artificial manner or in the style of "Desire Under the Elms". The scale


ranged from a performance by Edgar Stehli as Tattle which was perfect to one by Walter Abel as Sir Sampson Legend which was neither here nor there. Adrienne Morrison achieved exactly the proper style and tempo in several of the scenes, and Helen Freeman, one of the few actresses who really create characters before your eyes, played throughout in the proper mood. Rosalind Fuller as the country girl Prue was intolerably coy; it may be, however, that the fault lies not so much with Miss Fuller as with the times which, being under the spell of the gin drinking flappers, will have none of the kitten. Someone might write an entertaining article on the collapse of coyness on the American stage.

"Love for Love" is not so good a play as "The Way of the World" and it is bawdy enough to attract numbers of dirty minded persons who snigger throughout. In "The Way of the World" there is no line which is bawdy without its underlying justification of glittering wit. In "Love for Love" there are lines which are bawdy for bawdiness' own sweet sake. It is probable that if Mr. Belasco had been alive under the Stuarts he would have produced "Love for Love", after having first engaged a play carpenter to tack on a sweet and moral ending.

The Stagers opened their venture as a subscription theatre by presenting "The Blue Peter", a play by E. Temple Thurston which had about it a curious, indefinable flavor of fifteen years ago. It contained one excellent act and here and there a bit of good writing, but it is on the whole theatrical, and unreal. Margaret Wycherly and Mary Kennedy gave two of the best performances witnessed this season.

One of the most painful experiences of the year was the revival of Charles Rann Kennedy's "The Servant in the

THE DRAMA SHELF "Desire Under the Elms" by Eugene O'Neill (Boni, Liveright). Mr. Broun is quoted on the jacket as "having been cleansed by pity and terror”. At any rate here, in one volume, is the much discussed New England tragedy.

"Mister Pitt" by Zona Gale (Appleton). Delicate and deft writing in this character study.

"Twenty Years on Broadway" by George M. Cohan (Harper). The same quality of life and zest that makes Mr. Cohan Mr. Cohan, makes this autobiography almost Mr. Cohan.

"The Mandarin Coat" by Alice C.D. Riley (Brentano). Natural dialogue is the best quality of these six quite actable one act plays.

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House". It is amazing that this strange mixture of sentimentality and rhetoric should ever have found a place as one of the minor classics of the past twenty five years.

"The Mikado" and "Princess Ida" opened in a burst of sentiment and friendly feeling. Both productions are equipped with good casts and fine orchestras, and are far more worth seeing than most of the stuff on Broadway. Marguerite Namara is the bright star of "The Mikado" and sang "The Moon and I" rather in the manner of Marguerite Carré singing "Louise" at the Opéra Comique. Tessa Kosta sings in "Princess Ida", which is the better production of the two.

The New Yorker wishes to swallow now all the ill natured remarks he made

earlier in the season against the Metropolitan Opera House. During five weeks of the spring season the management atoned for countless "Rigolettos" and "Lucias" by giving twenty two performances of Wagner, magnificently staged and sung, better beyond any doubt than they are staged and sung anywhere in the world. The urbane Gatti-Casazza, after printing a special pamphlet of apology for not having produced "Pelléas and Mélisande❞ before this date, staged it admirably in a performance which included Lucrezia Bori, Edward Johnson, and Clarence Whitehill in the three leading rôles. It was a gala occasion, and Mr. Gatti added new laurels to an already ample wreath.

Three exhibitions of note opened at the tail end of the season. One at Scott and Fowles included the recent pieces of Elie Nadelman, who has done some fascinating work in highly polished marble, a manner which gives the effect almost of porcelain and which was used originally by the Greeks. At the same gallery, there was an exhibition of unusual interest by Edward Bruce, a newcomer who beyond question has much to offer in novelty and skill. At Wildenstein's Rockwell Kent had a magnificent show of the paintings which he made during his recent voyage to Tierra del Fuego and the remote reaches of the South Atlantic. He is an American artist who stands quite alone, unrelated to all the others; and this is one of the tests of greatness.

One of the high spots of the winter was the performance in "Candida" of Peggy Wood, who supplanted Katharine Cornell when the latter stepped into the part of Iris March in "The Green Hat". It was a difficult task - taking the place of a popular actress already acclaimed in a rôle which has become a classic; but Miss Wood came

through in triumph. All the laurels are hers. Somehow she made Miss Cornell's Candida seem unreal and stagy, a composition of coos and cross stage dartings. We suspect that Miss Cornell is better suited to Arlen than to Shaw. It was in the final scene that Miss Wood captivated her audience. entirely, creating such a stillness as we have seldom felt in a theatre. Now that the managers have at last given her a chance outside of treacly music shows, they owe it to the public to carry her along.

Two motion pictures, both seen at private showings, stand out in the memory of the New Yorker as admirable advances in that shadowy, public-bound thing known as "the art of the cinema". One was "Grass", a picture centring about the migration of a remote Persian tribe, which can best be described by saying that a motion picture of the Exodus would have provided just such thrills and such beauty. The other, "Moana", is a tribal picture taken in Samoa by Robert Flaherty. It is the most beautiful picture we have ever seen unearthly, paradisical, and exotic.

The New Yorker wishes, before closing, to acknowledge the receipt of certain abusive letters anent his remarks upon Marianne Moore. Among them was a notable screed written on the stationery of the Cudahy Packing Company which referred to the late Alfred, Lord Tennyson, poet laureate under Queen Victoria, as "a stink". We are certain that the good queen turned in her grave. The writer accused us of extreme devotion to Tennyson. We agree with Ernest Boyd, distinguished author of "Aesthete: Model 1924", that the best thing written by certain of our impassioned young litterateurs is Billingsgate.


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