Walter Huston In a Play of Carnival Life at the Hollis--The Big Show Is Behind the Scenes
The recent tendency of American plays to explore the lower levels of existence in search of drama includes Kenyon Nicholson's "The Barker", which at the Hollis Street Thoatre has ligtened the theatrical gloom of September Boston. The Barker, played by Walter Huston, is one Nifty Millor, who is the manager as well as the chief adviser of a tent show in a travelling carnival; and the drama results from the unexpected appearance, during a summer vacation, of his son, who is being kept at a safe distance from the hula dancers and educated for the law. Nifty breaks off with his girl-in order to keep his son from finding out the state of affairs which prevails back-stage; and the girl takes her revenge, which is a bitter one.
It is a play as much of character as of plot, and with the aid of an excellent cast the characters sustain the story and give it a tense and stimulating vitality. Mr. Huston is more than excellent; one feels, as depth after depth of his characterization unrolls, that his conduct in each successive scene is the logical sequal to what he has done and said before. John Irwin, as the son ignorant of the ways of the world, much more so of the ways of carnival dancers manages to be unsophisticated without being simple. Eleanor Williams, as the girl Nifty cast off, and Rhea Marting as the instrument she employs for her revenge on the son, set each other off splendidly.
The settings, which are perfect, even to the posters outside the tent which optimistically portray the attractions to be found within, and the midway strollers who succumb to me lure of the Barker's fluent magic, contribute to the success of the climax, in which the Barker, about to quit the show, hears the inadequate substitute drive the crowds away, and jumps into the breach. One leaves with a new respect for the profession of bally-hoo: