The Crimson Playgoer
Constance Cummings Gives A Lusty Show in "If I Were You," Farcical Fantasy a la Thorne Smith
There who have been puzzled over the exact meaning of the expresion "If I were you" find one interpretation of the cryptic words offered in the play of that name by Paul Hervey Fox and Benn W. Levy. These dramatists say that their farce was suggested by an idea in a novel of Thorne Smith's, but their debt would seem greater than they thereby admit. Their end is physic research not yet reduced to scientific terms; their media are sex and the bathroom. Through the resulting fantastic extravaganza Constance Cummings barges with considerable gusto. The situations she and her colleagues find themselves in are not infrequently, not invariably funny.
Just Short of Being Too Crude
For the first two scenes, before the entrance of the supernatural, the dialogue is so dull and the characterization so crude that one gets ready for either acute boredom or a sudden shift. Fortunately it is the later that materializes. The here and the heroine, man and wife, suddenly change personalities or bodies, whichever way you choose to look at it. What the biochemist husband has failed to do for certain lower organisms by monkeying around with chemicals changing their sex his Irsh maid odes for him and his wife by Macbethian witchcraft. And so one morning they wake up vice-versa.
The externals of the situation receive all the attention. The husband used to do some indelicate scratching; he still does, but with his wife's body. The husband has to fit a dress on a friend, and the wife gets indignantly repulsed for interfering. The husband goes into the bathroom and comes out saying, "How inconvenient." The wife gets arrested for walking into a woman's wash room in a hotel. The wife has to tell the husband that he's going to have a baby. Similar situations of varying degrees of crudity and subtlety, with a preponderance of the former, make up the subject-matter.
The central pair have to get the maid's book of applied witchcraft to restore things to normalcy. They run into special trouble obtaining a yellow-bellied spider and in learning the Babylonian word for cockatoo. They ultimately succeed but with disastrous results for another couple present when the spell is cast.
Miss Cummings Good and Broad
Constance Cummings, a handsome, vigorous young woman, seems to enjoy the male impersonation, slapstick, and rough-house required for her. But since there is little room for anything else, this play can scarcely make or break her as a straightforward actress. For her sake it is to be hoped that "If I Were You" does not prove too successful. Not to mention a free-for-all including her, her wife, and the Irish maid, she is forced to kneel on the floor with the man lying on top of her, back to back and beat on the floor with a mallet. This is to cast the spell. The man weighs at least 165. He is Bernard Lee, and is quite satisfactory both as man and wife. A most meticulous and objective worker as a biochemist, he returns to his apparatus after the great change, pours in the wrong stuff, and says, "Ooh look, it's turning green!" The rest of the cast it is as generous to ignore as to mention.