THE CRIMSON PLAYGOER
"The Wife Hunter" Reveals Winning Struggle of American Actors With South of England Dialect
If Eden Phillpotts had not named his subsequent comedy "Devonshire Cream", "The Wife Hunter", which opened Monday night at the Wilbur Theatre, might more appropriately have been entitled "The Devonshire Hunt", or something of the sort. Certainly "The Wife Hunter" is far more applicable to a Broadway bedroom farce than to a gentle comedy of southern England. Even the old title, "The Farmer's Wife", though a trifle misleading, is better than the one finally selected, which induces a most unwarranted preconception of Mr. Charles Coburn in the role of a dashing and sophisticated Lothario.
Actually, Mr. Coburn is anything but. He is "Samuel Sweetland," a slightly more than middle aged farmer with a married past, and hopes for a matrimonial future. The plot of the play is concerned with his scaly-eyed efforts to obtain a replacement for his dead wife. Mrs. Coburn plays opposite him as Araminta Dench, his super-efficient housekeeper.
Play Good But Not Distinctive
The play is a pleasant little trifle, dealing easily with the simple lives of the farm folk of Devonshire, to whom habit complexes and six expressions are charmingly unknown. The difficulty of finding enough American actors and actresses qualified to handle the Devonshire dialect, even with modifications, is evident in spots throughout the performance, but in general the acting of the cast is finished and convincing. Walter Edwin, as "Churdles Ash", the hired man, is particularly to be praised, even though Mr. Phillpotts has cast his character in a form which makes it impossible for him to converse save in epigrams.
In short, "The Wife Hunter" is an entertaining character play which is good without achieving distinction. Successful in London and New York, it will doubtless run for only a short time to moderate houses in Boston, where no play can create a furor unless it falls within the limits of the city's critical taste, which is apparently determined by the various types of vanities, follies, and scandals for the current year.