« PreviousContinue »
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. There 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.
"What'll You Have?" Oliver Herford and Karl Schmidt (Holt). Reformers and their ways satirized with enjoyment by two famous but humorful reformers.
"The Farce of the Worthy Master Pierre Patelin", translated by Moritz Jagendorf (Appleton). A handy form for an excellent piece of work, well written and often played.
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". 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.
THE BOOKMAN'S GUIDE TO FICTION
THE BOOKMAN will present each month tabloid reviews of a selected list of recent fiction. This section will include also the books most in demand according to the current reports in "Books of the Month", compiled by the R. R. Bowker Company, The Baker and Taylor Company's "Retail Bookseller", and "THE BOOKMAN'S Monthly Score". Such books as the editor specially recommends are marked with a star.
THE HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY - Earl Derr Biggers Bobbs-Merrill. The charm of Honolulu lends beauty even to a sordid squabble over loot.
THE CLUTCH OF THE CORSICAN — Alfred H. Bill - Little, Brown. Interned by Bonaparte, a boy and his mother have a hectic time till rescued by an American privateer.
OLD WINE Phyllis Bottome — Doran. Dispossessed Austrian nobility prove their blood in the rebuilding of their lives on the ruins of the Empire.
*DRUMS - James Boyd - Scribner. Colonial romance set in the south and written with vigor and beauty. (See page 470.)
THE MILL OF MANY WINDOWS J. S. Fletcher Doran. More serious in conception than the usual Fletcher novel is this tale of the fifth generation of mill owners in the English Midlands.
*A PASSAGE TO INDIA E. M. Forster - Harcourt, Brace. Race contrasts in the
Orient are described by visionary and propagandist.
PATTERN-Rose L. Franken - Scribner. Wherein Virginia wants to be naughty and decides to be nice.
THE MYSTERY OF ANGELINA FROOD R. Austin Freeman - Dodd, Mead. Dr. Thorndyke turns a gruesome mystery into a joyous love story.
MOUNTAINS OF MYSTERY - Arthur O. Friel Harper. Another adventurous trip of the three popular American explorers; this time they are in deadly peril on the Orinoco.
THE LONG GREEN GAZE - Vincent Fuller Huebsch. Cross word puzzles are neatly worked in to add thrills to the murder tale.
man. Scribner. These Forsytes are eternal but Mr. Galsworthy kills another in this excellent study of postwar moods and manners.
*THE CONSTANT NYMPH - Margaret Kennedy-Doubleday, Page. Unusual characters developed with great piquancy. Perfect proof of the growing popularity of the unconventional.
THE ENCHANTED HILL - Peter B. Kyne - Cosmopolitan. With what enchantment this Irishman manages to weave a love story that appears different and is still a thriller!
Selma Lagerlöf Wherein the gifted authe sixteenth century to simple tale with gentle
THE TREASURE Doubleday, Page. thor goes back to tell a short and artistry.