It is the fashion of the day to devise novel settings for old mysteries, and the "Subway Express", now in production at the Hollis Theatre, is one of the latest examples to remove the melodrama from the more conventional English manor house, or, as was the height of the mode a season or so ago, the New York night club.
The old tricks of shooting people through telephone receivers, kniving them by lynx-eyed orientals, or burning them with vats of green acid no longer provide their old thrill. Audiences yawn. The old stunt of indicating the degree of hauntedness of house by having a darky groan "Oh Lawdy, Lawdy" simply wore itself out.
So we come to the "Subway Express", a well-constructed mystery which maintains a high level of suspense through three acts without once leaving the subway car with which the first scene opens. The melodrama proved sufficiently real to carry the play successfully through a long season in New York, and, with Boston's peculiar penchant for supporting the mystery drama (as witness, the "Ghost Train"), the "Subway Express" may be expected to be with us for many weeks.
Naturally, with the emphasis, as it is, on a novel setting, much of the success of the show depends on the realism of its staging. While latitude is graciously granted a Shakespearian company in dealing with the setting of a drama which has a twelfth century background, so commonplace a mode of transportation as an underground railway must come up to scratch in every way. It must be said, to the credit of the producers of the "Subway Express", that they have managed this feature of their presentation eminently satisfactorily.
The other elements, casting and plot, are well above average. Audiences go to melodramas expecting to be fooled, thrilled, and amused, and if this is what they expect to find at the Hollis, they will not be disappointed.