Charles E. L. (Charles Edgar Lewis) Wingate.

The playgoers' year-book, for 1888. Story of the stage the past year with especial reference to Boston .. online

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Online LibraryCharles E. L. (Charles Edgar Lewis) WingateThe playgoers' year-book, for 1888. Story of the stage the past year with especial reference to Boston .. → online text (page 3 of 8)
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A Double Lesson, was brought out March 7, at the Park. The
story of this one act comedy is that of an actress. Miss St. Almond,
giving a double lesson to her husband and to her amateur pupil Lady
Moncrieffe, who are becoming dangerously attached to one another.
Miss Yokes as Miss St. Almond found opportunity for dancing and
singing and droll burlesquing in her well known manner.

On the 9th of March, A Game of Cards, a little one-act comedy,
was brought out at the Park, for the first time in Boston, by
members of Miss Vokes's company. Chevalier De Rocheferrier and
M, Mercier become angry over a game of cards, refuse consent to
their children's marriage, and then make up, the former gentleman
having been convinced the quarrel was a dream.

The Queefi^s Favorite, that Genevieve Ward gave for the first
time in Boston during this month, may rightly be characterized as a
duel of wits. There is little in the way of plot ; the entire interest
centres upon the sarcasm on the tongues' tips of the two prominent
characters, the brilliancy of their minds, and the results of the
clashing of these forcible characteristics. The characters alluded to
are historical personages, and many of their acts upon the stage are
recorded in the histories of the past, but no attempt is made at sys-
tematic accuracy or at complete recording. Sarah Jennings,
Duchess of Marlborough, one of the great Churchill family, is the
woman whose mind forms one foil in the subtle battle, while the

30 The Playgoers' Year-Book. [March,

opposing weapon is possesssed by Henry St. John, Viscount BoUng-
broke, the statesman, orator and writer of Queen Anne's day.
There is flash after flash in the duel, sharp clashing and bright sparks
scintillating between the two whenever there is collision, and this is
the life of the play, in fact the play, the entire play itself.

How witty, especially, are the remarks of Balingbroke. "The
Churchills," he says, "never draw the sword — they only draw their
salary." He is called upon for action and yet cannot very well take
action at that moment. What will he do? "I will do as other
statesmen do," he says, " talk like the devil." So he declares with
force, " A politician who loves anybody but himself is lost," and
•' Women are always suspicious of their own sex — they understand
it better than we do." He is chided for crowing before he is out of
the woods ; " It's never too soon to rejoice," he affirms in response.

Each of the two opponents is seeking to control Queen Anne.
The Duchess has the reins in her hand at the beginning, and St.
John, striving to effect peace in Europe by bringing England's
Queen and France's King into friendship, is restrained by the power
of the woman. If he can but gain his point then he will become
Prime Minister, and the virtual regents the Duke and Duchess of
Marlborough, will be dethroned. St. John succeeds in having
Abigail Hill appointed maid-of-honor to the Queen, by finding out
that her cousin, the Duchess, had exerted herself so much in
behalf of Abigail's lover, Lieut. Masham (who had slain in a duel
St. John's cousin) as to place Her Grace in a position that by slight
misinterpretation could be compromising. This is a point gained,
since the young maid afterwards, as Lady Masham, even supplants
the Duchess in favoritism with the Queen, being also an instrument
in the hands of St. John and Harley, the leaders of the moderate
Tories. St. John, or Bolingbroke as he became after the death of
his cousin, obtains the much desired invitation to the reception for
the French Ambassador by informing the Duchess of a signal (the
asking for a glass of water) that is to delay Masham after other
guests have gone and so bring together in conference the Queen and
the two lovers. Who has not heard the story of the famous glass of
water spilled on her Majesty's dress, the glass of water that brought
about the great Peace of Utrecht? Then comes the illustration of

1887]. The Queen's Favorite. 31

the importance of little things upon which Bolingbroke so often
dilates. A glass of water has brought success to Bolingbroke. The
want of a drop of ink checks him, almost checkmates him, for,
while he is searching for the ink with which the vacillating Queen
may sign the paper that will set him at the head and force away his
rival, the Duchess herself gains admittance to Anne's presence, and
by explanations regarding her interest for Masham and by the beg-
ging of pardon, delays the movement of her opponent. But
Bolingbroke at last wins the game, playing upon the jealousies of the
two women, and the entertainment of the hour is at an end.

A clever bat unscrupulous man is the Bolingbroke of history, and
so he is in the play. If not his selfish outlook for personal welfare,
at least the absence of sincerity and of honest statesmanship in the
care of the nation is strongly pictured in the stage portrait. All the
grace of person and brilliancy of intellect is shown, and other
attributes are added to make the character more pleasing to the
observer. The chief characteristic of the Duchess of Marlborough,
as the record of other days transcribes it, was power of will and
superiority of mental talents. This, too, is the prevailing trait in the
stage heroine, and though she ultimately loses, as she did in fact,
still throughout the action of the plot there is manifest that keenness
and strength which denominates the woman destined to be a pre-
vailing factor in shaping the course of events around her.

Eugene Scribe's Le Verre iV Eau, originally brought out at the
Theatre Francais in 1840, has served as the basis for several English
adaptations ; for The Maid of Honor produced at the Adelphi,
London, in Oct. 1841, for The Triple Alliance, produced at the
Princess's, London, in Nov., 1862, and for The Queen^s Favorite,
produced by Miss Genevieve Ward at the Olympic, London, June 2,
1883. This latter version, adapted by Sidney Grundy, was brought
to America by Miss Ward and given its first production in the
United States in San Francisco, March iS, 1886. Boston first heard
it IsLirch 14, 1887, at the Park Theatre. Miss Ward's portrayal of
the Duchess was chiefly a study of the mind. It was decisive and
intellectually clear, with much artifice but with that artifice guided in
so clever a way as never to be obtrusive. Mr. Vernon invested
Bolingbroke with naturalness and consistency and painted the part in

32 The Playgoers' Year-Book. [March,

such alluring colors as to make the easy, graceful, good-natured man
of wits a captivating character.

At the HoUis Street on the 14th of March the latest comic opera
of Johann Strauss, The Gypsy Baron, was given its first Boston
production. Its original performance was in Vienna in November,
18S5. The 15th of February, 1886, saw its first production in
America at the New York Casino. The book of the opera is based
upon a novelette of Moritz J okay, the Hungarian author, and was
arranged by Julius Schnilzer. The story brings out a romantic picture
of Hungarian gypsy life, with a homoeopathic mixture of pig-dealer's
business. The hero, Barinkay, is poor ; that is, he inherits the pos-
sessions of his father, who, having been sent away to exile, could not
keep his property in what a New Englander would call " apple pie
order," and so left a rather dilapidated old castle and fields of doubt-
ful value to his heir. Barinkay sees Arsena — to be sure she is a pig-
dealer's daughter, but the pig-dealer is a man of wealth and Arsena
is a girl of beauty — so he falls in love with her. But the young
maiden fears that her great-grandfathers would turn in their graves
if she married beneath her, so she calls upon her lover to present the
title of Baron before he claims her hand. Hero Barinkay becomes a
Baron in this way : the gypsies make him their Wajwod. which,
being translated, signifies Baron. But Arsena says that isn't just
what she meant. Thereupon Wajwod Barinkay declares tliat what
he means is that since he sued for the hand of the pig dealer's
daughter he has met Saffi, the guileless gypsy maid, and that he has
transferred his affection to the untutored lass of the nomads. So
far so good, but better follows. Saffi finds a long lost treasure, which
turns out to have been hidden by Barinkay's parent, and then in the
same act it is announced by an old gypsy woman that Safifi is really
the daughter of the late Pasha in Hungary. Her Highness, of course,
is then far above Hero Barinkay, so away he goes to the war for
fame, gets it, and then returns at the head of the troops and is ac-
cepted as the husband of the Princess Safti. The opera is bright
and charming in music and was acted and sung commendably well
by the Conreid Opera Company.


(a:rr)cs Jjewis ar)d ItJps. (^ilbepf.


^ I APRIL. 1 -^

Wilson Barrett in Lady of Lyons. — Ruddygore. — Sarah Bern-
hardt IN Fedora and Theodora. — The Flirt. — George
Riddle in The Earl. — Passing Shadows. — Fanny Davenport
IN Much Ado About Nothing. — Mme. Janauschek in Meg

fHE dramatic events of April opened on the ist with a presen-
tation of the Lady of Lyo?is at the Globe by Wilson Barrett,
the interest of the performance lying in the fact that this was
the first time the English actor had played Claude Melnotte in
America. His Claude is constructed in the same design that wrought
out his Chatterton ; a display in almost precisely similar manner of
a high strung, sensitive nature, a lofty spirit and an elevation of soul.
He was superficial but personally magnetic. Miss Eastlake played
Pauline for the first time on any stage. In the later scenes, after the
romantic girl's character has been strengthened by trial, she best met
the requirements of the part. In the earlier scenes she lacked the
show of innocent inexperience.

The production of a new Gilbert and Sullivan opera has become
an event now in theatrical circles but unfortunately the latest work
of the two writers, Ruddygore, failed to reach the standard of popu-
lar favor and its short run at the Globe Theatre, beginning April 4,
was probably its last as well as its first hearing in Boston.

34 The Playgoers' Year-Book. [April,

Rtfddygore is intended as a burlesque on the old melodrama. Sir
Rupert Murgatroyd, of Ruddygore Castle, by burning a witch at the
stake has brought upon his family a terrible curse, to wit :

Each loid of Ruddygore, This doom he can't defy

Despite his best endeavour. However lie may try,

Shall do o^e crime, or more. For should he stay

Once, every day, for ever! His hand, that day

In torture he shall die

The present representative of the family, in order to escape the
dreadful penalties of the curse, has fled his ancestral hall and taken
refuge under the name of Robin Oakapple in a little village. There
he falls in love with a guileless maiden. Rose Maybud, whose chief
characteristic is an unceasing devotion to the rules of her etiquette
book. For instance she receives an offer of marriage from Dick
Dauntless, in this way :

Rose (aside) — Now, how should a maiden deal with such an
one? (Consults book.) "Keep no one in unnecessary suspense.''
(Aloud.) Behold, I will not keep you in unnecessary suspense.
(Refers to book.) ' In accepting an offer of marriage, do so with
apparent hesitation." (Aloud.) I take you, but with a certain show
of reluctance. (Refers to book.) " Avoid any appearance of eager-
ness." (Aloud.) Though you will bear in mind that I am far from
anxious to do so. (Refers to book.) " A little show of emotion will
not be misplaced." (Aloud.) Pardon these tears. (Wipes her

Meanwhile the younger brother of the Ruddygore heir discovers
Sir Ruthven, alias Robin, and compels him to return to the castle
and accept the curse. The second act is set in the portrait gallery
of the Murgatroyd mansion. Sir Ruthven commits an act of good-
ness. Suddenly the ancestors step from their frames and stand
around the luckless modern representative. They blame him for
committing no crime that day and declare that he must abduct a
maiden. Accordingly Sir Ruthven plans to seize Dame Hannah,
the aunt of Rose Maybud. Meanwhile his brother, now changed
from a wicked baronet to a good Methodist, enters with his lady who
turns out to be Mad Margaret, a crazy girl whose burlesque of Ophe-
lia in the opening act had displayed her madness. Dame Hannah is
brought in but is saved from Sir Ruthven by her own pugnacious

1887]. RUDDVGORE. 35

valor and by the declaration of one of the ancestors who recognizes
the spinster of uncertain age as his own sweetheart. At last Ruth-
ven shows that he does not merit the curse, since all the ancestors
committed suicide out of dread of the curse and therefore they
need not have died and consequently, to all practical purposes, are
not dead, — and with this the opera ends.

The first act of Riiddygore is in many respects a typical Gilbert-
Sullivan construction. There are numerous bright melodies for the
music and a number of sharp witticisms for the text. The general
strain of dialogue is not so subtly humorous as the Gilbert text of
former works, but every now and then will be heard one of those
doubly turned sentences that so tickle the fancy, a kind of punning
phrase corresponding to the punning word, but far more effective and
not so monotonous. The second act, however, has little except
some very broad burlesque on the traditional melodrama, so broad as
at times to be farcical and it includes very few musical numbers.
The first part of this act is excessively dreary.

Of the characters, two are excellent burlesques, Robin, of the
bashful young man, and Rose, of the demure devotee to rules of
etiquette. The others are not so impressively defined. The intro-
duction of Mad Margaret is out of harmony with the remainder of
the work. The part was well sung by Miss Alice Carle in Boston.
Miss Helen Lamont made an ideal modest village maiden in the char-
acter of Rose, while Charles Reed held his burlesque of the emotional
Robin in proper restraint and with considerable quiet humor. Mr.
Phil Bronson danced extremely well as Richard Dauntless, the man-
o'-war's man. Sig. Brocolini excelled in his methodical bad-man-
made-good in the second act.

Ruddygore was originally brought out at the Savoy Theatre,
London, Jan. 22, 1887, and had its first American hearing at the
Fifth Avenue, New York, February 21, (with Geraldine Ulmer,
George Thorne, Courtice Pounds, Fred Bellington. Kate Forster and
Elsie C^ameron in the cast.)

Mme. Sarah Bernhardt returning to Boston after a six years'
absence appeared at the Hollis Street Theatre in five different plays
but in three her impersonations were familiar. The other two plays,
Fedora and Tlicodora, both bv Sardou, were known through Lhe

36 The Playgoers' Year-Book. [April,

productions in English by Miss Fannie Davenport and Miss Lillian
Olcott respectively. Miss Davenport's Fedora was first heard in
Boston, April 28, 1884; Bernhardt appeared in the play April 4,
1887. Miss Olcott's Theodora was first heard here Nov. 29, 1886 ;
Mme. Bernhardt appeared in the play, April 8, 1887. In each of
these plays the French actress displayed to highest advantage her
strength of powerful action and intensity of emotional action and
gave a keener perception of her genius than in any other roles of
the season. Mme. Bernhardt regards Theodora as one of her favor-
ite pieces, some of the characters, in her estimation, being almost
Shakespearean yet the title role she considers the most difficult im-
personation she ever essayed.

The Flirt, a new play in the repertoire of Mr. and Mrs. W. J.
Florence, was first heard in Boston at the Park Theatre, April 8.
The hero, Sylvester Sparks, is an athletic dude who is continually
winning the hearts of the fairer sex. Mrs. Diana Lovington is a
dashing widow with whom Mr. Sparks is inclined to flirt. Mixed up
letters cause complications, which are funnily wrought out in the old,
old way, making a laughable farce, and nothing more. Mr. and Mrs.
Florence carried the roles of Sparks and Mrs. Lovington in their
usual peculiar style.

Edgar Fawcett's five act play in blank verse, The Earl, an exten-
ded dramatization of one of his poems " Alan Eliot," received its
first production on any stage at the Hollis Street Theatre, April 11,
and the occasion marked the appearance of George Riddle, the
reader, as a star actor. The story of The Earl is one of crime
caused by love and of subsequent remorse. Edmund, Earl of Cleve-
den, has met in the past for a few brief times a lovely maid, un-
known to hiiB by name as he also to her, and this fair girl has
become his ideal. Living in a secluded castle with his books alone
he yet cherishes the memory of this maiden. When hJs brother.
Lord Hubert, seeks the consent of the Earl to marriage with Lad>
Marion, daughter of Lord Falkstane, Edmund frowns upon the al-
liance because of suspicion that I\Larian's father is allied with Mon-
mouth against the King. Marian is brought before the Earl that hei
sweet face may move him to relent and then it is found that she is
really the heroine of Edmund's long devotion. The lady would

1887]. Fedora — The Earl. 37

marry Hubert, however, and the comphcation leads to a quarrel
between the brothers. Hul^ert follows his brother to the seashore
and there by the side of a lonely cave offers the duelling sword to
Edmund. The more expert older brother disarms Lord Hubert,
spares his life and leaves him. Hubert, seeking shelter from the
storm in the cave, is entombed within by the sudden falling of a
huge boulder. Startled by the crash Edmund returns and at first
would save his brother, but then, remembering that with Hubert out
of the way Lady Marian may be his, he leaves the young man to his
fate. The marriage follows, for Lord Falkstane is only too glad of
this great alliance, especially as his own head is now in danger for
political reasons. But terrible remorse has seized upon the Earl
and he can rest in peace neither by day nor night. Even before the
wedding an old retainer discovers the secret of Lord Hubert's death by
a visit to the cave and Edmund is well nigh distraught for fear of
exposure : but sudden death removes the aged servant just as he is
about to speak. After the marriage remorse works even more upon
the Earl and at all hours he hears ringing in his ears the cry for help
that last came from his brother's lips. In sleep Edmund half con-
fesses his crime to his wife and when in a fit of somnambulism he
sets forth for the cave she follows him, hears his self-incriminating
words by the huge rock and then awakens him. With the full horror
of the situation thus suddenly forced upon him in the presence of
a witness, and she the woman whom he adores, Edmund falls pros-
trate at her feet and in the agony of his soul's affliction expires.

The Earl wQvXdi make a good reading play if cut down. There
are many poetic lines of beauty, and there is the melancholy
romance pervading all that suits the author's muse. In its stage rep-
resentation, however, it drags slovenly along for the first part, and in
the opening acts has too little dramatic intensity. The last two acts
are stronger by reason of the situations in them, but they also have
the faults of slow and over extended dialogue. There is a great
amount of narrative that clogs the action and there is too much ex-
plained to the audience after every auditor has fully understood the
fact. These points militate against general popular favor. Of the
acting of Mr. Riddle in the part of Edmund, Earl of Cleveden, it
may be interesting to quote two extremely differing opinions. H. A.

38 The Playgoers' Year-Book. [April,

Clapp said : '* Mr. Riddle is utterly unequal to the task of em-
bodying it [a conception of Edmund] in declamation and action.
Tliat Mr. Riddle has fine moments is true ; the contrary would
not be possible. But Sir Edmund in the total is indefinitely too
much for him, and his impersonation as a whole is tiresome, spas-
modic and ineffectual. And Mr. Riddle need not be much disturbed
if he is found unable to achieve the impossible." Edgar Fawcett,
the author of the play, in a letter to the press which aroused much
discussion, said : " Mr. Riddle possesses distinction, force, elegance,
scholarship and a voice full of the sweetest, richest, most sympa-
thetic melody. His scholarly gravity in the first act, followed by
keen and almost horrified dismay when he discovers that Lady
Marian, the betrothed of his brother, is the woman whom he has
loved devotedly literally brims with intelligence and charm. His
love scene is an exquisite rendition. His entire third act is masterly
in its dignity and beauty." Mr. Fawcett stated also that he ranked
T/ie Earl ids above any work he had so far given to the stage, this
declaration being called out by the unanimous condemnation of
the piece as an acting play, by the critics of the Boston press.

John A. Stevens's Passing Shadoivs, which was given its first pro-
duction in this city at the Boston Theatre, April ii, was in reality a
revised version of Her Second Love, a drama by Mr. Stevens that
was formerly given with Maude Granger in the leading role. The
scene is laid in Russia where two Counts, Ivan Demidoff and Fedor
Petrovik, are rivals for a cottage maiden, Olga by name. Ivan wins,
but by his subsequent scandalous behavior alienates his wife and
finally is killed, leaving the other two characters free for prospect-
ive marriage.

The play is somewhat over-spiced for a refined stage and has few
remarkable features about it. It was well acted, the author himself
appearing as Count Ivan.

Miss Fanny Davenport appeared in the character of Beatrice in
Much Ado about Nothing for the first time in Boston on the 14th
of April at the Park Theatre, having taken up that role only the
previous Autumn. Her impersonation was one of great merit, ex-
celling especially in the expression of Beatrice's love of bright
humor. So pleased was Miss Davenport at the success ot this en-

1887]. Much Ado about Nothing. 39

gagement that she wrote a public letter to the dramatic critics ex-
pressing her thanks for the warm endorsement of Boston and adding
" I hope your high praise will only give me greater incentive to
better work. My engagement has not only been profitable but has
won for me that which all true artists strive for — an entire
acknowledgment from the Boston press."

Meg Merrilies, made famous by Charlotte Cushman, was revived
by Mme. Janauschek at the Park Theatre, April 25 th, that actress
appearing in the title role for the first time in Boston. She gave
this dramatization of Scott's " Guy Mannering " for the first time in
this country a few weeks previous. Her success in Boston was at
once accorded. Mme. Janauschek's impersonation was effective in
its direct force. There was little approach to pathos in her inter-
pretation, either in expression of love for Bertram or in the death
scene, nor was the uncanny weirdness of the hag made prominent,
but the leading feature presented was that of the power of strong,
independent will in the gypsy queen.

^1 M AY,^3^

Jim, the Penman. — Richard Mansfield in Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde. — On the Rio Grande. — Love in Harness. — Taming
OF the Shrew. — Lhtle Jack Sheppard.

^^HE closing month of the busy theatrical season saw three of
l^J the most prominent productions of the year, besides three

T minor novelties. Jim, the Penviaiu was brought out for the
first time in Boston at the Park Theatre, May 2, by the Madison
Square Theatre Company. The play, by Sir Charles Young, was
originally made public March, 18S6, at the Haymarket Theatre in
London where Arthur Dacre, Lady Monckton, Mr. Barrymore and
Beerbohm Tree played the leading parts. It received its first
presentation in this country in Chicago. July 19, 1886, by the Madison
Square Theatre Company. Subsequently it ran the entire regular
season at the Madison Square Theatre, New York.

Sir Charles Young conceived the idea of the plot from the life of
a genuine " Jim, the Penman," so called by the police, otherwise
known in social circles of England as James Townshend Saward. In
the play the criminal central figure is given the name of James
Ralston. Living with his wife and children, two gay young people,
Jack, the son, and Agnes, the daughter, the latter being engaged to
Lord Drelincourt, Mr. Ralston seems to all the better world a man of
uprightness and benevolence. To the shady classes, particularly to a

1887]. JiiM, THE Penman. 41

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Online LibraryCharles E. L. (Charles Edgar Lewis) WingateThe playgoers' year-book, for 1888. Story of the stage the past year with especial reference to Boston .. → online text (page 3 of 8)