"'Tis not life that matters--but the courage you bring into it," might we have been the text of St. John O. Ervine's great play, "John Ferguson, which began its first week in Boston a the Hollis Monday evening. It is a word of unusual power destined to live because it deals with emotions, instinct and characters which will exist as lone as life itself exists.
John Ferguson, a rugged old Iris farmer with pure faith in the Biblical doctrine of "turn the other cheek, awaits the destiny which God has is store for him. Neither the impending loss of the house in which he has live all his life, nor the assault on his daughter, Hannah, by the brute Henry With row, who is going to foreclose the mortgage, shake him from his trust. When he believes Jimmy Caesar, the neighbor hood coward and a rejected suitor of Hannah, to have killed Withrow, his only feeling is one of sorrow that revenge has been taken in defiance of the clear precept, "Love thine enemies----" Even his brother's failure to post in time a letter containing money for the mortgage leaves him with no sense of bitterness.
It is only when his own son, Andrewtells him that it was he, not Jimmy Caesar, who shot Withrow, that the old man breaks down and thinks of nothing but Andrew's escape. But the courage of the younger generation in Andrew tells Hannah comes to fortify the old, and the ideals which are temporarily shattered in the mother's cry of "I don't wan God's will, I want my son!" are regained John Ferguson "carries on"; his fortitude remains supreme.
John Ferguson and his son have opposite philosophies of life, but they are united in that finest of all human bond which can come only to men who live their convictions. In Jimmy Caesar. Ervine paints three weaknesses which every man must fight; physical coward ice, life in dreams rather than in reality and a realization of fault without action to eradicate it. The play makes one weave into it one's own failings. That it why it is so strong.
Joseph Brennan, as John Ferguson, it a notable actor. He has the rate gift of acting by being natural, and is there by doubly convincing. No less excellent was the performance of Miss Freedmar as Hannah. These two were easily the outstanding figures, but no one in the cast was inferior. Dudley Digges slightly overdid the part of Jimmy Caesar, but not enough to spoil it, and Brandor Peters was sturdy if not brilliant as Andrew.
The play is a welcome contradictor to the too patent idea that all modern stage productions must end happily it that were its only recommendation, it would command the attention of people who desire art at the theatre.