There is on display at the Colonial Theatre an uneven morality play, write and enacted by George Bernard Shaw, and staged through the cooperation of the Theatre Guild and its actors. No longer does the old man of the English stage pretend to be a dramatist; his characters, from bacillus to the "sententious anchorite," are but the assorted speaking trumpets through which G. B. S. is announcing to the world his opinions on the war, the League of Nations, the excellencies of a vegetarian diet, Einstein, France and her "security," and H. G. Wells and his ilk.
There is of course a modicum of plot, but when the bacillus, at the end of Act 1, announces that "The play is now virtually at an end, but the actors will discuss it at length for two acts more," some are willing to add with him that "the exits are all in order." Tuesday night no one followed his hint, though in the final soliloquy there were some who gave up and left. For only in the last act does Shaw cry out in a loud voice what his puppets (and most of them were but taken out and dusted for this occasion) have been discovering for themselves,--that nearly everything is liumbug, and that nothing remains today for most of us but a bottomless pit.
Throughout the whole homily Beatrice Lillie parades her usual timeless and unalterable self, tiring to some, but to most an unending delight. Hope Williams has not altered either. As she was in "Holiday," so she is in "Too True To Be Good," boyish and earnest for the most part, unconvincing in many moment. Hugh Sinclair is most constantly heard: "Popsy's satisfied so long as you let him talk," is well applied to him. Ernest Cossart is excellent as Colonel Tallboys; we wish, with him, to "bash." The Elderly Lady over the head, then extending to her our apologies, but never our regrets, so exasperatingly well has Minna Phillips caught her tone. Nor must we forget Leo G. Carroll as Private Meek, and the others who declaimed G. B. S.'s dogma in superb fashion.
All of which does not mean that "Too True To Be Good" is entirely excellent, or that it is a drama. There was waste places without number, but the oases are passing fair. Miss Lillie provides a great many, but the belief that Shaw means what he says in his title is too strong to be doubted. Sermon or no sermon, however, let us be thankful for the occasional manna from the Shavian heaven.