The most obnoxious person at the theatre, after the woman with the crying baby, is the man who wants his neighbors to understand that he appreciates the play. He watches, with an eagle eye, the face of the actor, and as soon as he sees upon it that tense expression that precedes an "effort" his hands part and he is ready to do his duty. His responses come as promptly as the "amens" of the moaners in prayer meeting. If he should miss an opportunity he would feel disgraced forever. He goes to applaud and to enjoy the mental stimulus of finding ingenious openings for applause. He may fail to appreciate pathos, but he never fails to see a joke. He may forget to cry, but he never forgets to laugh, in fact, to atone for his other defect, he will laugh while other people cry. At a really pathetic play a while ago one such a man sat in the front row of the Lansing balcony and laughed till he choked. He was a big happy negro, and he got more fun, more real fun, out of that tragedy than most people would have got out of six comedies. Besides, he had the happiness of being original. He could have got a copyright on all the fun that he found in that play, and he knew it and it made him happy to know it. There was just such another man at "The Ironmaster" the other night. When Claire turned away from Philippe's kiss he fairly gurglep with delight and when she fell wounded it seemed as if he would die of apoplexy. He was so used to seeing funny things in the stage world that it was quite impossible for him to take any thing that happened there seriously. It would be interesting to know such people. Would it be possible for such a man to carry this happy spirit into his daily life? Then, if he lost a hundred dollars or so he would smile; if his house burned down he would grin and if his only son died he would simply roar with laughter. A few people of this sort would soon turn the whole world optimistic.
But then, it is to be wished that they would not sit in front of those that prefer to weep. They ought to be given seats together, crowded into a corner — a sort of amen corner — a place of strange and incongruous outbursts. There is no doubt that they would eventually come to amuse an intelligent audience — like a Lincoln audience — very much indeed.
How could Mr. Kendal be expected to put any very great force into such an amiably priggish part as that of Philippe Derblay? In the novel we do not realize the real inaneness of the man. But we do when we see him fairly before the footlights. He is injured, it is true, but that makes him all the more intolerable. Prigs are always injured and always in the right. That is just the reason that we cannot endure them. Would a real Claire have ever become devoted to such a Philippe as stalked the stage the other night? Women do many queer things, but this would be too queer, even for a woman. He is a just man and a hard man, like those good old Puritan forefathers we talk of, those men who got along through life entirely without pity, and to some extent without sin. His love is very big till he holds his honor in front of his eyes, and that quite hides it. We are pretty pessimistic nowadays, but still we like better, at heart, the other type of hero — not the man who upholds his wife for the sake of his honor, but the lover who upholds his honor for the sake of his wife. We want, too, a man whose inner fires are hot enough to break his shell and to show real white flame. For this reason we did not feel so very sorry for Philippe Derblay and we did feel sorry for the woman who had been so foolish and so unfortunate as to injure such a man. But perhaps ironmasters get some of their favorite metal into their backbone and are not to blame for being a little stiff. Perhaps — but then the novelist need not write about them and the playwright need not adapt them and great actors need not impersonate them.
Mr. Kendal is unfortunate in having to take so often the part of husband. Of course circumstances and Mrs. Kendal make it the proper role for him, but in modern drama the husband plays a very small part and needs nothing but a backbone, a beard and a moderately forgiving nature.
Mrs. Kendal omits one thing that no modern emotional actress should omit, especially in a play that offers so good an opportunity for it as "The Ironmaster." She does not say "How he loves me!" as it is now the proper thing to do when a too confiding stage husband leaves the room. It seems to be the latest thing in dramatic properties. Madeline Merli used it, and so did Clara Morris , and so did the slender aquiline young woman who played the fair deceiver in "Fabio Romani." And now Mrs. Kendal has left it out entirely. But perhaps this is only because Philippe is not affectionate enough to give her much excuse for putting it in.
The Gerry Society have been at it again. This time they have stopped Essie Graham , the street waif in "Under the City Lamps," from acting. The girl is thirteen years old and is fond of acting and in good health, and the manager of "City Lamps" fails to see any reason or reasonableness in the society's action. It is a pity that the kindhearted Gerry folks do not extend their noble efforts and forbid authors to write and musicians to play before they are fifteen years old. If the society had its way there would be no actors at all in a generation or two. The greatest part of an actress' education must be completed before she is fifteen. The society claim that it is cruel for a child to be put to the strain of acting every night when she ought to be at home and in bed. Of course it is cruel, most art is cruel, and very few artists have time to sleep much in this world, though we trust they rest very peacefully in the next. It is very kind of the world to try to lighten the burden of genius, but it can't be done. Genius means relentless labor and passionate excitement from the hour one is born until the hour one dies. It means that a man must live the passions and sorrows of a hundred lives. Great actresses cannot be brought up upon what Kipling calls the "sheltered life-system." They must have abundant knowledge of good and evil even if they become not at all as gods. Perhaps that word "gods" only means creators anyway and in that case the devil was certainly correct. We are assured that everything has its place, and perhaps there is a place even for the Gerry Society. If, instead of trying to have the emotional actresses of the future brought up in boarding schools and taught needlework and embroidery, they would set themselves to work to remove all actresses who are too old to act, the world would be much more grateful to them. Poor little Essie Graham was not troubling anyone, but we have anguished over Maggie Mitchell for the last decade, and still no home for aged women has offered a helping hand. It would be a much wiser plan to remove all actresses over fifty than all under fifteen.
The Amusement Globe of January 31 contains a very interesting letter from W. E. Sinn , in which he tells what he knows about Cora Tanner's reasons for divorcing him. He claims that the non-support business was merely a blind, and that even after Mrs. Sinn left his home he was willing to furnish her with means, but that she steadily refused to be supported. He says that his married life with Miss Tanner was complete in its happiness and that when she was good she was very, very good. He says that with all her faults he loves her still, and that should she at any time tire of her profession — or become too fleshy for it — his means and influence are hers. Miss Tanner, with her proverbial haste in matters matrimonial immediately after her divorce from Mr. Sinn united her fortunes with that of Dr. Farieu , but for once she was too prompt and Mr. Sinn brought suit against her and proved the marriage illegal. Mr. Sinn seems to feel very much cut up over his wife's desertion, and says it is not pleasant to be simply "got tired of." But Mr. Sinn has no great complaint to make; surely to have engrossed the affections of the impressionable Cora for three whole years is enough to satisfy any man's vanity.
Charles H. Hoyt , the playwright, will marry Miss Caroline Miskel on March 1. The wedding will take place in New York city at the home of the bride's mother. Miss Miskel is one of the handsomest women on the stage and has this season been playing Ruth in Hoyt's "Temperance Town." When we remember the awful stories that were afloat about Mr. Hoyt being crazed with grief when pretty Flora Walsh died just about a year ago, we cannot help but smile. We really were very sorry for him then and it makes us feel sold to find that our sympathy was not needed as much as we thought. The public at large thought a great deal of the original Bossy Brander and would like to demand for her a constancy of something over twelve months. Other women may play the role as well to Mr. Hoyt, but the admirers of "A Texas Steer" have seen no other woman who could play Bossy. The public may be fickle, but they are not so fickle as Mr. Hoyt. Stage hearts do not break easily.
Robert Downing has retired from the stage until Easter.
Minnie French has retired from the stage owing to bad health.
Lillian Russell's latest fad is giving away her autographs as souvenirs to the ladies in the audience.
Lillian Russell's new annual husband, Signor Perugini , is of course her leading man. Lillian's managers are beginning to object to her marrying her leading men, as it makes it almost impossible for them to keep a good tenor for more than one season.
Mrs. John Drew's revival of the "Jealous Wife" is meeting with great success. Mrs. Drew's dramatic tastes are decidedly classic and her love of early English comedy is well known. Mrs. Drew is perfect in her portrayal of the furiously jealous Mrs. Oakly , and Agnes Proctor as Lady Freelove is charming.
"About Town," a dialect play, is the latest thing in farce comedy. Russell's comedians have been playing with great success with Miss Glover as the leading lady. There seems to be little new or startling in the play except that the first scene opens in a barber shop, which is certainly realism with a vengeance.
"Carmen," with Calve as Carmen, is still running in New York with astonishing success. It is said that Calve never plays the part twice alike. De Reszke plays Jose with intense feeling, and after each performance his physical exhaustion is so great that it is feared he cannot stand the strain much longer.
At the eleventh hour New York has awakened to the fact that Madame Melba is a great prima donna, so great indeed that there is none greater. She is a great singer rather than a great actress, and cannot equal Calve in her dramatic power. Nevertheless the wonderful lines of Gounod's "Juliet" were never sung better than she sings them. De Koven has said it.
The Bostonians in "The Maid of Plymouth" have not made the hit that was expected. The critics claim that, though the libretto is the best of any American opera, the plot is loose and the whole performance lacks interest. The chorus is not doing its usual good work and the role of Masconoma, the Indian girl, does not give Jessie Bartlett Davis a chance to do her best. There seems to be a peculiar fatality about the story of Miles Standish . He doesn't seem to work up well in prose or verse. Probably Mr. Longfellow killed him thoroughly some years ago, along with English hexameter.
Mr. Willard's Hamlet has fallen rather flat. A good many kindly suggestions are offered by his critics, but the principal trouble seems to be that Mr. Willard's Hamlet is not Hamlet at all. He plays the famous role without ranting or raving, but his quietness of manner, while it is impressive, is passive and unproductive. He makes a quiet, gentlemanly, practical, sensible Hamlet, and of course that spoils everything. Give Hamlet one grain of common sense and you have no play at all. Everything depends upon his being beautifully but unreasonably stupid. To put it more seriously, Mr. Willard tries to interpret Hamlet's actions as influenced by the world outside, whereas Hamlet was a wholly subjective character and everything came from within.
The poorest and most hopeless play that has come before the public for a long time is fittingly entitled "Poor Girls." The plot is impossible and disgusting, dramatic ar tis entirely lacking, and the impression left by the piece is in every way unpleasant. The worst of it is that some very good actors have been deluded into playing it, and the company includes some of Frohman's strong men. The plot, what there is of it, is about this. The "Poor Girls" are the daughters of a lazy, dissolute man who ill-treats them shamefully. Deborah has no principle and takes to the gilded shame for the money there is in it, while Ada stays at home like a dutiful daughter to labor for her leisure-loving parent. She has two lovers, a cousin and the son of her employer. Naturally she loves the latter. These men are the heroes of the drama and queer ones they are, for one is represented as a craven and unmanly boor and the other as a very likeable and gentlemanly villain. About this time Deborah turns up and exposes Ada's lover as her own seducer. The cousin at this juncture for no visible cause shoots at the favored suitor, but aims badly as one would expect such a fellow to do and shoots Deborah. Deborah, lying at death's door, persuades Ada to renounce the man she loves and marry the gallant cousin, and the chicken-hearted Ada readily promises and so the curtain descends upon the dazed audience.Dev's Gallery.