The Crimson Playgoer
"L'Aigion" Not Unfortunate Choice of Play for Eva Le Gallienne's Excellent Talents
Miss Le Gallienne's production of "L'Aiglon" is unquestionably a fine one. The technics of the play have been mastered with admirable skill, the sets designed with an artistry which elicits well-deserved applause, and the company chosen with excellent discrimination. It is indeed unfortunate that this wealth of talent has been wasted on an unhappy choice of vehicle, but it must be admitted with all due respect to the dramatiser of Cyrano that "L'Aiglon" is a poor play. Restand may have believed that Napoleon's son offered the material for the creation of a modern Hamlet but he neglected to appreciate the difference between his skill and that of Mr. Shakespeare--a not inconsiderable difference. The pitiful sight of a weakly Napoleon II striving to regain the position which his father held is admittedly sad but it's not great drama. In addition to the intrinsic weaknesses of the play must be added the consideration that a 1934 audience cannot be expected to sympathize with attempts to re-establish a reign of indiscriminate bloodshed, of imperial pomp and circumstance. It's not a good play and it's definitely not a timely effort.
It does contain Miss Le Gallienne which ordinarily would be justification per se for any play. But this time Miss Le Gallienne has made a bad mistake--much as she may fancy emulating Maude Adams and Sarah Beruhardt she is definitely not suited to this role. Weakly as Napoleon II might have been, he was nevertheless a male and this is something Miss Le Gallienne cannot achieve. Her work is good but she has set herself an impossible task.