D. U. Play Favorably Criticised
This year's Delta Upsilon play is a happy choice as an Elizabethan revival; for few plays of that famous time show so vividly the time itself, as Thomas Heywood's "Fair Maid of the West." Through it blows vigorously the Elizabethan air: the breeze and braggadocio of the coast town and its tavern (a majority of the best scenes, and the real "home-scenes" of the play, are in taverns), and of the lovable, boyish soldier of fortune, free of rapier and purse; the praise of courage and the ridicule of cowards; the passion for fighting against Spain, and the readiness to go upon the high seas.
Stronger than all--perhaps because including all--is the true and honest wholesomeness of the play. A keen judge has called Heywood an Elizabethan ancestor of Col. Newcome; and the spirit of the courteous and well-bred qualities is strong and full in "The Fair Maid of the West." The play is thus genuinely a revival, for it is given practically intact. So invigorating is the courageous, open-air climate that even the most arrant coward is shamed out of his cowardice into as energetic courage; the returning Captain Goodlack, who is much tempted to gainful villany, is too conscious of good impulses within and without to keep his evil purpose; and the only real villany about is the national villany of Spain.
This thoroughgoing wholesomeness has rightly been made much of in the present revival: and the genuineness and sincerity of the play become doubly real. Clem, the tavern apprentice, is a gleefully "fresh" youngster, and gleefully done, without being overdone, by Mr. Randall--which is matter for praise. Mullisheg, King of Fez, has a fairly bootless existence, and Mr. Snedeker deserves compliment for acting with discrimination and genuineness this part of difficult rapidness. Captain Goodlack, Spencer's friend, and even Spencer himself, are not in the play specially "convincing" persons: they are chiefly the means of proving to us that Bess is "a girl worth gold." Under these circumstances, Mr. Kenyon as the rather graceless Goodlack and Mr. Eliot as Spencer did their parts with judgment and success; Mr. Eliot's lines were particularly well-delivered, usually with genuineness and skill.
But Bess and Roughman seemed easily the best-presented persons in the play. Mr. Haussermann's swaggering was indeed "immense"; and the difficult transitions from boasting to cringing and back again he managed with a fine skill of reality. He played to the point of delight a part which demands very much versatility. Mr. Spelman's Bess Bridges quite exhausts praise. I do not remember seeing another man fill a woman's part so sufficiently. At times Bess was genuinely and girlishly charming, to the point of complete illusion; yet never over-feminine. She was most interesting, perhaps, in her masculine disguise,--very like a man, yet the same feminine Bess. The part is long, and in its changefulness most exacting; yet Mr. Spelman's versatility seemed always a match for it.
The acting as a whole was remarkably good; and less amateurish than one has a right to expect of undergraduates. The few lapses into awkwardness of manner or speech served chiefly to make conspicuous the astonishingly high degree of genuineness and ease. I hope one may say without arrogance that the few defects seemed more often to be in the play than the players. And at that the play is a good one.