New York Theatres
THE season this winter was opened at Wallack’s with an attempt at Shakespearean comedy, in the production of As You Like It, with Miss Rose Coghlan as Rosalind, Mr. John Gilbert as Adam, Mr. Osmond Tearle as Jaques, and Miss Germon as Audrey. There is a fatal fascination about this comedy which leads at frequent intervals to its production on the metropolitan and provincial stage, although we believe, as a matter of fact, it rarely succeeds in doing more than depleting the treasury of the theatre. As You Like It is probably the most beautiful and the most difficult of all Shakespearean comedies. It is pervaded by an atmosphere of poetry, which renders it alike attractive to young and old playgoers. The dialogue abounds in wit and pleasantry; the characters are all entertaining, and that of Rosalind is one well calculated to excite the ambition of any young and pretty actress. Besides all this there is a good deal of pleasing incidental music. The reason why it always fails is probably because it is impossible, with any ordinary human company, to strike the exact line between the real and the ideal suggested by the text. Adam is a tolerably easy character to act, as old men’s parts are apt to be, and Mr. John Gilbert is the most accomplished actor of old men’s parts on the American stage. Jaques, on the other hand, is a part which must have been difficult to conceive, and is far more difficult to represent, dramatically. To play-goers he is known as the “ melancholy Jaques,” an epithet to which he is entitled quite as much by the melancholy produced by seeing him played as by that of his character. As we generally see him on the stage there is in much of what he does and says neither rhyme nor reason. His soliloquy is generally spoken as if it originally had appeared in some school speaker, and had then been copied into the play. His account of the emotions aroused in him by the pursuit of the deer is generally given in such a way as to make the least bloodthirsty of the audience long to participate in the cruelest sports. We have seen many Jaqueses and have read many analyses of the character, but have never met with one that was intelligent or seen one that was good. To say, therefore, that Mr. Osmond Tearle makes a poor Jaques is to say very little. We cannot be sure that he even makes a Jaques at all. The part as played by him is bodily injected into the play, has no connection with anything else in it, and is a mere vehicle for the delivery of stage speeches. The speeches are good, for they are Shakespeare’s, and the delivery is tolerable ; but the play with the part altogether left out would as usual have been more coherent and successful. Miss Effie Germon long since made herself mistress of the part of Audrey, and in it she holds the stage wherever she has an opportunity of doing so. She is one of the best actresses of English low comedy in the United States, thoroughly trained, and with that natural vis comica which so many comic actresses lack. Miss Rose Coghlan made in Rosalind what would be called in France a succès d'estime. There is no more reason that Miss Coghlan should undertake to act Rosalind than that she should undertake to act Hamlet. She is nearly as well fitted for one as for the other. The last great Rosalind seen on our stage was Adelaide Neilson, who in the lighter Shakespearean female parts was without a rival. In Imogen, in Viola, in Rosalind, she looked the part to perfection ; her voice was deliciously musical, her gayety irresistible, her delivery excellent. Her conception of these parts was not perhaps the profoundest, but as far as it went it was perfect. To compare Miss Coghlan, who has hardly ever attempted Shakespeare, with an actress who devoted her life to it would be unfair. A more reasonable standard of comparison is afforded by Miss Davenport, who has tried this and all other parts known to the modern stage. Miss Davenport’s Rosalind has always struck us as being one of her best parts, and Miss Coghlan might have studied it to advantage. One inherent difficulty in the character is the natural assumption of a man’s part by a woman distinguished by every attractive feminine trait. It is far easier to do this on paper; it was far easier for Shakespeare to imagine it than it is for any actress, however clever, to play it. On either side she runs the danger of going to an extreme. We must always remember and feel that she is a woman, while she must pass on the stage for a man. We must be charmed by the contrast, but the contrast must not be made so apparent as to strike us as violent. Miss Davenport very nearly succeeds in accomplishing this extremely difficult feat. If she errs at all, it is in making the character too masculine. The difficulty with Miss Coghlan is that she makes it too feminine. She does not appear to be able to imagine the situation. Her Rosalind is from first to last a woman masquerading very badly as a poor imitation of a man. In Miss Davenport’s performance one of the most delightful things was always the sudden revulsion of feminine feeling on hearing of Orlando’s wound. This sudden access of emotion and the contrast between it and her previous frivolity and lightness is one of the great touches of nature in the play. Miss Davenport thoroughly understands this, and understands also that the contrast could not be presented effectively unless the character were down to that point made manly. Miss Coghlan, being a woman throughout the play, hardly succeeds in it at all.
Mr. Alfred Cellier’s Sultan of Mocha was brought out early in the season as English opera bouffe of the higher order, with the usual result. It is now a long time since English musicians and dramatists began to imitate the French opera bouffe, and they have not as yet succeeded in producing much that is above the level of mediocrity. Early last spring a somewhat more successful effort than usual was made at the Bijou Opera House, where several little musical plays were given in a manner which appeared to please a fastidious audience. In one at least of these cases, the libretto was by Mr. Gilbert. A good deal of the music was by Mr. Cellier, who has something of the French lightness of touch and ease of composition in melody. If there was a fault to be found with the performances at the Bijou Opera House it was that they were too moral. The nations of Southern Europe who invented and perfected buffoonery on the stage never attempted to make their buffoonery pay tribute to virtue, but this on the English stage is an absolute necessity of the experiment. Mr. Gilbert is very nearly the only Anglo-Saxon of modern times who has succeeded in being ridiculous without offense, and in such operas as Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance he and Mr. Sullivan have almost created a school of English burlesque opera. The operettas introduced at the Bijou Opera House and the Sultan of Mocha bear about the same relation to Pinafore that flat soda-water does to the same liquid immediately after it is opened. As the attempt will hardly be made again for a long time, it is probably not worth while to go into the reasons for this failure at great length. They were sufficiently obvious. The music of Mr. Cellier is light and imitative, but the fundamental fault with the whole school of production to which the Sultan of Mocha belongs is that whatever else they may be they are not amusing. The school of English burlesque, properly so called, which probably originated in the Christmas pantomime, and which had a great vogue until within a few years, was a better and healthier dramatic product, notwithstanding all its vulgarity and absurdity. But the fact is that Anglo-Saxon genius is not adapted to this sort of work. It may be through its virtues, or it may be through some defect. It has not the requisite levity, and whether in drama or in music it refuses to descend to the level at which real opera bouffe becomes possible. It may descend much lower, but in that way it only makes the matter worse. Even Mr. Sullivan’s music has not the true bouffe character; it is serious music of a poetic order, and really better fitted to be preserved as intrinsically good melody than to serve as the lyrical accompaniment of dramatic absurdity. So, too, of Mr. Gilbert’s librettos. It must be said that, amusing as they are, there is a depth of seriousness behind the humor and continually suggested by it which forces that sort of reflection upon us that true bouffe never does. That comical inversion of the moral position of things which in the Offenbachian opera continually makes us laugh is not introduced for the purpose of satire, or in fact for any purpose at all. When a king suddenly rewards the conspirators against his throne by making them all cabinet ministers; when cowardice is encouraged by rapid promotion and fraud by continued extension and increase of confidence as soon as it is detected, this is done in French opera bouffe for exactly the same reason that a council of war is broken up by the leading general’s dancing off the stage on one leg, — simply because it is laughable. When the lavish and profligate secretary in Les Brigands comes forward and explains his riotous living and peculations by attributing the whole to his congenital peculiarities of character, there is no deep moral purpose in his song any more than there is in the previous scene, in which he unsuccessfully attempts to bribe the chief brigand with a thousand-franc note by placing it on the table and then looking underneath it. But the Anglo-Saxon is fundamentally serious; be has no flippancy, no levity; and though he has a great fund of humor, it is of a serious character. Absurd as Mr. Gilbert’s librettos are, there is just enough suggestion of seriousness in bis humor to prevent us from feeling that we have escaped the bonds of the real world and are luxuriating in an atmosphere of pure nonsense. Mr. Gilbert, as we have said, has come nearer the mark than any other Englishman. The author of the Sultan of Mocha was apparently in doubt as to what the mark was.
The business of writing American plays has not made much progress during the past year, but Mr. Edgar Fawcett has succeeded in producing one at least, — Our First Families,— which had a very good run at Daly’s Theatre. Mr. Fawcett proved himself last year to bean ingenious playwright by his drama, A False Friend, which ran for a considerable time at the Union Square. A False Friend was founded on the Tichborne case. The scene was laid in England and Australia, and the atmosphere of the play was intended to be thoroughly English. In Our First Families Mr. Fawcett returns to his native land. There are three or four easily recognizable American types in the play. There is, for instance, the old Knickerbocker type, representing that exclusive and interior society which is believed by many people to exist somewhere in New York, to which there is no introduction save through birth and breeding. Then there is the nouveau riche type, — that of the people who are continually coming up through their money, and who are always endeavoring to mingle in the exclusive society which they know to be the best, and to marry their daughters to Englishmen. Mr. Fawcett has made a great deal of the prevailing Anglomania, and his Mrs. Pomeroy Stanhope is a very good character. The difficulty of writing a comedy of this sort is, as we have pointed out before, the want of fixity and permanence of the type. The belief in the existence of the Knickerbocker type is a sort of tradition and legend of New York life which has a strong hold upon the imagination, but which has very little basis at present in fact. If there really ever was any society in New York composed of old families distinguished by strikingly characteristic qualities, it would of course be possible for any one to put a representative of the society upon the stage in such a way as to strike anybody familiar with it us either false or true to nature ; but thoroughly well as Mrs. Gilbert plays Mrs. Manhattan, what is there in the character to identify her in any way, except that she refers to the old days when the Battery was a favorite resort, and that she continually dwells on the importance of keeping new people at a distance ? If this is all there is in the Knickerbocker type, there is no wonder that little is known about it, for a society made up of such people could not possibly possess any interest. It might exclude new people, but there could be no reason why new people having any intelligence should ever desire to be admitted to it. The fact is that the belief in the existence of a Knickerbocker society belongs to an earlier period than the present, and that society in New York is quite as little under what is supposed to fie Knickerbocker influence as that of Boston is under the influence of the Puritans. People who believe themselves to be Knickerbockers in the sense that Mr. Fawcett represents the type must be very stupid people, and it is the stupidity of the type which should be dwelt upon rather than its social importance. It would perhaps be possible to invent a person believing himself to be such a Knickerbocker as Mr. Fawcett imagines the type of a certain society, but it would be his social self-deception, stupidity, ignorance, and vanity which would make the principal capital of the part. With regard to Anglomania, Mr. Fawcett has hit upon a new view which might with patience and industry be made to yield a good deal. Anglomania is a recent product of American life, and a very amusing one. It is undoubtedly true that there is a large number of women in New York whose principal idea or aim in life is to marry their daughters to Englishmen, although it is a well-established fact that in the majority of cases the English marriage market is by no means a good one, and that the daughter is fortunate if the mother secures for her anything better than a broken-down rake and gambler. In the same way there is a large number of men in New York whose sole object in life appears to be to imitate and import English fashions which are not adapted to the conditions of life in this country ; who delight in riding across country over imaginary fences, and in pursuing the sport of coaching in heavy vehicles built for English use over American turnpikes and “dirt-roads.” For purposes of comedy, however, there is more in this Anglomania than Mr. Fawcett has yet made it yield.
When Sara Bernhardt arrived in this country she went almost immediately to witness one of the performances of Miss Clara Morris, and she is reported to have been so moved by the spectacle that she embraced Miss Morris and expressed her cordial approval of the latter’s acting. The significance of this approval was supposed to lie in the fact that Miss Morris acts the same “ emotional " parts which have made the reputation of Mademoiselle Bernhardt. She is, we believe, the only American actress who has ever achieved a great success with such plays as Article Forty-Seven, The Sphinx, and Alixe. Precisely what the emotional drama is nobody has ever very accurately defined. There is certainly no non-emotional drama, and the peculiarity of many of the plays of the socalled emotional school seems to be not so much the prominence given to sentiment as that given to physical suffering, disease, and death. It would be a curious and interesting thing to trace, in the modern development of the drama, the continually rising importance of scenes in which the physical sympathy with physical pain is the feeling sought to be excited in the audience. In the plays of the old classical school there is plenty of death, even plenty of poisoning; but it would never have occurred to Racine and Corneille to exhibit a hero or heroine actually writhing upon the stage in physical torture from the effect of poison, even after the fatal dose had been taken, nor would such pathological spectacles have ever been endured upon the English stage in its palmy days. Shakespeare allows his characters to die before the foot-lights in a great variety of ways, and in the eyes of the classical school it was a reproach to him that he did so; but with all his liberality it never would have occurred to Shakespeare that physical dissolution was a proper subject for dramatic representation. It is not until we reach the period of Adrienne Lecouvreur, in some respects a very modern play, that we have a large part of an act devoted to physical suffering. In La Dame aux Camélias we have consumption put to good use; and in The Sphinx an intelligent actress, some years ago, made a great hit by foaming at the mouth in the death scene. All this is of course realism. The plays of the so-called emotional school are all realistic. Miss Clara Morris is a realistic actress, and a very good realistic actress. Now realism on the stage is the general name for a very important tendency which has shown itself in all sorts of different ways, some bad and some good. So far as regards the external part of the art, the scenery and properties, realism has had the effect of introducing great exactness and attention to accuracy of detail. On the modern stage the old wings have disappeared, and the scene is as close a copy of the actual place to be suggested as can be produced. The exterior of the house, the row of buildings in a street, the interior of a room, is put before the audience in fac-simile. In Henry the Fifth, in the charming invitation to the play given by Rumor, there is a delightful passage in which she begs the audience to summon their fancy to their aid and to imagine as much as possible, so as to eke out the scanty material set before them. If Rumor had been a realist she would have known that the imagination of an audience cannot be relied upon for this purpose; that nothing must be suggested, but everything given in full. It is in fact one of the main differences between the old-fashioned and the modern stage that the chief effort seems to be to appeal as little as possible to either the imagination or the fancy, and to rely almost solely upon the critical faculty of the spectator. This has been carried to a point which is at times absurd. It is really founded upon a theory which is in itself a mistake. A theatrical illusion, whenever it is created at all, is unquestionably created by the acting. The theory on which stage realism proceeds is that it is created by the scenery. With any one who disputes this, there is no room for argument; there is no common ground of comparison. At the same time, if the proposition is true a tendency to stage realism is in itself unimportant, because, provided the dramatic art itself be pursued with intelligence and appreciation of its real character, the misdirected zeal for accuracy in the external representation of objects, though it may do very little good, can hardly do harm. But realism has another side which is not so harmless. One of its objects is to portray on the stage, not great passions and emotions, not great or exceptional characters, but life as it is seen every day in the streets, in houses, at parties and balls, in church, — every-day, commonplace, accidental, dull, monotonous life. It is one of the first dogmas of realism, considered in this aspect, that you must put life as it actually is on the stage, and not make selections. Zola has carried this idea to the point at which it becomes disgust. In fact, it seems to be Zola’s mission to prove that there is no difference between the beautiful and the disgusting. But long before Zola appeared on the scene the tendency was in existence, and the tendency is one which threatens to convert the drama into an engine of simple mimicry. The drama of course springs from the mimetic faculty, but it involves something far higher and more intellectual. The best way of proving this is not by absurd considerations, but by examining what the world has long agreed upon as the best dramas that have ever been produced, and asking ourselves how near or how far from the level of actual life these are.
Ordinary life, as we have suggested, is dull, and it was necessary for the realistic drama, in order to escape being dull, to become sensational. That sensationalism is unlike life never seems to have occurred to any one. Hence the modern drama, both in England and in France, has allowed itself the widest latitude in this respect. In England it has made use of the sensation of situation. In France it has generally made use of emotional sensation. In England we have trains rushing towards open drawbridges, the victims of designing villains tied to rails, houses rapidly consumed by flames, murders in the snow, sudden arrests in ball-rooms, and, in fact, every sort of thrilling situation that ingenuity can suggest. In France, on the other hand, we have women becoming insane on the stage, dying slowly of poison in violent agonies, dying slowly and pathetically of consumption ; ladies of easy virtue becoming suddenly patterns of the highest morality under the influence of love. All this is realism, and the best actress is she who can do it in the most real way. This brings us to the last and best thing in the movement, which is the tendency towards sincerity in the art itself. To be real in the representation of emotion in any school, to be sincere, not to distort and exaggerate, but to represent the feeling through a knowledge of it from experience, — this is true art; and, if we mistake not, Miss Clara Morris has a great deal of it. She has many defects, principally those which arise from a lack of training, but her one great virtue is her sincerity of emotion.
The condition of Miss Morris’s health will evidently not long permit her to remain upon the stage, and her loss will be an irreparable one. In the emotional drama, although there have been many actresses who have displayed in single parts talents equal to hers, there has been no one who has made herself mistress of the whole range so completely as Clara Morris. There have been many Camilles and many Frou Frous, but no one except Miss Morris has been able to go through the whole catalogue from Alixe on the one hand to Cora in Article Forty-Seven and The Sphinx on the other. When we come to details, there is, it is true, hardly a point in her acting which is not open to severe criticism. She has never succeeded in making her voice or intonation agreeable, and she always betrays that want of training which is the great defect of the best English and American actors. If Miss Morris had been born in France and in early life had been through the severe drill which prepares a French actress for serious acting, had always been obliged to look forward to running the gauntlet of the trained criticism of the French dramatic press, and had been able to make a successful appearance upon a stage such as that of the Comédic Française the goal of her ambition, Miss Morris would probably by this time have become one of the greatest living actresses. As it is, she merely has a local reputation, made by her striking natural gifts and in spite of her lack of training. After all, it is this great want which is at the bottom of most of the crudeness of the American stage, and it is hard to see how the difficulty can ever be remedied as long as the drama is carried on as a purely commercial undertaking. For two hundred years, throughout the Anglo-Saxon world, the theatre has stood on precisely the same footing as any other business governed by the law of supply and demand, and it is a business in which the general public demand is never very likely to be of a high order. The public, it is true, must in the long run be the judge of success in any art, but the public is not at all a good judge of the means which it is necessary to take to produce this success. The same audience that is thrilled with emotion by the acting of a Rachel or a Salvini is absolutely ignorant of the steps in the process by which their emotions are aroused. They may recognize thoroughly when an actor fails in striking the key required by the situation, yet at the same time they would be totally unable to explain to the actor in what his mistake or fault lay. Besides this, with the theatre carried on as with us, there is no machinery for training possible. The preparation of pupils for the stage, or the drilling of actors after admission to the stage, requires time and money, and there is no fund of either upon which to draw. In most countries in which the drama has long flourished the government has supplied the means by which the art has been maintained at the level of the standard recognized by tradition. In France to-day the theatre is upon a government foundation, just as with us the higher education is upon a foundation established by private beneficence. It seems out of the question to dream of government support of the drama in this country. When we reflect what our government is, what is the class of people through which such support would be obtained, and what are the influences which would be brought to bear upon them in obtaining it, the idea must be dismissed as preposterous. The support of the drama by private beneficence is not, however, either absurd or impossible. Private donations have supported multitudes of colleges and institutions of charity, and done much for the fine arts and music. Why should the drama alone he an exception ? Of one thing we may be certain : that as long as the theatre is carried on entirely upon its present commercial basis, managers supplying simply what the public will pay to see, and the public demanding simply what the managers find it commercially possible to produce, there will be no higher trained actors upon our stage ; or where such actors are to be found, they will be, as at present, stars without any permanent support, and wandering through the theatrical firmament in a meteoric and very unsatisfactory manner,
Mr. John McCullough is a proof of the truth of what we have been saying. He and Mr. Edwin Booth are the last of the thoroughly trained Shakespearean actors of our time. We say the last, because the traditions of the Shakespearean stage are rapidly dying out, and it will not be long before they have completely disappeared, and every new actor will, if he acts Shakespeare at all, be allowed to have his own conception and method of rendering any parts that he may select for representation. But these two actors are both possessed of high training, experience, and skill. Mr. Booth some years ago undertook to carry on a theatre upon an artistic basis, attempting to create the demand for the artistic product which he knew he was capable of supplying. The failure of the attempt is a matter of common notoriety, and Mr. Booth is now playing, to large houses in London, the very parts which brought his theatre into financial ruin here. Mr. John McCullough is simply a star actor, and has very wisely never had dreams, or, at any rate, never had more than dreams, with regard to the reform of the stage. He has been playing a successful engagement this winter at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, but this too is a star engagement. There is no steady demand for acting of this kind.
Mr. McCullough is an intellactualized Forrest. He has inherited the traditions of that actor, and at the same time in many respects improved upon them. To our mind he has more natural genius and intelligence than Booth, and also more original theatrical force, although in delivery, in elocution, and in strict stage business he is undoubtedly the inferior of Booth. He has two manners, and there is a wide gulf between them. To see him in such a part as Spartacus one would almost believe that Forrest had again come to life. The rant, the muscular rage and fury, the vocal bellow, are reproduced, but it is Forrest without Forrest’s genius. It is merely the mimicry of the peculiarities of Forrest’s acting. In such a part as Hamlet we again hear the echo of Forrest’s voice, but only an echo. We are now no longer impressed with the physical but with the mental energy of the actor. It is indeed an original and powerful conception of the part. Hamlet is the greatest favorite of all Shakespeare’s plays, and yet it is remarkable how very little light even the best actors throw upon the character, how very much at the end of the play remains obscure and meaningless. Even so good an actor as Booth is open to the criticism that his Hamlet is in great measure an elaborate piece of recitation. With McCullough the case is different. There is not a line of the play which he utters, whether in the scenes with Hamlet’s mother, with Polonius, or with Ophelia, which he does not make instinct with meaning, — not a line which he does not manage to accompany with some action that throws a light upon the situation. The result is that he produces almost a new play.
The Union Square Theatre still continues to maintain the best stock company acting in the United States. The company remains substantially the same from year to year, and an extraordinary skill in the selection of plays still distinguishes the management. In fact, if it were possible for every theatre to he managed as this one is, the difficulty of obtaining a high degree of training by relying purely on the law of demand and supply might disappear ; hut the exception proves the rule, and the excellence of the acting at the Union Square shows nothing more than the extraordinary skill of the management of this particular theatre. The play of this winter has thus far been Daniel Rochat, Sardou’s last hit in Paris. The plot of the play is not one to suggest to any ordinary manager that it would be likely to succeed in this country. Daniel Rochat, described on the bills as “ statesman and philosopher,” is a young French radical in politics and religion, who has a large following, and a character as statesman, philosopher, and atheist to support. Miss Leah Henderson, a young American heiress, is traveling through France with her sister, Miss Esther Henderson, her aunt, Mrs. Powers, and a couple of frivolous cousins. Leah accidentally meets Daniel, and falls in love with him, as he does with her. In this there is nothing very remarkable, but what is curious is that, although Leah falls in love with Rochat partly out of admiration for his intellect and with a full knowledge that he has a public station and position of some sort, she does not appear to know, or at any rate to be at all impressed by, the character of that position. It is consequently a great surprise to her when she discovers, after they have gone through the civil ceremony of marriage, that her lover is opposed to any religious consecration of the contract. He is a consistent infidel, and nothing will persuade him to take his bride to church. With regard to the possibility of this situation, we have nothing to say. M. Sardou understands French atheists better than we do, and it may perhaps be very likely that a leading Voltairean would refuse to be married to a woman by a minister of the gospel. However this may be, the end of the third act finds Leah and Daniel in this uncomfortable predicament: that they have been married civilly by a magistrate; that Rochat considers this to be a valid and complete marriage, while Leah does not consider herself married at all. Leah, it should be observed, is represented not simply as an ordinary American heiress (M. Sardou takes the audience into his confidence at several stages of the play with regard to American customs, and lets them understand that he knows perfectly well that in fact a great majority of marriages in the United States are simply solemnized by mayors and justices of the peace), but she is an exceptional character, and the fourth act consists of a powerful scene in her boudoir, in which Rochat endeavors to persuade her that he is entitled to consider himself her husband, while she resists his importunities, and displays the nobility of her character by insisting on making everything yield to her sense of duty. The play having reached this point, it would be difficult for most dramatists to know how to end it. Any termination of a happy character would seem unutterably tame, yet any termination in the nature of a tragic rupture of the half-completed marriage would seem to be impossible. M. Sardou, however, is equal to any emergency. He first makes the husband yield to the entreaties of the beautiful Leah, and consent, after much difficulty and agony, to accompany her to church. Meanwhile, however, Leah has obtained a glimpse of her husband’s character which is by no means satisfactory to her. She had idealized him, yet he had turned out to be very much like other men, — selfish, determined to have his own way, and giving to duty a very different place from that allotted to it in her pure mind. He had even tried to persuade her to violate her own sense of duty. She has, in consequence of this, begun to lose her affection for Daniel Rochat or, as it is prettily put in plays and novels, she has found that the real Daniel Rochat is a different person from the Daniel Rochat she has loved. She therefore, while professing willingness to abide by the terms of her bargain, intimates very distinctly that she is no longer satisfied with it, and Rochat, always a man of honor, withdraws from the marriage at the very moment when his happiness seemed to be assured. The existence of a legal marriage is neatly got over by the discovery of a local law to the effect that marriages brought about by misunderstandings are null and void, or can be made so. Leah, not having known the peculiarities of Rochat’s position, or his views, brings herself within the provisions of this convenient statute, and is in consequence released. Besides all this there is a comic plot, but, as is the case with so many of Sardou’s plays, the comedy is merely interwoven with tragedy for the sake of the contrast, and forms no essential part of the main plot. It is difficult to see why such a play as this should be popular in the United States. The situation is of course a possible one, but it is grossly improbable. The spectator is convinced from the first that in real life the difficulty would have been ended by some concession on the part of one of the contracting parties, and the tragedy produced by Leah’s discovery that the real character of Rochat is inferior to her idealized conception of it is altogether too refined and metaphysical to be in itself interesting. Besides all this, he seems to have been throughout in the right, and she in the wrong. There is absolutely no action in the play, no incident, no event. The interest is entirely emotional, yet this play has had a remarkable run in New York, chiefly, no doubt, owing to the excellence with which it is acted. This excellence does not lie in any one part, for great fault in detail might be found with the leading actors. Miss Jewett acts the part of Leah with delicacy, tact, and refinement, but without any tragic force. Mr. Thorne plays the part of Rochat with plenty of tragic emotion of the physical variety, but without much delicacy, tact, or refinement. Yet taken as a whole, as we have said, the acting is better than than that of any other theatre in New York. All the smallest parts are well taken. Mr. John Parselle, one of the most competent actors, plays the small rôle of William Fargis. The part of M. Turler is thoroughly well taken by Mr. Owen Fawcett. Miss Esther Henderson and Mrs. Powers, both subordinate parts, are competently played by Maud Harrison and Mrs. Phillipps.
We have left ourselves no room to speak of The Guv’nor at Wallack’s. The theatres are this year devoted to tragedy, and the reaction from the surfeit of farce, hitherto provided, is a healthy one. But there is such a thing as too much tragedy, and to any one fatigued with emotion such a play as The Guv’nor may be strongly recommended. It would be a waste of time to go into the plot. The great hit of the play is the acting of Mr. William Elton in the part of Macclesfield, the deaf boat-builder. In the way of farce acting it is impossible to imagine anything better. His deafness is not a mere difficulty of hearing, but that long-continued, incurable deafness which affects the whole behavior and changes the voice. Even this change of voice Mr. Elton has acquired to perfection, as he has also that fixed manner of attending to what is said that usually characterizes deafness of this sort. The play is too long. Farces ought not to be written in three acts; but if they are to be, there could hardly be a better excuse for it than the opportunity afforded to such an actor as Mr. Elton.