Whether it was reading headlines or attending Youth Congresses that did the trick, the previously complacent S. N. Behrman has turned into a fire-eating social commentator. Much to his chagrin, he has now become the butt of his own satire. Last year in "No Time For Comedy" he poked laughing fingers at playwrights who suddenly began to write epics of world importance. Now in "The Talley Method" he has caught the disease whose symptoms he diagnosed so well. Perhaps for the very reason that he knew all the errors he might have fallen into, Mr. Behrman has made the transition to social commentator with infinite skill.
Mr. Behrman is loaded with messages. He has followed along with Pals Sherwood and Rice and climbed on the soap-box. He has not only a problem but a solution--at least a temporary one. And all this is put over via the Behrman method--parlor life and pretty speeches.
Tucked into an old-fashioned house in the East Sixties is rich Doctor Talley, completely cut off from his children and the rest of the world; his son, Philip, useless to society and hopelessly drifting; his daughter, Avis, bitter, cynical, trying to rip hell out of the old order through the Youth Movement; her suitor, as useless as Philip, but dividing his time between the Columbia graduate school and Madison Ave. bars. Into the turmoil comes Enid Fuller, woman poetess, who still clings to her faith in the good people, and Manfried Geist, a European refugee, already destroyed inside by the forces of hate.
There are scores of messages: oddly enough, they are all good. Fashioned in the old Behrman style, the play of social-conscience fits much nicer than you'd expect. It is terribly soap-boxcy in spots, extremely aggravating in others. But these are details.
The main thing is that Philip Merivale, Ina Claire and Harry Sherman are in the rarest form you could imagine. Unfortunately, Anne Burr, the Youth Congress champion, is far over-drawn, partly due to Mr. Behrman and in spots to Miss Burr's melodrama. The end of the last act is an anti-climax to an anti-climax, but when they chop that off, "The Talley Method" should settle in a comfortable theatre and stay for a good while.