Variety (February 1914)

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18 VARIETY PRINCESS. The many theatres in New York and elsewhere may account for the scarcity of good one-act-playlet material. The author who hits upon a piece that sounds well as a sketch likely de- velops it into a regular play, for the ad- ditional money that may be secured through royalty. • At least this is the suriViise from the new repertoire of sketches at the Princess theatre, pre- sented for a press showing last Satur- day afternoon. Four of the five were by American writers, the other borrowed from the Grand Guignol, Paris, and called "The Kiss in the Dark," by Maurice Level. It is the biggest of the quintet through its gruesomeness or morbidity, the story turning on vitriol throwing by a young woman into her lover's face, blinding him, and he, after her release from custody, enticing her to his home, where he repeats upon the girl the vitriol destroying in view of the audi- ence. It's tense with a thrill, but rather stagey at best to the regular theatre goer. The Princess can stand for almost anything in the sketch line, as wit- nessed by the final playlet, "It Can Be Done," by Lawrence Rising, the tale of a blackmailing woman who trails a traveling salesman on a train, vainly seeking to obtain $500 from him by threats until she finally robs him as he leaves the observation end. The setting in this, with a fast moving treadmill beneath the car, giving the illusion of fast flying country, is excellent, as it is in "The Fountain," by C. M. S. Mc- Lellan, which preceded it, two sketches that should have been further up on the bill. "The Fountain" is senti- mental, but exquisitely staged. The dragginess of its opening fails to hold attention, but a "dream" finish secures something, although the story here would have been better if employed for a large spectacular musical produc- tion. "The Neglected Lady," by Roi Cooper Megrue, from the French, opened the bill. It carried well up to the disclosure that the jarring scenes between husband and wife were a re- hearsal for a play, after that too much repetition occurred. The one real kick in the new Prin- cess show is "The Hard Man," by Campbell MacCulloch. There is virility to its story of an English general com- manding in the Soudan, discovering his son is in league with the native guerillas besides acting as spy for a hostile nation. The traitor, formerly a member of his father's regiment, is brought to headquarters before the newspaper correspondents, when the General explains the case, enjoining secrecy from the press, and lays his revolver on the table, telling his son if he is still a man, there is but one thing to do. The son does it, and the shot outside the tent is heard. Hol- brook Blinn played well in it as the General, with a life-like characteriza- tion. He did well also as the rap picker in "The Fountain," and the wily drumnitr on the observation car. May Buckley seems to evenly divide honors of leading woman in the Prin- cess Players with. Kmelie Polini. Miss Buckley did little to aid Harry Mes- tayer in "The Kiss in the Dark," nor did she seek to make the trade of the woman in the car scene unknown. Miss Polini had an opportunity as a reader in "The Fountain," but missed it some- what as the wife in "The Neglected Lady." Mr. Mestayer gave good per- formances whenever appearing, he tak- ing three roles durmg the afternoon. Other members of the Players Com- pany were casted for either of the play- lets, which cannot be said to equal the first Princess repertoire of this sea- son. If a "wise crowd" is drawn by the Prmcess to look for quakes, quivers and qualms, it might be seen that they receive all of them. Hime. seen plot complications and is content with a good-sized dose of Miss Ring, with song and good comedy lines, "When Claudia Smiles" will do. Then arises the inevitable figuring: How can so big a show play to paying business in so small a theatre? But then that's McKay's business. Jolo. WHEN CLAUDIA SMILES. After the first pleasant impression produced by the musical comedy liter- ary excellence oi Anne Caldwell's farce with songs, "When Claudia Smiles," evaporates, the inquiry arises in one's mind—what was the object in bringing the show to New York, and to a small theatre? No one has ever accused Frederick Edward McKay of being an idiot. On the contrary he is looked upon in amusement circles as somewhat of a wise young mati. Yet here he brings Blanche Ring into the 39th Street theatre with a company of some 35 people, in a piece that has had some two seasons on the road. After so protracted a stay on tour no amount of metropolitan eulogy will benefit it any and he now courts the probability of having it damned. "When Claudia Smiles" is the regu- lation old-style farce, the basic plot being two people of the same name, uncle and nephew. Uncle is courting a show girl and nephew's wife gets bill for a pearl necklace. Perhaps Mr. Mc- Kay figured that the plot was, after all of little consequence, when developed airily in the matter of dialog, and with so sterling an artist as Miss Ring. And if so, perhaps he is right. But one thing will prove or disprove this proposition, viz: the box office takings. Miss Ring was severely handicapped by most of her songs—not the quality, but their lack of newness. The best have been sung in our vaudeville houses for quite a while now, issued by a New York publisher and pretty generally released. Then again some of the star's epigrammatic sayings are familiar, as for example: "Some men achieve alimony; others have it thrust upon them." And still, with these handicaps, it is a good entertainment of its type—Miss Ring is always a cheerful, buoyant per- sonality; and she is surrounded by a rather competent supporting organiza- tion. Her main prop, Harry Conor, was his usual eccentric old "geezer"; Charles J. Winninger was easy and graceful as another old admirer, an at- torney with a refined German accent. Then there was Anna Loughlin, who is rapidly growing ponderous. She worked alongside John J. Scannell, who played a young millionaire and danced with a good imitation of Fred Stone. (Young millionaires of New York haven't eccentric low comedy personalities.) Harry Hilliard was a pleasant appearing and competent lead- ing man and Mahlon Hamilton, in a somewhat similar role, was equally effective. If one doesn't mind the readily fore- LAUGHING HUSBAND. If two song hits can make a success of a musical comedy in three acts, "The. Laughing Husband," at the Knicker- bocker, is destined for a lengthy stay in New York. One was successful not only from its intrinsic merit, but the manner in which it was rendered; the other, and bigger, hit, in spite of it. The first mentioned is the "Wine Song," capitally done by Courtice Pounds, an artist to his finger tips, fairly exuding personal magnetism. The second is a duet love song with comedy trimmings, done in the second act by Venita Fitzhugh and Nigel Barrie, and lepeated in reprisal form in act three by Miss Fitzhugh and Gustave Wer- ner. Whether or not "The Laughing Husband" proves a financial or artistic success—or both—that number is bound to be popular. In the event the piece fails, the more enterprising vaudeville teams who secure it from the publishers will have an "audience song" that makes the average bald- headed "plant" in the orchestra idea sound like a funeral dirge. "The Laughing Husband" is, on the whole, a negative sort of entertainment. Charles Frohman, who almost always makes an intelligent effort to keep abreast of the times, has made capital of the contemporaneous craze for dancing. Everybody in the cast is com- pelled to contribute to the general terpsichorean festival. Many are called, but few can be chosen for signal hon- ors in that line. The only couple to shine in this direction were a man and woman, not members of the cast at all. They contributed a specialty of society dances that places them in the front rank of modern Tango and waltz- ing people. :, Next to Mr. Pounds' excellent per- formance, praise should be equally di- vided between Fred Walton, in all three acts, and William Norris, only in th^ last (and by far the funniest). Betty Callish, the leading woman, was hand- some to look upon, statuesque in physique and almost equally so in action. Her singing and acting were cold. She gave nothing and received little more from the other side of the footlights. Frances Demarest in the second female role and Venita Fitz- hugh as th^ ingenue outshone Miss Callish, though they cannot be said to have scored riotous hits. Josic In- tropodi, in a semi-dowager role, out- stripped the other women principals. William Norris, in his single act stood out in clean-cut fashion. Gus- tave Werner, John Daly Murphy, Roy Atwcll and Nigel Barrie were only pass- ably good. Scenery and costuming up to the usual Frohman standard. Summarizing the entire presentation —hook, lyrics, music, cast, production et al. (not forgetting the two song hits) —"The Laughing Husband" will play a very limited engagement in the metropolis. Jolo. QUEENS OF PARIS. Tuesday night two women accom- panied by a man, all nicely dressed, walked into a box at the Columbia. It was late, about 8.45, but box seats in the house are 11.50 each any time in the evening. The party evidently had delayed their meal until deciding to see "the burlesque show" as an after- dinner cordiale. About the same time Harry and Manny Koler and Harry K. Morton, principal comedians in Jacobs & Jer- mon's "Queens of Paris," were "doing comedy." The first of the scenes the strangers to burlesque witnessed was "the lost garter." Next came the death of Mr. Morton, he prostrating himself on the stage with a green wreath in his hand, while members of the com- pany commented upon his past, when they did not trip across his body. After the exertion of lying still, Mr. Morton arose, swept away some imaginary perspiration from his face and face- tiously remarked to the audience, "Look at the gravy." During these proceedings one of the women inquired of the man what they called it. He diplomatically replied the show would grow better, but gave up hope when Harry Koler, as a Hebrew comedian, returned to the stage in a baby carriage, with the three comedians using a milk bottle for more "comedy." That seemed the apex of silly business and the three people who had paid 11.50 apiece in the hope probably of seeing a show, walked out of the theatre. If the entire orchestra had "walked out" on this performance, it would have been a fitting rebuke. One of the strange things of bur- lesque is that ofttimes with a stage crowded full of principals, none seem capable of making fun, while the man- agement will permit its troupe to enter the Columbia on Broadway with ma- terial that would not or could not find a place with a turkey outfit playing Manitoba. This "comedy" all happened in the first part of "We, Us & Co. at Home," as the program calls it, which also states George Totten Smith wrote the piece. But Mr. Smith never wrote the comedy referred to, for it was in bur- lesque before that writer ever thought of this sort of entertainment. The pro- gram also announces John G. Jermon "produced" the show under his "per- sonal direction." A lot of chorus girls have neither looks nor admirable clothes, the prin- cipal women do little and could not do more in their surroundings, while the numbers, of the popular sort and plentiful, give the performance what little merit it possesses, although "Peach in My Orchard" is allotted to Alice Maude Poole, who should not handle it, as it is essentially a male number for a mixed two-act or chorus work. Fannie Vedder is in the com- pany, and likewise Kathleen Miller, with a pleasing personality, while Rose Reading as a soubret who can fake dance steps while looking pretty, is the only bit of ginger in evidence. This is the second Jacobs & Jermon show caught within the week, one as bad as the other, and this is February. There is something the matter some- where. &ime.