Henry Jewett Players Return to Their Remodeled Home in Clever Comedy--Clive and Wingfield Excel
The Henry Jewett Company, ensconced in their remodeled theatre, which in its present stage of hospitality is approached by a wooden bridge from Dartmouth Street to the Box Office, presented "Pygmalion" last evening to an enthusiastic audience. There was a slight smell of fresh paint about everything except the performance, which gave promise of a brilliant season. Two of the principal roles were acted by Mr. Clive and Mr. Wingfield, who had done them almost as well before. Miss Willard played Eliza Dolittle with originality and grace. She was not able to make her flower-girl accent sufficiently distinct, except in the first scene, and this was perhaps the only serious flaw in her interpretation. Miss Willard is personally charming and an actress of considerable merit, who plays with feeling as well as cleverness. Mr. Clive's Pygmalion was exceptionally spirited, funny, and winning, even for him. Mr. Wingfield excels everything which can be excelled and rises above everything which it is possible to rise above. His arms, lightly poised in air, as he expatiates in the person of Alfred Dolittle upon "middle-class morality", express every emotion of that worthy man with inimitable gesture; his face assumes the cast of cupidity, of generosity, of profound ratiocination, of doubt, of surprise, of admiration, or of all these at once. He is an actor of character parts without peer or rival.
In "Pygmalion", the shrewd intellect of Shaw is at its clearest and wittiest. He divides the actual from the supposed or imagined with a two-edged sword. He creates true characters, pleasantly individualized. As in all his best plays, so in "Pygmalion" the dramatic technique is perfect. No machinery creaks, no awkward comings in or goings out mar the uproarious comedy of the five acts. One is haunted by the feeling that taken seriously, Mr. Shaw may turn out to be a serious man, and his plays truer than people think. Alfred Dolittle, as an impersonation of "undeserving poverty", which he professes with enthusiastic candor, as others would profess religion or socialism, reveals much that is commonly unsuspected in the relations of the poor whom we have with us always. Mr. Shaw utilizes a very old literary convention when he makes his characters reveal in the first person all the secrets, even the villainous secrets of their souls. His characters take after Chaucer's Pardoner. The dramatic contrast in "Pygmalion" between Dolittle and his daughter are remarkable. Both are unexpectedly raised to a station of "middle-class morality", but the one, Alfred Dolittle, "ruined" and "intimidated" by the change, which introduces to him fifty unsuspected relatives, who "touch" him where he touched others before, in the pocket book, sinks into despair at the loss of his freedom and the good old happy days of "undeserving poverty"; while the other, Eliza, inspired by some sort of ambition to rise, is left stranded in a very different manner.