"A Duel of Hearts" was presented to a very poor house at the Lansing last night. Indeed, the size of the audience was a fair example of the Lincoln public, that will flock to see "The Spider and the Fly" and let a play like this greet an empty house. The Lincoln public has disgraced itself again, but as it spends most of its time in doing that in one way or another further remarks upon the subject are needless.
This is Miss Craigen's first starring season, but it is safe to say that it will not be her last. Artists of her stamp can lead more easily than they can follow. Few people would have recognized in the Lady Stanhope of last evening the actress who rather indifferently supported Keene last year. Miss Craigen has, in addition to the emotional faculty of a great actress, the power of control and composure which is remarkable in so young an actress. Most emotional actresses are so eager to show that they can be emotional that they begin their emotion in the first scene of the first act and continue in a straight course of methodic misery. Miss Craigen does not allow emotion to touch her in the first act, though in the scene with Louie she has opportunities to be melancholy that most actresses would give their eyes for. No one, not even on the stage, can be uplifted and transfigured by emotion until he or she has battled stubbornly against it. The great actor's tact and temptation is in repressing his emotion and keeping it under. He must always tame his highest flights and tone his loudest cries just as a literatteur must cut out the passages that are dearest to him. An actress cannot afford to be much more emotional on the stage than she would in a drawing room. Miss Craigen fights her emotional instincts for the first act and a half nobly, then the reaction sets in and great emotions, with all their benedictions of power, are hers. Miss Craigen is beautiful, but she reverses the usual order of theatrical impressions. She strikes you first as an actress, then as a beautiful woman. Her work in the insane scene was not so finished as that of the great Clara , but neither was it so painful. It is a question just how far realism ought to go in stage insanity, perhaps Morris might be better with a little less, Miss Craigen with a little more. However, the play might have made her insanity of such a very peculiar kind that perhaps the usual symptoms of insanity won't fit it. One longs to see Miss Craigen in a stronger play than "The Duel of Hearts," in "Camille" or "Fedora" or something that would more fully test her power. She undoubtedly has a great future before her, for she has all those hundred spontaneous, unthought of little touches that are so much greater than the great things, and above all she has that power of moving and melting for which we can forgive and forget so much.
Mr. Frederick Paulding was Keene's leading man last year. The only fault anyone had to find with him was that he did not play the role of Richard III . Mr. Keene's mantle has certainly fallen upon very much broader and shapelier shoulders than his own. How Mr. Paulding could have played a whole season with Keene and still be the conscientious, rantless, self-respecting actor that he is, is the great wonder. That he remained uncontaminated is sufficient proof of his strength and intelligence. One would need strong superlatives to say how much better he is than Keene. That quiet, restrained anguish of his in the last act will not be soon forgotten by any of us. He sang like a good fellow, loved like a gentle man and suffered like a man. Indeed a quieter, decenter, better behaved pair of stars have not struck Lincoln for a long time, and we hope they will come soon again. for we are sick of this ranting, tearing "power" that can't even behave itself, much less move men and women to great emotion. Goethe said, "The highest cannot be spoken." Thank heaven it can't be and blessed are the actors who do not try.
As a playwright we cannot admire Mr. Paulding as much as we do as an actor. When an actor plays his own play it is too often like when a virtuoso plays his own compositions, the rendering is vastly better than the performance. It is sad to have the whole play rest upon such an inartistic coincidence as the fact that an idiotic lovesick youth sees fit to stab himself with a paper knife at the close of the first act utterly without reason or provocation. Mr. Paulding and Miss Craigen appear in "The Setting of the Sun" and the "Dowager Countess" tonight and it is to be hoped that the audience will be as good as the performance.