Robert Benchley characterized "Grounds For Divorce," opening this week at the Plymouth Theatre, as "Ina Claire at her best." That cells part of the story, probably the best part, but still only a part. The play itself is excellent, the staging is good, and all the characters outdo themselves in making a background for the brilliant work of Miss Claire.
"Grounds For Divorce" is according to the program, a three-act modern comedy adapted from the Hungarian of Ernest Vajda by Guy Bolton. It certainly abounds with amusing situations, and even the jokes are modern.
Divorce Lawyer Divorces Wife Twice
The scene is laid in Paris. Denise Sorbier is the wife of the most successful divorce lawyer of the time. Her husband is so busy assisting neglected wives that he cannot even remember such an important occasion as his second wedding anniversary. Denise runs off, with a very pronounced over-the-shoulder glance; but M. Sorbier does not fall for the butterfly act, and very tamely submits to being divorced. One year and six weeks later, as he is about to be married to one of Denise's "best and cattiest friends," his first wife appears to ask him about getting rid of his successor, in order that she may marry a third time. She tells a tragic story of marrying for spite, but her second husband has done nothing which she can use against him. She explains that she has arranged with her lover to manufacture the necessary grounds that night, but M. Sorbier locks the doors to keep her safely until Husband Number Two arrives. Soon he forgets about his fiance waiting at the church door; there can only be one outcome possible when a man gets locked up with Miss Claire.
The second act is the best part of the show, and it is superb. During it Denise goes to her husbands office, followed by her lover, and breaks up the domestic scene between M. Sobier and his fiance. At the close of the act Miss Claire was given eight curtain calls.
Mr. Merivale Plays M. Sobier Well
Mr. Sorbier is played perfectly by Mr. Philip Merivale. Felix Roget, the elderly friend of the family, and Marianne Regnault, the second choice of M. Sorbier, are the other two most important characters. The parts are executed in a flawless manner by Mr. H. Reeves-Smith and Miss Cora Witherspoon.
"Grounds For Divorce" is a doubly worth-while show. It would be distinctly worth the effort to see the comedy even without Ina Claire; and it certainly would be a treat to see Ina Claire in even a fourth or fifth rate vehicle.