Miss Craigen and Mr. Paulding presented "Romeo and Juliet" at the Lansing last night to a very fair house. We have all wished to see Miss Craigen in a play that would test her thoroughly, and last night we saw it, but it was done so perfectly that one almost forgot that there was any test about it. Juliet is the role that every actress wants to play—that few actresses ever rise to. It is a sort of dividing line which mercilessly divides greatness from mediocrity. Miss Craigen is the only actress I have ever seen who can make the first act of the play anything but dull, she is the only one who is able to give to Juliet the lithesome youth Shakespeare meant her to have. Her balcony scene was idyllic and ideal. Undoubtedly her strongest scene was the parting scene, there all that tender "sadness of shadowy eyes" which she plays so well had their ample outlet. With Miss Craigen's conception of Juliet no fault can be found, it is great in that it is like that of no other actress, the quiet rendering of the first part of the potion scene, given as though by one physically and mentally exhausted by the struggle of many passions, the girlish playfulness with the nurse, the great despair that settles upon her when that same nurse forsakes her, these are matters that lie between Miss Craigen and William Shakespeare, and one has no right today to express by adjectives things that adjectives only belittle and conventionalize. They are more than exquisite bits of acting; they are intellectual conquests in the world of Shakespearean art. Her scene with the friar disappointed one. It seemed to lack, not in quality, but in degree. The emotion was too girlish; there was not enough of the woman in it. Juliet is a woman after the balcony scene. The only real criticism that can be made upon Miss Craigen's Juliet is that sometimes it seems to teach not love, but passion, to put it bluntly, sensualism, the awakening of the unrestrained senses of an Italian. She made Juliet's love too lofty, too pure, too holy, by instinct she has put into the part all the sweet domestic love of an Anglo-Saxon woman, and has made of her Juliet a nobler woman than Italy often produces.
Miss Craigen has a wonderful intellectual conception of her part, which Margaret Mather has not; she has the most delicate art and elegant technique, which Margaret Mather has not, she has everything which Mather has not; and everything which Mather has but one thing—the pantings pulsing amorousness of an Italian. It is not a fault artistically or otherwise, it simply makes Juliet appeal more to the soul and less to the senses; makes her move one more worthily, but perhaps less violently.
Miss Craigen plays the higher phases of Juliet's character supremely well, Miss Mather the lower. The woman will never be born who can do justice to both.
The glowing Italianism that Miss Craigen lacked Mr. Paulding had. Mr. Paulding is the only Romeo on the stage at present with the physique and grace of the younger Salvini himself. He is in every way fitted for the great part he had to play. Beyond all doubt Mr. Paulding's Romeo is the greatest and truest of modern interpretations. He has passion refined by sentiment, violence modulated by grace and the love of a man with the helplessness of a boy. The most noticable thing about his Romeo is that it was Shakespearean, most Romeos are not. He seems to realize that Romeo should be weaker and less resolute than Juliet, that Romeo really never became a man till he heard of Juliet's death. His utter despair and prostration in the "banished" scene with the friar is particularly fine and true to the spirit of Shakespeare. His little flirtation with Rosaline was a very artistic touch. Shakespeare was the only playwright who was ever great enough to introduce a thing like the Rosaline affair, and Mr. Paulding is the only Romeo who has art enough to bring it on the stage. In the balcony scene Mr. Paulding at times become too colloquial and abrupt. His tenderness is so effective that it jars upon one when he nods briskly and jerks his words. His quiet determination after he learns of Juliet's death, and his acting at the tomb were powerful. In the first scene he was scarcely love lorn enough, and he don't quite give poor Rosaline her due. After all these petty flaws seem rather unworthy of mention after the way Mr. Paulding made the world's ideal lover live and love before us last night. It is hard to see how the world managed to get much out of lovemaking before "Romeo and Juliet" was written.
Tonight the company appears in "A Duel of Hearts," which is a play peculiarly fitted for both Miss Craigen and Mr. Paulding, and in which they are even stronger than in "Romeo and Juliet."