There was a good audience at the Lansing last night. They went to see "The White Squadron," the "big patriotic and spectacular drama," with "four carloads of scenery" and the "handsomest men in America." Of these attractions the only thing that materialized was the patriotism and possibly a carload or so of the scenery. Of plot there was enough and to spare, so much indeed that the average hearer occasionally wondered if the hero himself had not got the two girls mixed. He, the hero, was a good, substantial fellow, very unsailorlike for a naval officer, able, however, under all circumstances to call down the gallery by a spirited appeal to the "star spangled flag." There was an abused slave, two villains (both foiled) and a number of brigands, not to mention the very dingy and disreputable persons who posed as the admirals of various fleets. The story set all these people at work with kisses and curses and pistols and cutlasses and denunciations and explanations, till finally everything cleared up and things went universally well to the tune of "Hail Columbia."
There was, of course, little acting worthy of serious criticism. W. A. Whitecar as Victor Staunton was all that one can expect a melodrama soldier to be. He had a good voice and a fairly imposing presence; he made love stiffly, but defied and threatened quite effectively. Frederic Julian as Demetrio de Romancio was the best actor in the company. He was silently and delicately villainous, "slick" somebody called him, and, when he was called before the curtain, the gallery showed their approval by enthusiastic hisses.
Robert Neil as Fraincisco , the nephew, evidently had read in Shakespeare that a man "may smile and smile and be a villain;" so, being a villain, he smiled and smiled, and grinned when he should have looked grieved. Miss Forrest as Onesta was fairly pretty and clung well, and Miss Deagle as Theresa might have done well were it not that her voice had a twang that was unfortunately most prominent just when she wished to be most pathetic.
Other noticeable characters were Santo , who was like his picture on the bill boards, Miss Martha , an elderly but amorous Quakeress, and Hope Staunton , a sort of suppressed soubrette, who got little chance in the confusion of uniforms, guns, brigands and men-of-war.
Of course the scenery should have been the chief thing in the play. But it wasn't. There was no marine scene at all, except a back-drop representing a dislocated ship, and a so-called tableau which took a long time dawning out of darkness and then showed only a fair enlargement of a very familiar painting of the squadron at sea.
There was a grand parade of some rather draggled soldiers who couldn't drill, and there was talk about "decks" and "riding at anchor." Beyond this there was, in the whole play, nothing nautical—except the name.
The llama didn't turn up, though the ox did, but oxen are easier to get than llamas, any day.
The only good thing in the way of scenery was the ruined monastery, that was not a marine scene. The name "White Squadron" is misleading, but then so are the names of most melodramas. They are like the wines that some of our dealers sell, all under different labels, but all from the same barrel.