Newspaper Page Text
CHRONICLE AND C
r ^ a 'H H "1 ffiN r Jfirw' \ 1 '* ' W.'.L-JSE New Plays and Old Critics May Not Mix By Heywood Brouri Newspaper dramatic critics are at? tacked unjustly on a good many grounds, but at least one charge sticks. There is no getting away from the fact that new work does not lveeive its just due. The dictum if it's by a good au thor it's a good play is more than a jokc. Of course the man who writes ?or a newspaper has to make up his mind in a hurry. He is conscious of f.his haste and hc lives in terror of making himself ridiculous by undue cn \husiusm over something which may provc to be a flash in the pan. The longer he keeps at his work the greater is the tendency for his mind to become divided into so many little pigeonholcs of past experience. If a new play is something like a dratna he has seen before he can find its pigeonhole and give it a fair rating with no great de? lay. But if the play is by a new man iSi a new manner, or even a departure ih mcthod by a well known author, the poor critic can't find a pigeonhole into which it will fit, and so he doesn't knew ?what to do with it. Consequently, he is inclined to east it from him as a piece of dramatic heresy which deserves no consideration whatsoever. It is true enough that a play i.s not necessarily good because it is new in treatment or subject, but, on the other hand, newness itself is a virtue. That much is in ita favor. Some other week we hope to gather together a few ex amples of the lapses of distinguished dramatic critics and others less known but nearc-r home. It may suffice to mention the fact that William Winter, by far the most famous of American newspaper critics of the drama, re garded "Cyrano" as a stop-gap when it appeared in the repertoire of Mann field, paid only the scantiest attent'on to the first plays of Bernard Shaw, fought Ibscn with a barrage of invec tive. a?,d was displeased when David Bciasco presented "The Easiest Way." In a later season at least two well known critics said that "Peter Pan" was utter rot and would die in a week, while two seasona ago the brilliant one act plays of Dunsany were in several inatancex dismissed with a paragraph or two. In the cndless warfare which rages between playwrights and critics there ia something to be said for tho play makers. "Tillze," tho little play at the Henry Miller Theatre, is probably the only example o*- American genre comedy which has been seen here this season. It is not a particularly searching pict ure of the life of an American s ?? , but it does keep clear of theati for the moct part and is only slightly bruahed by sentimental ity. It deserves the attention of playgoeru inasmuch as it is the lone representative of the style of play which muit pave the way for important work in essentially American drama. It does make the needful rec? ognition of the fact that there ia an America beyond the borders of New York C.ty. Bill Jones of "Lightnin"' is a genre study much more complcte than any thing in "Tiilie," but he is dlsplayod against a background which is pure theatre, even thouKh it is gcncrally amusing. There is a second fuctor which makes "Tiilie" worth ueeing. Patricia Col? linge does rcaliy exceptional work. It is not a rolc v/hich makes great dc tuands on depth or power. Probably Miss Collinge doeso't possess those qualities, but h?rd?y any performance this season has been so deft and eo dcHcate. Miss Collinge can actually ?eem shy and definite-ly convey tender ness. This is fresh laid acting and you might travol Blflcs ;zn<i ftarez rncet it again. Curiously enough there ar<: momf-nts in which the little miss at the II?:nry ttilier Theatre rmnindit the playgotr very vividly of 0. P. Heggie. It is in the eyes, of course. Both players have the faculty of suddenly coming ab'azo. At suc'?i times their eyes seem to shinc like those lighta which they won't let the automobiles use in townships of more than ten thousand znhabitants. In the days of the millennium, when perfect performances are staged, one of them will be "Magic." with lleggie as the Cozzjurer and Miss Collins as the Girl. A rcader who sigris himself or her? self E. B. Broun, but seems from his or her tone to bc a most distant relation, has written a complaint to our editor which in due course has found its way to us. "What is the matter with the dra? matic critics," writes E. B. Broun, "that they pass with such perfunctory notice Kita WiBzTfrTan's remarkable play 'Tbe? Gentile Wife'? As a study of racial differences between Jew and Gentile, with an intellectual as well as an emotional appeal and strorig dra? matic interest, nothing better has been dor.e. To the numerous theatre and dramatic clubs no play more worthy of study and discussion couid be sug gested." It is true that '?i nzade no statement as sweeping as at contained in the letter of E. B. Broun. After all, "The Mcrchant of Ver.ice" is a study of racial differences between Jew and Gentile, and Mr. Shakespeare, we think, has not been behind Miss Wellman in imparting an intellectual and an emotional appeal as well as a strong dramatic interest. However, we refuse to pload guilty to having dismisscd the play with a per? functory notice. We hailed it at great length as an excellent play and rcserved our severity only for tho production, which seemed to us naturalistic to the point cf irritation. We found difficuity in hearing several of the players, and our pique arose solely from the fact that tho things Miss Wellman had to say richly deserved to bc heard. In connection with the naturalistic method we have received an interesting letter from an actress who points out. that tho mistake is sometimes mado of employing methods at the beginning of a play which fail then, but might easily be made effective later in the perform ance. "Mrs. Fiske turns her back upon the audience," says the writer, "but she does it advisedly. I know, for I have played with her. So does Bernhardt, but never at the beginning of a play, when every ageney of expresston, every legitimate trick, is needed to arrest and hold the attention of the audience. After that is gained, you can play with them a!mo:,t at will and they will follow you." Announcements of many perform? ances of patriotic interest have been carried in these columns, but we fecl that special mention must be given to tho ono which follows': "On Monday evening, January 13, a symbolic fantasy, written by a nieco of President Wilson, will bc given to men in uniform at the Penihing Theatre, Madison Avenue and Forty-fourth Street, at 8:30. Tho author, Mias Mar? garet Valc, calls her fantasy 'The Mes sage of the Star of Gold.' Although George Creol ia not avail able to be pressed into service as head usher, we may say that even in its present form the entcrtainm,ent prom- ; isc? to cover the field of patriotic the fttrieal er.deavor complotely. Wo hesitate to bring into theso columns things perhaps only rcmotely connected with the theatre, but three days ago the furnace inan left tho basement door open and Michael went out and hus not come bo?'/. He in a basically white dog, who is bc '?""?'"' '-' '.art H'ghlaVid taVrifr and part dachshund. ile is onlled Michael, but does izot anztwer rcadily to the name. He lives at 31S West Serentieth Street and if ho will only come home everything will be forgiven. This may seem an' alien subject to soinc, but wc justify its inclusion in the dramatic column-'beeause to us it seems a tragcdy. Vaudeville PALACE The three headliners are Jack Norworth, Bcssie Clayton and Nan Halperin. Harry Watson, jr., returns in his travcsty as Young Kid Dugan, as also does Jimmy Hussey in his military travesty. Toto, the well known clown; Bob Hall, in ex temporaneous chaltcr, and Olympia Desvallcs, equestriennc, complete the bill. RIVERSIDE- Phyllis Neilson - Terry, tho woll known English actress, is the principal feature of tlie bill. I'at. Rooney and Marion Bent, the Mar mein Sisters and Uavid Schooler are well known favorites on the bill, which includes as woll Al Lydell and Carleton Macy, Lewis and Gordon, Harry and Emma Sharrock, George N. Brown and Billy N. Weston. COLOXIAL?Mme. Marguerite Sylva, tno grand opera star, is this week'a special teature. She will offer a roportoire of exclusive songs. Others on the bill are Harry Green, lhe llcbrew comedian; Herbert Williams and Hilda Wolfus, in "Hark! Hark! Harkl"; Harry Breen, rapid fire songwriter; Fred Fenton and Sammy Fields, in "Passed by the t'cnsor"; Walter Clmton and Julia Rooney, in ?: ?? 94>. "After Dark," and Moran and Wiser, hat throwers. ALTiAMBRA?Georgo White and his four dancing partners are the head? liners. Muriel Worth, the dancing star; Lou and Jeazi Archer, in and dances; Muriol Window, in ex? clusive songs, and Frank Fcntoi . nd Bunnee Wyde in a sketch; Josic O'Meers, vyire artist, and the Flying Millettea, in an aerial thriller, com plete the bill. ROYAL?Trixie Friganza will present her newest skit, "Tho Block Party." A miniaturc production, "Whal Girls Can Do," Emma Haig and Lou Lock ett in their song and dance offcring, l.-ilph Kltner and Jim Rooney in "An Ocean Episode," and the Van Cellos are a few of the other numbers on the bill. LOEW'S AMERICAN ? Billy King's negroid musical comecly, is the tai vaudeville feature tho first part of the week; Fatty Arbucklc in "Camp ing Out" is tho picture feature. Hyman Adler and company, in a farce A Critic in Action tn the Argonne Fore.?t Sketch of Aiexander Woollcotl by C. LeRoy Daldridge, of the 5th Infantry with music entitled "The Runaways," ic vaudaville feature tlie second ! : ; I ' '' the week. Tho picture is D. W. Grillrth's "The Greatest Thing in Life." At the One-Week Houses STANDARD- The English melodrama, "Seven Days Leave," has returned for ;i brief tour of the subway cir? cuit, ii ginning here. SHUBERT-RIVIERA?"zMaytime," with Peggy Woo i, William Morris and Mclvin Stokes, will be seon here. LOEW'S SEVENTH AVENUE "Under Orders" comes here direct from its run at tho Eltinge Theatre, with Shelley Hul] and Effio Shannon. BRONX OPERA HOUSE ? Fiske O'Hara, in "Marry In Haste," is here on his annual visit to this theatre. Brooklyn MONTAUK- David Warfield will bc seen here in "The Auctionecr." MAJEST1C "ihe Man Who Came Back" is this wcek's bill. "Chatterton," a Romantic Tragedy, at French Theatre i;" brilliant repertory company at French Theatre du Vieux Colom bicr will present a play new to \'cw Yorkera, "Chatterton," by Alfred de ? igny, for the week commencing to morrow evening, It comes from the Comedie Francaise in Paris, where it produccd first in 18:'.,"), and has since enjoyed several popular rovivals. It is a romantic tragedy laid in London in 1770, tiie principal character, from which the title is derived, being an im povorished writer whose existcnee is brightened by his landlady, the timid wife of a sov< ro husband. He exists in a miserablo attic room, living in hopes and dying when his sensitivc nat? ure is shocked by the charge that he '-??' a plagiarist. The Final Week of "Atta Boy" at Lexington "Atta Boy," the successful soldier sh?w at the Lexington Theatre, with Captain Frank Tinney as its fcatured member, will roniain but one more week at that theatre, as tlie eivgage ment positively ende on-'Saturday even? ing, January 18. This will perhaps be the last of the many excellent soldier zhows which Xew York has seen dur-; inpr war times. Burlesque Show by JuniejftlcCree at Columbia Jack Singer will bring his nll-new Behman Show t,, the Columbia Theatre to-morrow ofternpoo nnd present a ?w. -ncl burlesque cajled, "Just for To night," written by Juul0 McO?-cv.' To-Night's Free Shows For Men in Uniform Metropolitan Opera Company stars will bc the principal pevformers to night at the Pershing Theatre, Madi son Avenue, at Eorty-fourth Street, where a concert will be given for offi? cers and enlisted men, under the au spices of the New York War Camp Community Serviee. Officers will be admitted without tickets and enlisted men may obtain tickets at the War Camp information booth in front of the Library. Among those who will appear will b.e Vera Cixrtis, accompanied by Willis Alving, George Harris, jr., and Milann Lusk, violinist, accompanied by Harriet Boas. Other performances free io enlisted men in uniform, given un? der the auspices of the Stage Women's War Relief in cooperation with the War Camp Community Serviee, will be Williani Collier in "Nothing But Lies" at the Longacve Theatre and Emily Stevens in "The Gentile Wife" at the Vanderbilt Theatre. The first of these begins at 1 and the other at 7:30 p. m. j At the Manhattan Opera House there will be the usual vaudeville matinee, | under the auspices of the War Camp. Among those who will appear are Prin? cess White Deer and Roshanara, both | of whom will dance. In addition there will be the full chorus of a Broadway musical show. All men in uniform will I be admitted free. Shakespeare Play house The Shakespeare Playhouse, Frank McEntee, director, announces that the continued success of the speeial mat iuees of Walter Hampden in "Hamlet," :it the Plymouth Theatre, will post pone the production of "As You Like It" indefinitely. The "Hamlet" mat inces at the Plymouth Theatre, Friday afternoons, at 2:30, and Saturday mornings, at 10:30, will be continued while the demand last.s. "Hamlet," banished from Broadway for many a season, is, through Mr. Hampden's fine] intcrpretaticn, actually scoring a New York run to crowded houses at these speeial mal inee . Mr. Hampden's fisst Shakespearian work in America was as Caliban, in "The Tempest," at tho speeial produc-1 tion given at the Century Theatre sev? eral years apo. With tho Shakespeare Playhouse la t year he was aiso seen; as Antony in "Juiius Cassar," in thc title role of "Macbcth," and as Oberon in "A Midsummer Night's Drcam." ln England he played in Shakespearian productions of the Benson Company. Star Bill Assembled lor Actors'' Funtl Benefit Thc annual Actors' Fund benefit, , which is now being organized for Fri- ! day afternoon, January 24, by Daniel ' Frohman, president of the fund, will have the practical assistanco of David Belasco and Arthur Hopkins. All thc numbers are new and being specially prcparod for this occasioti. The star ! "Florodora Scxtet" will be given by II. It. Warner, Donald Brian, Joseph : Cawthorn, Emmet Corriijan, Conway Tearle, Sholley Hull, J.ulia Sander son, Jeanne Eagles, Violet Heming, ?Ruth Sheplcy, Peggy Wood and Eliza- ; both Kricc. Another speeial feature | will bc Sam Bernard and Nora Bayes ! iu a scone from "Romeo and Juliet." The great magician, Houdinl, is pre paring a speeial rioyelty, Thero will also be two new plays, with star casts, one (if which has been written by Clare Kummcr, Jzfcrjee./ jP. (?? Wodehouse on the Gilhertian Tradition By Rebecca Drucker Une ceascs to marvel with what in : evitableness the name of Guy Bolton is followed by that of P. G. Wodehouse . on a musical comedy programme. One takes a good breath and reads it like this - Guyboltonandpgwodehouse. If ever Mr. Bolton should write a libretto alone what a lot of people would be lefl gasping in the middle of a long : breath. Interviewing them I felt would be a little like going to see Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The precision and unison of their work might extend to duetted replies. It was a little startling to find Mr. Wodehouse alone keeping the appoint ment. Mr. Bolton had gone on to Chi cago to supervise tho putting on of their latest piece, "See You Later.'' ] had somehow visualized them as in separable, and quite alike rather like a Siamese twin. Mr. Wodehouse rea soned with me against this im] i when I told him of it. Mr. Bolton and he were quite different, he assured me. Mr. Bolton [? thin and dark and quite ctual, with a repressed inclina tion for writing sombre plays. This description quite obviously does not fit Mr. Wodehouse, who is large of frame, fresh in color and quite irre pressibly cheerful. Mr. Wodehouse's humor is no gibe at the world. 11c really enjoys it. He doesn't. hanker to write a problem play; he does confess ; to wanting to write a farce that shall ; stand up without music. Mr. Wodehouse is English. He was al work on a newspaper in London when he met Guy Bolton there in 1906. Bolton introduced him to Jcrome Kern, who was visiting London then and who suggested that Wodehouse should try his hand at some lyrics for which he had wi-itten the music. The lyrics Wodehouse wrote were not a great suc cess. He needed the spark of a central idea to set him off, and the next season, when hc came to New York, he and Bolton and Ilern all met again and collaborated on "Have a Heart." This was tlie first of the several Bolton Wodehouse-Kern collaborations which culminated in "Oh, Boy!" With a plot to hang them on, Wodehouse found no difficulty in writing lyrics. ln between writing lyrics and librettos Wodehouse was producing a large quantity of fic tion and articles which from being looked at askance began to be tol erated and ilnally were avidly demand ed by that dispenser of fortune to struggling authors, "The Saturday Evening Post." The third partner of the Bolton Wodehouse combination has variously been Kern, Caryll and Hirsch. But the librettist lirm of Boltcr. and Wodehouse has held through many viciesitudes. And through these vicissitudes they have formulated a theory of what a ;nu Bical comedy should bc. The delibcr ute inchoateness of musical comedy did not seem to them rcasonablc. Clothing thc ineptness of the usual musical comedy plot in gcgeous cos? tumes and "effects" and bolstering it Up with "specialties" seemed poor economy and unsatisfactory in the end. Why, you'hr.d to spend $60,000 at least before your curtain could go up. and then you had to saddle yourself with several expensive stars?all because every manager refusod to believe that a tired business man could be burdenod with remembering a re cohor ent plot. How could you have anything but gag-linc comedy if you had no tion? The Bolton - Wodehousa musical comedy is farce put to music. Ii does not drag its ohorus on in improbable moments. Nor does :t allow itself to be tempted by the dlity of making girls look like . s or lampshades or cocktail ? ??. It keep.-; its choxus ;:: ji well 1 red background, as a mere j:cessory. "' hc lyrics come out of the situation. All this is not new, you may say. is the Gilbertian Tradition'. Now, the Gilbertian Tradition is something that every man who wants to write "a libretto of taste and lyrics of distinc tion butts his head against. He drinks I e souri ? i to change the hor) and get; so drunk that he is unfitted for original work. Mr. Wode h - ?: twenty-one wrote several fan tastic plays which he thought were in spired by Gilbert, but which he later - v were slavish imitations. The Gil? bert and Sullivan productions are ad mittedly tlie final achievements in their line. But they grew ciuite ruzturally out of their time and conditions. They are really quite intensely British in their outlook and oxprcssion. They were a crystallized expresdion of their time. They were presented before cdu I audiences at the Savoy on whoin none of their classic and satiric illu v/ere wasted. Those audiences were willin'g to mstt their objectivo satiro by using '*li imagination in meeting the fantastic conditions of prcsentation. that I\w York audiences could not be persuaded to excrt. That is why a eharming and quite exceptionally high class op'eretta like "Tno Arcadians" of some scasoaa ago failed in New York. Gilbert and Sullivan's audiences were wiUing; to. co to l lopia or Japan or Illyria, Ameri? can ;. ... . upon "fiSalisra" even in comic opera. The great Amer' ican izzusical comedy will have to be^ ' ing original and probably some? thing with a local flavor. It will have ier somewhere between the Gil? bertian Tradition and the Inchoato Tradition. Not only does American taste limit the librc-ttiet, but the conditions of production leave him by no means unhamnered. It is com plicated by what the public wants, what tlie manager thinks tho pub lic wants and what the music pui> lishers want There is a trade fashion in songs which the librettist must ob serve. The manager demands that a song receive a certain number of cn cores or rhat it be discarded?and a song is declared a failure if the music publishers do not sell a certain number of copie-j of it. J Bolton and Wodehouse have done a good deal toward changing the trenj of musical comedy. Their well brca\ gracile inttmacy has insensibly" altara*' tho fashion of the stupid and garifttt musical production of ten years ago. Their charm, their sparkle and their kindliness have added to our fund ot good taste. And that is a considerablo achiovement. ? "The Better 'Ole" Reaehes the Movies A photoplay vcrsion of "Tho Better ?Ole," or "Tho Romancr of Old Bill." will be lhe attractiOn at the Strand Theatre for tho week beginning Febru ary 16. The screen ?production was '?>' tlvo \'. i tsh P?*r :oa Filni ?< ' by arrangement with Charles B Cochrane, who pradueed the plsy ia London.