A warm and enthusiastic audience greeted Miss Craigen and Mr. Paulding in "A Duel of Hearts" at the Lansing last night. Even at the theatre coming events sometimes cast a shadow before, and the audience seemed to know by instinct that something good was coming.
Miss Craigen played very much better last night than she did three weeks ago. Her insane scene was immeasurably stronger, she let herself out and was not afraid of being too violent. Three weeks ago Miss Craigen seemed a little bit afraid of her own strength, but last night she and her work were one, she feared neither it nor herself and they soared together. She seems to have the insanity of Lady Stanhope at just the right pitch now, it is not so physiologically realistic as to be revolting, nor yet so intangible as to be merely playwright's madness.
Mr. Paulding was at his best. If possible he made the last scene stronger and deeper than before. Some way one did not feel like applauding his great acting there. His grief was not the kind of grief that we habitually pay our dollar and a half to be diverted by; it was not the frenzy of the "professional" who is trying to give the public their money's worth of noise and tears; it is the still, dignified anguish of a polished gentleman, and it seems almost too genuine to have the footlights shining upon it.
And now a few words on that beautiful third act. Despite the cynicism of certain experienced and unyouthful critics, there is nothing greater or more inspiring than delicate lovemaking on the stage. The heart that cannot respond to it and be warmed by it is a very undesirable organ to possess, and it needs a tonic. That third act undoubtedly had some of the most beautiful lovemaking we have ever seen in this country. It was not conventional stage lovemaking; it had a sincerity about it that made one content to lie back and let those two people make love for the whole world. The intensity was so much more intense because it affected lightness, and passion seems more real some way when half hidden by feigned indifference. One felt that it was almost rude to watch them during the sofa scene, the impatient motion of Miss Craigen's foot, the heaving of her chest and throat, the unnameable look in Mr. Paulding's eyes, separated it from the stage love which the actor usually dons as carelessly as he puts on his make-up. That delicious little embracing episode there at the piano just struck one between the eyes and left one as breathless as it did Miss Craigen. Mr. Paulding does not go at the embracing business like most stage men he has originality even in that. By the way, one wishes Miss Craigen wouldn't lift her hands so high when she plays the piano; it is unpleasantly reminiscent of much inferior actresses who wave their hands about because they can't play. The affection in the third act last night was not nearly so copious and mellow as the affection in "Romeo and Juliet" the night before, yet it stirred one very much more, it seemed so much more unforced and spontaneous.
Dr. John is Mr. Winter's great part. It is a hard part, as the part of the universal sympathizer always is in a play, but Mr. Winter seems to have plenty of the very best brand of sympathy on tap all the time, and he has a way of mixing it with a sort of polished crustiness and humor so that it never becomes monotonous. Mr. Alexander as Larry made an easy, lighthearted Irishman, and had a perfect Shamrock of a laugh.
Mr. Howard's Louie was good, so good that it removed all objection as to the importance which is attached to his death later in the play; but in Bartie he shone as a star of the first magnitude and was an honor to the English nobility.
The play is undoubtedly the one in which the company excels; both the stars and the support seem to be particularly fitted to fill the needs of the piece. Their work is much more finished and natural than in "Romeo and Juliet," they seem to be sure of themselves in it. It would seem that their greatest possibilities lie not in Shakespearean drama, but in just such modern emotional dramas as "The Duel of Hearts."