"Fine Arts Treatre, Massachusetts Avenue and Norway Street"--a name to discourage more than one playgoer, and a location to discourage still more; but the Jewetts have made it their temporary home, and while they are under its roof there are sure to be enough loyal admirers to fill its small capacity every night of the week. The opening of the season on Monday night was a gala occasion, and the production bodes well for the forthcoming year. With a reassembled company of favorites, all perfectly cast, Mr. Jewett has rarely offered a pleasanter treat to his patrons.
There have been rumors of late that the Pinero-Jones school of drama had seen its day and was doomed to the discard. Certainly there is nothing antiquated about "Dolly Reforming Herself", nothing either in technique or in point of view that one would wish treated differently by a more modern playwright. It is the most genuinely amusing comedy that Henry Arthur Jones ever wrote, and he has had few superiors in that vein. The plot is trifling, the situation almost threadbare; yet there is something about characterization and dialogue that makes it intensely funny,--a trace of satire and a dash even of dignified burlesque, but always perfectly plausible people in everyday situations. The money-box penalty for swearing has become a stock device in comedy, and the quarrel between husband and wife over expenses is age-old; but they are handled ingeniously enough here, plus a trivial affaire de coeur between two guests at a house-party, to make adequate substance for a four-act drama.
The dramatist must not carry off all the honors. In reading, one might question the success of the play. But there are infinite opportunities for unsuspected effects in acting, and the Jewett players as cast have "come across" with uncanny cleverness. Miss Willard as Dolly shows 100 percent improvement over her last year's powers. Each phrase and gesture counted; she was consistently trivial, consistently lovable, like Dulcy, in her ingenious sympathy for her friend and her naive discomfort over her bills. Mr. Clive was a bit slow in falling into the husband's character, but when he reached the famous quarrel scene he was at his best, and between them they held the audience laugh-bound with trivial turns of mood for a quarter of an hour. It was a satisfaction to have Mr. Wingfield in the company again. His range is narrower than Mr. Clive's, but in the type of part which he has in this play--that of the puzzled father--he would be hard to surpass. The others did equally careful characterizing, and when Mr. Jewett called on each member of the company in turn for a curtain-speech, their gracious words won merited rounds of applause.