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Chicago daily tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1872-1963, April 06, 1879, Image 9

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84031492/1879-04-06/ed-1/seq-9/

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Mr. Thompson succeeded in pleasing New York City thirteen consecu
tive weeks this season, San Francisco eight consecutive weeks, Boston four
consecutive weeks.
Look into the matter quietly before purchasing your ticket. Don’t you
think he can please you?
JOSHUA WHITCOMB, YANKEE FARMER, AT THE LYCEUM THEATRE. They gave out gilt-edged programmes at the Lyceum Theatre last evening to celebrate the 70th performance, excluding matinees, of the piece which forma the
setting for Mr. DENMAN THOMPSON’S delineation of an old Yankee fanner, yclept Joshua Whitcomb. People have recently been finding out that such a piece was running over there, where pieces have never run of late years, except into the
ground. Aman would say to you, “Have you seen Uncle Josh?” You would reply in the negative. Straightway he would broaden into a grin—the grin of tickled recollection—and say, “ Go." “What is he like; what is the piece about?” “Oh,
never mind about the piece and the plot, and all that critical flummery that keeps a man asking himself if he ought to laugh; just go and roar at him; he’s a Yankee farmer.” After a week or two a man stops you in the street and says, “Do you know
that Bergh has been laughing?” Having seen that Knight of the Itueful Countenance rise in the Court of Special Sessions to demand the punishment of the father ot a half-starved family, who was working a horse with a sore ear, an “unheard-of
cruelty. Your Honor,” you deny the possibility as you would that a Hoboken ferryboat had been caught grinning. He thrusts a card from a newspaper under your nose. “Itis a long I enjoyed such a continuous and hoarty laugh as you af-
forded me last night, and 1 feel the better for it this morning.” That settles it. If you can not see the rare spectacle of Mr. Bergh laughing, you can, as the next best excruciatingly funny thing in the world, go and see what caused it. You go, you
laugh, you chuckle, you grin and roar. You find something rising in your throat, and something like tears starting to your eyes; in an instant you are rocking with laughter again like a three-year old child. It is a difficult matter to sit down and
describe it.
The success of “JOSHUA WHITCOMB” at the Lyceum Theatre has been so remarkable that it deserves to be frequently commented upon as an example ot excellent business tact and patient waiting. During the past two weeks the audiences
have been the largest that have gathcredin any New York Theatre. It is a play that wins with every performance, makes friends for the actors and money for the management. DEN THOMPSON as a representative of a New England Farmer, with
the least of stage effects, never fails to bring both tears and laughter. Little Tot (Miss Julia Wilson), with her sweet voice; Koundy, the handsome boy, also vocal, heroic, and good; Uncle Si, with his old-time humor, and Aunt Matilda,make a picturo
that never has been duplicated on the American stage.
The performance of “ JOSHUA W HITCOM B ” is one of the most unique, and, in its loose and disjointed way, one of the most remarkable we have seen for many a day. That it is so is owing mainly to the extraordinary originality, fidelity, and
simplicity of Mr. DENMAN THOMPSON’S rendering of the principal character, which is at once a type of broadly-recognized character and a triumph of mimicry. He is to us a reminder of the hardy virtues of our forefathers. He takes us back to
*he calm, sweet spots in our lives, where the sun shone with a brightness that will never come again. Joshua Whitcomb, as we now have him at the Lyceum Theatre, is wholly unlike any previous effort in the same direction. It may ho that the actor,
is Joshua Whitcomb, and could not by any possibility be anything else, and it is that which chiefly concerns us at this moment, and the critic cannot escape the reflection that, if this is not Joshua Whitcomb, it is a rare piece of acting, for the people
who go to see it declare that it is not acting at all, but reality. The personage is as actual, as consistent, as untrammeled by any consideration of audience, of stage effect, as if he were living a fact, and not acting a part, and, wo suppose, the most flat-■
tcring thing that cn be said of Mr. Thompson’s impersonation is that it needs no explanation and can not be criticised.
With the present week. Josh Whitcomb will close his peculiar entertainments. He'goes away at the height ot Metropolitan success because prior engagements cannot bo canceled, I cannot help paying hl/n a parting tribute. He gives ns less
art and more nature than any player we have had this season, but it was a kindly, representative, and familiar type. We had never met Josh upon the boards before, but we seem to have known him all our lives when we did meet him. Ho carried
with him a homely, honest protest against not only our artificial lives, but our artificial representations of life. The air of the country hung upon him. His very vulgarity had a charm, for it was that allowable transgression which we associated with
our grandfathers somewhere back of our refined stir, in the sweetness of outdoors.
- 1 think Josh Whitcomb went straiglitcr to people’s kindly inner natures than Rip Van Winkle or Solon Shingle, and unlike those stage heroes he was wholly untheatric. Nobody ever played in anything with less aid from the trickery of the stage.
He seemed to bring us back with his pre-Rapbaclite simplicity to the source of all dramatic refreshment—which is truth, and so came down through our stony ruins like one of his own New Hampshire rills, making gladness and greenness for all.
That a player could do this with so slender a story as was bis ought to give us pause at a time when all the arts and sciences are co-ordinated in stage representation. It brings up the old suspicion that the real charm of the theatre is not in its
dresses, its scenery, its furniture, or its machinery, but in its human nature—that given a man or a woman, all the rest is accepted on faith.
Good-by, Uncle Josh. I sat three or four nights looking at you, surrounded by intelligent people, and I never could quite get the smell of wild gentian and dried grass odt ot my head when the last scene was on. There was a fine-scented wind
from the hills blowing through it, old fellow, and 1 asked myself a hundred times how it was that this delightful old ruffian out of rusticity should come the nearest to that much-vaunted French art of acting.
And the only answer I could ever make was that it was because he did not seem to act at all.
The Uncle Josh of Mr. Thompson will rank with the most lauded personations of the day. The impression lett by the principal performer (Mr. Thompson) is one ot unalloyed satisfaction. No person in a similar line of endeavor that we can recall
possesses such naturalness, such fidelity', such ingrained character as this. His humor is entirely unconscious, and his pathos irresistible. The treatment of the actor is one of apparent simplicity, and his words and actions are produced with a spon-
taneous counterfeit of an actual personage that defies analysis and disarms criticism. His art is high art, however lowly and homespun may be his theme, and we have no hesitation in pronouncing his Uncle Josh a rare creation, and himself enti-
tled to all the honor that can attend an eminent comedian, made so by inborn merit, and not by extraneous artifices.
A very remarkable and entertaining performance may now be seen at the Lyceum Theatre, where Mr. DENMAN THOMPSON is giving a representation of what the programme calls a three-act comedy drama, entitled “JOSHUA WHITCOMB.”
Mr. THOMPSON is, we believe, the author ot this play; and while it has not even the semblance of a plot, candor compels the admission that he has succeeded in compiling one of the most curious dramatic structures over submitted to public consid-
e ration, and has only to be known to become one of the most popular pieces ot the day. Mr. THOMPSON swayed his audience last night at his pleasure. His pathos seemed to be as rare and as spontaneous as his humor. Anything more touching
As the dying woman breathes he kneels to pray by the side of her pallet. At this instant the drunken husband enters arid
thau the simple gentleness of the rough farmer at the bedside of the dying woman in the garret, is seldom seen on the stage.
feds prostrate in an attempt to strike the kneeling farmer. The latter springs to his feet, drags the intruder to an open window and flings him out. He then returns to the bed andkneels again. The slightest indication ot irreverence in this scene
■would reduce it to the level of blasphemous burlesque, but Mr. THOMPSON plays it with such sturdiness ot purpose that the spectator only admires the man who is bold enough to fight andjoo brave to be ashamed of praying.
OS rfTf
FEW - n-ew toke: oiraisrioisns-
The New York Graphic of September 17, 1878, in speaking of Hr. DIMM THOMPSON, says:
Commencing To-Morrow Evening, April 7.
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From tlie Sew York Herald of Soyemlber 11, 1878.
From the New York Herald of November 21 , 1878.
From .the New York Sim. of September 8, 1878.
From tb© New York Sun of November 31, 1878.
From the New York Evening Post., September 4, 1878.
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