When the curtain went up on "The Swan" last Monday night, the audience at the Hollis watched unfold a play of many moods. Satire bordering on burlesque, comedy on the comic, sentimentality on melodrama--the humors theatrical were well represented. Conceived in a graceful ease that could be only Continental, cloaked in dignity by the translation of Melville P. Baker '22, and conveyed to the audience by a company at once able and sincere, Ferenc Molnar's play established itself as entertainment in the most hospitable sense of the word.
The author uses his satire as a stalking horse for his exposition in the first act. Here your stickler would cry out at the exaggeration; but possibly it was the players who underscored too heavily, and possibly the stickler who exaggerated, so finely did the action cut to the truth. In the second act, and indeed throughout the play, the purist would cavil at the lapses into broad relief; too often cleverness passed for wit, and gross business for eyebrow innuendo. For the over-dramatic, Mr. Rathbone, in the tutor's role, was the only possible offender. It was naturally as difficult for him to disclose his smouldering fires to the audience as it was for him to do so to his idol. In his scenes with Miss La Gallienne his passion verged very closely on the conventional; she never fell to such, but was always a marvel of restraint--and truth.
These are the trivial faults, if indeed they can be called such, but all are inconspicuous enough in the sum total of the play. Molnar begins with satire, becomes interested in his characters, and then adds the inevitable conclusion. Whatever his mood, he is always graceful, always deft, and almost always sincere.
The company merits high praise. The portrayers of royalty--Miss Emmet, Miss La Gallienne, Miss Skipworth, and Mr. Owen--were no more impressed with their own importance than were the aristocrats whom they represented. Mr. Rathbone made a personality out of the tutor, where others would have been content to play him only in type. Mr. Hobbes, as Father Hyacinth, put all his lines and business across, and can be criticised only for doing it too thoroughly. The innumerable domestics supplied most of the burlesque and comic elements which should have been omitted.
The audience showed phenomenally good taste, and applauded vociferously. Although the performance lasted over three hours, there was little restlessness, and many curtain calls.