The Lansing could not well hold any more people than it held when the curtain rose on "Charley's Aunt" last night. The audience was certainly the most select and enthusiastic that Lincoln has turned out this season. It brought all its risibilities with it. It began to laugh at the beginning of the first act and kept it up steadily until the close of the last. A comedy that is a comedy breaks down the formality of an audience completely, conquers the dignity that people usually don with their evening dress and dissolves them into their everyday naturalness. "Charley's Aunt" is a rollicking comedy, with just a touch of farce, enough to make it mean something to the gallery as well as the dress circle. It is clever because, though the situations are impossible, the comedy is natural and without bombast and the wit is always accompanied by action. It is a bit slow and tedious in the first part of the first act, but it is by no means a talk play, that is, it was not written to introduce witty combinations. It is a play of situations and action. It is really very remarkable in that it handles six love stories with all ease and dispatch, where it is more than most comedies can do to take care of one. Another remarkable thing about the play is that it is an absolutely clean comedy. It is not only moral, it is even proper. It not only has no objectionable women, it has a chaperone, "a woman with a history," who is "not like other women," and who "came from Brazil, where the nuts come from." Above all it is enormously, redeemingly, magnificently funny. Yes, there is no doubt about it; in "Charley's Aunt" England forgot itself and invented something, made something new and genuine and funny. The union jack should float at half mast, the house of lords be draped in black and prayers should be offered in Westminster, because an Englishman has done something funny and his sin is still unrepented.
The presentation of "Charley's Aunt" was really excellent. The cast was entirely and absolutely good. That grating discord which a single poor actor makes was fortunately wanting. The acting was even and uniform throughout. None of the actors fought for the centre of the stage or the centre of attraction; they all subdued their own personalities just a little and adapted themselves to one another, which is the secret of success in all society plays, both those that are played on the stage and those that are played every night in our drawing rooms. The minor roles were as correctly portrayed as the more important ones, and it is those same minor roles that give a play away and that invariably distinguish a good company from a poor one.
Mr. Richard Bennett as Jack Chesney was delightfully enthusiastic and boyish. There are so few men who can be a natural boy and a boy can never be one. Mr. Bennett jumped about as though he had no corns to hurt and laughed as though he found pleasure in it. Percy Sharp , who impersonates the pseudo aunt, has a severity of feature and a colorless face and a voice which make him peculiarly fitted for the part. His make up as the aged Brazilian was a thing of art, and he obliging disrobed before the audience to assure them that it was all real. His scene with Miss Brooks was perhaps his best, for it brought out the peculiar complexity of his position. The unconscious and innocent way in which the girls found it pleasanter to kiss this old woman than most old women is one of the neatest things in the play. As he himself expressed it, "They did it themselves and they liked it." Miss Anna Parker as Kittie was thoroughly girlish and unaffected. In taking the initiative in the love scene she was spontaneous and made a very hard situation seem perfectly easy by her simplicity. Miss Parker survived the embracing wonderfully well. It is refreshing now and then to see a woman on the stage who knows how to hug or to be hugged.
Most of them embrace ideals or empty air or at best a dress coat, but Miss Parker embraced Mr. Jack Chesney not in the spirit but in the flesh and did it as though she liked it, and, by the way, the audience liked it as well as she did. Miss Marie Leddy is an actress of that handsome eclat society type that one often sees in Frohman's companies; perhaps Frohmanesque is an adjective that best suits her. It is proper to mention Brassett last because he was only a servant, but he and Spettigue must be among the first in the heart of their manager.