Pearson's sporting drama, "The District Fair," was presented to a very thin house at the Lansing last night. The play was a regulation melodrama, with a printed synopsis of all the five acts and the character and purpose of every character printed after their names. Melodramas always do that for fear the actors will play so poorly you can't tell the hero from the villain. The first act opened on eraing youth and his villainous friend. Enter "dear old mother"—God help the poor old mother of melodrama. Enter drunken uncle, who steals poor old mother's savings, which are intended for erring youth. Enter heavy father, touching dialogue between heavy father and drunken uncle. Drunken uncle becomes violent, erring youth rushes in to assault him, but heavy father protects his brother. Curtain. Thus ended the first lesson. The following acts were very much like the first, and also abounded in tiresome virtue. The types were painfully familiar. There was the uninteresting drunkard who repents, the erring youth who breaks his mother's heart, and even the inevitable "maid aweary of her maidenhood," with corkscrew curl sand summer ice cream pantalets. That spinster type is so old, it is strange the melodramatists don't find something to take her place.
Mr. Hanchett as John Grayloch was good. Mr. Scully rather overdid Uncle Phil . Walter Craig as Spotty was easy and natural. Miss Mae Hall made a nimble and mirthful Roxie . Mr. Jefferson Lloyd played the hero, Arthur Grayloch , and of course he was bad. We try to be charitable, but it would require several charity organizations working at high pressure to generate enough of that forgiving grace to cover Mr. Lloyd's priggish inefficiency. The racing scenes were the redeeming features of the play. The horse Tempest is a pretty animal and is splendidly trained. The conflagration scene and the race scene had more realism and more excitement in them than any that have been seen on the Lansing stage for some time. The house was poor, but however poor the house may be there are two people who are always there — the dramatic critic and the Inevitable Twain.
The District Fair: Edward Barbour's racing drama, The District Fair, opened in New York at the People's Theatre in the Bowery. Odell considered it an imitation of the success of The County Fair (Annals of the New York Stage, XV).
Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.
The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.
Mr. Hanchett: Possibly the David Hanchett who appeared in New York in The Royal Guard in 1888.? He was with actor-manager Daniel E. Bandmann's touring company in 1885 when the young Julia Arthur joined the company.
Mr. Jefferson Lloyd: Jefferson Lloyd played the part of the erring youth, Arthur Grayloch, in Edward Barbour's The District Fair. He also appeared on the New York stage in The Wicklow Postman in 1895.
Inevitable Twain: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations does not have an entry for this phrase. The reference is unlikely to be to Mark Twain or to Kipling's "Ballad of East and West," with its refrain of "Never the twain shall meet."