Of the current repertory of the Irish players few plays are as little known as "Autumn Fire," the work of T. C. Murray. The year 1924 saw it first produced in Dublin, 1926 in America. Scant knowledge of the piece did not keep a numerous audience from the Hollis Street Theatre Thursday night, when Boston was given its first sight of the play.
But if the audience was agreeably large, it was in part one of the worst that has over well night spoiled a perfect evening in the theatre. Pathos and tragedy were greeted with titters from parts of the house; the climax of the drama was hailed with gleeful delight from the gallery, where, it must be assumed, Boston's maids were taking their Thursday night off. An Irish brogue on the stage, uttering remarks not unheard of before in the theatre, was, to many in the audience, a matter for laughing, and laugh they did.
But if the audience made feels of themselves the players carried on magnificently. "Autumn Fire" is the story of Owen Keegan, middle-aged in years but youthful in spirit, who marries Nance, a young girl. There have been similar situations in the drama before, where the pretences of son and daughter in the household has complicated affairs. But Murray, writing of familiar scenes, has given color and life to a story well worn by time. And the actors made the most of their parts.
Michacl Dolan, as Owen, is strong and exultant as the man of youthful spirit; later he is terrible in his defeat as the old man, crippled in his prime. May Craig as Ellen, the bitter, frustrated daughter, is superb; long after the curtain has fallen one wonders at the depth of hatred that twisted her (or is it something less conscious than hatred, a deep rooted honesty that forced her to provoke the final tragedy?). As Nance, ellen Crowe speaks with splendid diction; her voice is one of genuine beauty, but it slips at times into sing-song rather than melody. The other players are on a uniform level of excellence, never fail in to play their roles with sincerity and understanding, qualities rarely found in the usual "rest of the cast."
The play itself is well-wrought. Performed as it is by the Irish Players, 'Autumn Fire" becomes a triage-comedy of the first rank. It will be given for the second and last time Friday evening, April 22.