Last night Mr. James O'Neill played the "Count of Monte Cristo" to a half filled house. Doubtless the weather was largely responsible for the aching void in the dress circle, for Mr. O'Neill has always been very popular among Lincoln play goers. Of Mr. O'Neill in the title role little need be said. He is Edmond Dantes so perfectly that the public won't have him in any other role any more than they will have any other man play Edmond Dantes. Last year Mr. O'Neill wanted a change, and he tried to wean his audience to some new play by playing the "Count of Monte Cristo" the first night and his other play the second, but though Mr. O'Neill may grow tired of playing Edmond Dantes, the public is never tired of seeing him play it, so this year he has gone back to his first love. Mr. O'Neill makes a wonderfully light and youthful Dantes, and it is not easy to be light and youthful on the stage. His scene at the office of the procur ur du roi was particularly easy and spirited. As the count he was—well, he was James O'Neill as the Count of Monte Cristo, and whatever may have been his vocal flourishes for gallery applause, we must overlook them, for his virtues were many, his faults they were few. For the role of the romantic actor we wish such trite and choice bits of rhetoric as "the pen is mightier than the sword," and "the world is mine!" could be stricken from the plays they burden and make ludicrous. Mr. Edward Morgan as Villefort was very handsome and, strangely enough, he could act. All the men of the company were good. What they most need is a competent leading lady. Madamoiselle Celeste is a dream of beauty. There are few handsomer women to be found in either the higher or lower walks of the profession, but her acting is weak, insipid and pointless. She is innocent of all art or even of a clever imitation of it, and her voice was a continual and painful surprise. It rather startles one to hear the tones of a cavalry officer issue from such very bewitching lips. She is undoubtedly better than Mr. O'Neill former Mercedes, who was neither fair nor talented, but there is great room for improvement. It is certainly strange that the leading lady of the romantic drama should always be so atrociously bad when she has nothing under heaven to do but wear gorgeous apparal with moderate grace and scream "Edmond!"—or whatever his name may happen to be—with moderated tenderness.
"Tuxedo," like good wine, improves with age. It is now in its third year of uninterrupted success. Its appearance at the Lansing theatre tonight presents many new and startling introductions that one would hardly recognize save for the familiar faces that long since became identified with this popular minstrel farce. The cast embraces Hughey Dougherty , Arthur Rigby , Bert Shepard , Ed Marble , Geo. W. Dukelan , Miss Ida Fitzhugh and others.
Saturday night, January 27, the Lansing theatre offers Eli Perkins , the renowned humorist, who will discourse upon the "Philosophy of Wit and Humor" Many delightful moments are in store for his auditors and it is safe to say he will have a large house, which is richly deserved. The prices are only 25, 50, and 75 cents.
At the Funke opera house tonight the Corse Payton company will give the above named play. Miss Etta Reed will appear as Iza, the artist's model, and her portrayal of this character is Miss Reed's most ambitious effort.
James O'Neill: James O'Neill (1849-1920 was born in Ireland and came to the U.S. as a child. He first appeared on the stage in Cincinnati in 1867, and soon was playing in stock companies in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. In 1882 he played Dantès in a stage version of The Count of Monte Cristo to immense popular success. Although he was also successful in Shakespearean and other historical roles, his public wanted to see him as Monte Cristo, and he played the role over 6,000 times over thirty years. Cather remembered him as one of the best Monte Cristos she had seen ("Willa Cather Mourns Old Opera House"). O'Neill was the father of playwright Eugene O'Neill, who portrayed his father as James Tyrone in A Long Day's Journey Into Night.
The Count of Monte Cristo: This novel by the elder Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), published in 1844, has had an immense and lasting celebrity, and has had various stage and film versions of it made. The plot concerns the betrayal and imprisonment of a young sailor, who escapes, finds treasure, and returns to France as the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo to seek vengeance on all who have betrayed him.
Edmond Dantes: Dantès, the hero of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, is a nineteen-year-old when he is falsely imprisoned for life in the notorious state prison, the Chateau d'If. There he befriends the Abbé Faria, who educates him and, dying, tells him of the treasure buried on the island of Monte Cristo. Dantès escapes, finds the treasure, and returns to Paris as the mysterious Count.
Mr. Edward Morgan: Possibly the Edward J. Morgan who had an apparently successful career as a supporting actor on the New York stage between 1894 and 1905, in such plays as The District Attorney (1895), The Heart of Maryland (1895), Trelawney of the Wells (1898), Ben Hur (1899), and The School for Scandal (1902).
Villefort: Villefort is the public prosecutor responsible for Dantès' imprisonment. He attains high office in Paris, but Monte Cristo destroys him by revealing that he had had his illegitimate child buried alive.
Mademoiselle Celeste: This may be Marie Celeste, the stage name of Marie Celeste Martin (c. 1876-1954); she married Frank D. Stranahan, one of the co-founders of the Champion Spark Plug Company. Odell describes her as a "comedienne" (XV 609) and singer who performed in operetta and musical extravaganzas. She was featured in Klaw and Erlanger's A Round of Pleasure in 1897 and played San-Toy in the musical of that name in 1900. Odell also mentions a C. Celeste, who played in vaudeville (XV 731) and a Louise Celeste who played in Daly's company in the early 1890s (XV 276).
It is unclear which of the two leading female roles this actress plays: Mercedes, the young Edmond's fiancée, who unknowingly marries one of his betrayers, or Haydée, the Count's new love.
The Funke: The Funke Opera House was built in 1885 by Fred Funke (d. 1890), a Lincoln wholesale cigar, wine, and liquor dealer, on the southwest corner of 12th and O St. Until the Lansing Theatre was built it was the largest and finest theater in town. The first manager was Ed A. Church (d. 1927), followed by Robert McReynolds; Frank Zehrung managed it briefly, from July 1889 to January 1890, when L. M. Crawford took over. Zehrung resumed management in 1894. The building housed shops on the ground floor and offices in parts of the upper floors, as well as the theater itself.
Prize fight: On January 25, 1894, American boxer James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett (1866-1933) made his first defense of his world heavyweight boxing title against Charles Mitchell, the English champion, for a purse of $20,000. The fight, in Jacksonville, Florida, was billed as a "scientific glove contest" under the relatively new Marquess of Queensbury rules (1884). Corbett knocked out Mitchell in three rounds.
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.
Arthur Rigby: Arthur Rigby was part of the Henry V. Donnelly and Eddie Girard company in the plays Natural Gas (1893) and The Rain Makers (1893), then became part of the New York cast of Tuxedo (1891) in the fall of 1893.
Ed Marble: Ed Marble is credited as the author of Tuxedo; he also appeared in the play. The New York Times reviewer said he played the role of a tiresome man "a little too true to life" (6 October 1891).
Miss Ida Fitzhugh: Ida Fitzhugh was in the original cast of Tuxedo, according to Odell's Annals of the New York Stage (XV 62), but she is not listed elsewhere in Odell or in the New York Times drama index for the 1890s and the early years of the twentieth century. Fitzhugh later appeared in two movies in 1916 and 1919, and in Broadway productions in the 1920s.
Eli Perkins: Pseudonym of humorist and lecturer Melville D. Landon (1839-1910). His compendiums of humor and anecdotes, such as Eli Perkins' Wit, Humor and Pathos or Thirty Years of Wit and Reminiscences of Witty, Wise and Eloquent Men were often reprinted in the 1890s.
"Philosophy of Wit and Humor": The "Philosophy of Wit and Humor" was the title of a lecture by Eli Perkins (Melville D. Landon). It was reprinted in his Hot Stuff by Famous Funny Men: The Philosophy of Wit and Humor (Chicago, 1901).
The Clemenceau Case: This story by Alexandre Dumas the younger, in his Celebrated Crimes series, concerns Iza, an evil wife who leads her husband to kill her; the story was also made into one of Theda Bara's first starring movie roles (1915).
Corse Payton company: The acting company headed by actor-manager Corse Payton and his wife, leading lady Etta Reed. An undated playbill that has been preserved notes that Payton "carries an entire [railroad] car load of Special Scenery, his own carpets, furniture, bric-a-brac."
Miss Etta Reed: Actress Etta Reed (1866-1915) was born in Ravenna, Ohio, a daughter of Gustavus and Caroline (Buck) Reed. She married Corse Payton and was the leading lady of the company. Once a week, after the matinee, Reed would host a tea, or reception, onstage, for the ladies and children of the audience, a practice that was soon copied by other popular companies. An undated playbill notes "Miss Reed, during the week, will wear sixty different dresses. Count them."
Iza, the artist's model: Evidently this character is involved in a racy scene. On November 29, 1890, an Asheville, NC, newspaper noted of a touring company that "The model scene from the Clemenceau Case was presented. Such cos.[companies] should advertise the character of the play, as our best people do not want to attend them, and several ladies left during the performance."