THE CRIMSON PLAYGOER
Drama Rather Than Discourse Dominates Construction of "Saint Joan"--Shavian Philosophizing Prove the More Arresting, However
Shaw at his best--and that is saying a good deal--was what the audience at the Tremont saw Monday night when "Saint Joan" opened its Boston run. The audience knew that it was Shaw at his best, for although Miss Arthur took most of the curtain calls, the applause was stimulated by the play itself, and the handclaps were meant for the other side of the Atlantic.
Not without reason did the audience approve, for in "Saint Joan" it found all the controversial fascination of G. B. S., but none of his usual contempt of characters which makes of them mere attorneys for the expounding of the various sides of his debate. The audience sensed that it was hearing not Shaw, but people, and was then glad enough to realize that they were Shaw's people.
Sages Speak, Audience Listens
Yet with all the life in the characters, with all the movements of the story, the audience never held its breath so intently as when Bishop and Earl were discovering for each other the deep, the epoch-opening significance of Joan's dismissal of clergy and peerage. Discourse political and religious held the stage for minutes on end, but the attention of the listeners was fixed as if it had been heartthrobs and anguish. These were to have their sway later on, for although "Saint Joan" is indeed a controversy, it is before that a play. Those who prefer Shaw in his philosophical mood may even call it melodrama--but then, a little melodrama is not a dangerous thing.
Social analysis, pages from the history of emotions, both, or neither--Shaw has clothed his thoughts in a raiment of words well-nigh Biblical in their majesty and beauty. With these he mixed current slang in a fashion as masterly as it is dramatic. He smiles, he sneors, he argues, he cries aloud, he speaks with the wisdom of the ages--but always there are the French, the English, and Joan.
Miss Arthur did a thorough job. The supporting cast was brilliant.