There are times when even Boston can be enthusiastic, and the audience that heard Walter Hampden give "Richelieu" last night at the Wilbur was one of that rare type. Mr. Hampden and his company not only took their bows between the acts, but the spectators were even content to listen to the last lines, a rare enough event, and demanded the actors even after they had been given a chance to go home. The chief cause for this exuberance seemed to be in the acting of Mr. Hampden himself, although the remainder of the cast came in for their share of popular favor. The play itself with its bombast and measured movement could not have stood alone on its own merits, but the performers seemed to cover up this defect to the entire satisfaction of the listeners.
It is undeniable that the acting of Mr. Hampden did fit into the spirit in which the play was written. He made the most of his dramatic moments and brought each act up to a startling close. As the keen witted Cardinal Richelieu he brought out both the clever perception of the master plotter and at the same time he added an almost pathetic feeling of futility and remorse that must come from a life occupied with only intrigue and statecraft. His gestures were particularly eloquent in this respect, usually managing to convey a thoroughly adequate impression with the smallest motion of the hand. There was but one fault, and that is that death laid a very ostentatious hand upon him at surprisingly frequent intervals. The fact that one got a slightly muddled impression of the character of the Cardinal; not being sure whether he was an absolute institutionalist, or verging perhaps on sentimentality was a fault of the author rather than the actor.
Moffat Johnston, as the Count de Bardas, a villain who was nefarious with all Victorian thoroughness, played, his part well. He was an admirable snake in the grass with a most gracious smile for his puppets and a devastating frown for his enemies. In the midst of prodigious excitement and complication he seemed to keep a very clear head and came within an ace of being the victor. The comedy element in the guise of Sieur de Beringhen, Gordon Hart, was effective in spite of the fact that his elongated person did not particularly suggest a gourmand. Ernest Rowan as Chevalier de Mauprat was just a bit enthusiastic, but the high flavor of his lines excused that. The person who was in all probability the most consistent interpreter of the play in the terms its author probably intended was Miss Ingeborg Torrup as Julie de Mortemar, and for that reason she was the least palatable to the modern tastes.
The settings and machinery were in no way startling, being the sort of thing that is usually taken on the road. There is one scene in the King's garden that is quite effective and is used by Mr. Hampden to the heights of its possibilities. In fact the whole performance was extremely entertaining and fulfilled the potentialities of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton's play.