Lincoln has been waiting for the Kendals for a long time and last night the Lansing theatre was crowded to its utmost capacity when the curtain rose up up "The Ironmaster." It is entirely too late in the day and too far west to say anything concerning the Kendals which will either enlighten or startle the world. Mrs. Kendal as Claire de Beaupre was of course the chief attraction of the evening. Mrs. Kendal possesses the one thing which counts for more than beauty, a remarkable stage presence. Her rendering of emotional roles is like that of no other living actress. She touches an altogether different and very much higher set of feelings than do Fanny Davenport , Clara Morris or Bernhardt . The sympathy which she arouses is less artificial and hectic, if not so violent. She has none of their jarring exaggerations; her vehemence is all softened by grace; her realism is of the sort that prefers to see beautiful truths, and it is decidedly restful after so many actresses who find their highest pleasure in seeking out whatsoever is awful. Mrs. Kendal's pathos awakens sadness, pity, even tenderness, but never horror. In everything she has the delicacy of an artist and of a woman. She combines the gentleness and sweetness which make Modjeska universally beloved, and the power and passion which make Clara Morris fearfully and horridly great. It is strange how fond modern playwrights are of filling their plays full of agony. In these days the actress who can suffer most rapidly, easily and effectively is the greatest actress. Mrs. Kendal may certainly be called the mistress of the art of tears. Her weeping is genuine and she is not afraid to let her eyes and nose get red in the process. Her sobs have the choke of real tears in them and her sighs the heaviness of real sorrow.
Mr. Kendal's finest work was in the last act of the play. In the first act he was very little more than the conventional hopeless lover of the stage. His artistic repose at times became too great. In the first scene of the last act, however, he more than redeemed himself and captured the public favor, which had begun to go very strongly to the much better half of the Kendal organization. The best thing about Mr. Kendal's work is that it is impossible to tell where the actor leaves off and the gentleman begins. Perhaps the crowning distinction of a great actor is that he can be a gentleman.
The work of the company was excellent, although they were so intensely English that it was sometimes difficult either to understand them or to take them very seriously, owing to which facts the first half of the first act dragged. As someone has remarked somewhere, it would be comfort if the English people could only speak the English language. English dialect by American comedians is all very pleasant, but English dialect by Englishmen is hard to bear and the worst of it is it is given in all seriousness and one hasn't even the satisfaction of being allowed to laugh at it. Miss Adrienne Dairolles as Athenaiss was particularly successful, and made a villianess whom one could sincerely and cordially detest, which was a rather new feature in acting, as the villian is generally the only character in the play which one can either like or admire.
The audience showed the usual bad taste in the matter of applause. The few cheap and gaudy sentiments that were expressed in the play were applauded loudly and the most touching incidents were received with amiable and appreciative laughter. Some measures should be taken to secure a reliable coach for Lincoln audiences.
Of course the modern play must begin with marriage. The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, with which Mr. and Mrs. Kendal have been astonishing and shocking the east, begins with marriage and ends with misery. The "Ironmaster," which is a little less morbid— and a little less modern—begins with married misery and ends with an embrace. That a wife who has married a man from the mere motive of revenge on another, can come to love him, is perhaps quite possible, but it is much to be doubted whether the ideal husband would—except in a play or a novel—regard her affection with such sternly unbending justice. Only a prig can be uniformly consistent and unpityingly just, and Philippe , while very fine and manly, has about him some slight suggestion of just such priggishness.
The denouement is a little lacking in dramatic dignity. After Claire falls wounded and is carried in her husband's arms to the foot of a convenient tree, we expect her to die; we have our tears all ready, and on the whole, while we may be amiably glad that she has only a tiny wound in her left arm, we are just a little disappointed. It is very pleasant to hear a story "end well," and it is of course a good thing to let happiness get pretty well to the end of the string before pulling it back. But it seems as if, in this case, it had been allowed to get a little too far around the corner.
The play is not one of event, but of emotion. No remarkable things are done and there are few moral maxims to call down the "amen" from the gallery. It is not a great play; it is, in fact, little better or worse than the popular novel from which it is taken. Necessarily its making or marring lies largely in the hands of the actors. It made a few people cry, and parts of it made most people a little uncomfortable. In fact, some parts are so good that it is a pity the whole is not better.
Frank Jones and an evenly balanced company presented "Our Country Cousin" to a rather small but appreciative audience at the Funke last evening. Mr. Jones as Jason Wheatley, the country cousin, did very acceptable work and in the second act gave a few imitations on a cornet which were loudly applauded. Miss Lillian Walton as Dorothy Churchill made a most amiable heroine. Frank Young interspersed numerous dances in the course of the evening and did his share of the fun making. The scenic effects were very good.
In the "Spider and Fly" at the Lansing theatre tomorrow night each grand scenic effect is immediately followed by some new and artistic specialty, then comes a song, which is succeeded by a superb ballet, the whole interspersed with comedy and aided by magnificent surroundings, and one thing following another so fast during the evening that the eye is fairly dazzled.