Catering to the recent demand of the public for plays of a psychical nature, the stage has seen a variety of mystical pieces which have delved more or less deeply into this rather intangible subject. Edward Knoblock's latest offering, "One," now playing at the Tremont Theatre, proceeds a step further than any similar play, however, and by reason of its audacious plot is apt to go over the heads of the average audience. At any rate, it provides a dual role for Frances Starr in which she has plenty of opportunity to prove that she is still the very able emotional actress of "Marie-Odile" and "Tiger! Tiger!"
"One" tells the tale of two twin sisters, Pearl and Ruby Delgado, who, it develops, have but one soul between them, each half the complement of the other. So when Ruby, seeking fame as a pianist in New York, is separated from her sister in London, she finds it impossible to receive her customary inspiration from Pearl, who has just become engaged to the man Ruby loved. The three acts are divided into two scenes each, one in London, one in New York, with careful explanation in the program as to the relative differences in time. At intervals, the sisters indulge in telepathic conversation over the 3000 miles that divide them by the simple expedient of speaking out of the window while clasping a red rose. A somewhat ghastly touch is added by an old obscure scientist, Dr. Noah Petch, whose fearful revelations to Pearl about the partition of her soul are the means of her deliberately meeting death through exposure in order that her sister may receive the full benefits of a united soul on the evening of her first concert.
It is doubtful whether this juggling with the supernatural in "One" has not gone just a bit too far. The daring treatment of the theme results here in a sacrifice of plausibility to uniqueness--for the plot is certainly unique if nothing else. The ordinary mortal has no difficulty in experiencing the definite thrills of such "spook" dramas as "The Ouija Board," but in comparison, "One" is a very ambitious attempt which is not so easy to understand. The convenient method of communication between the sisters does not seem quite in keeping with customary procedure in such matters, but the exigencies of the theatre may easily account for this. Whether the spectator is too materialistic to enjoy the production or not, he cannot fall to be influenced by the stupendous suggestion it contains; and whether it is merely a cold draught blowing on the audience from behind, or the weird effect of the play itself, there are some scenes during which a shivery, hair-raising sensation is unaccountably at work upon his spine.
The acting of Miss Starr is most praise-worthy. She plays the alternate parts of Ruby and Pearl with a fine degree of differentiation, and her emotional passages are always rendered with spontaneity and are never over-done. It is largely due to her efforts that the end of the second act leaves the audience in no small state of excitement and awaiting the final scene with interest and impatience. The part of the lugubrious Dr. Petch is admirably handled by Randle Ayrton, and Philip Desborough makes an effectively unwelcome lover of Ruby. Clara Sidney and Marie R. Burke deserve commendation as Mrs. Delgado and Mrs. Howland, respectively: the rest of the cast is adequate enough. In spite of its advanced theories, then, "One" is worth seeing,--first, because of its novelty, secondly because of its inevitable awesomeness, and finally because of its powerful emotional passages as interpreted by Miss Starr.