Bouncing up out of last week's doldrums, Brattle Hall present an excellent version of "The Dark Tower" with Gloria Stuart performing as the best leading lady so far this season. This breezy little play was written by Alexander Woolcott and George S. Kaufman, whose combined wits succeeded in toppling the more sedate Brattle Hallers off their moral pedestals.
What happened is roughly this: Jessica Wells, the famous actress, has been sick for three years since the disappearance of her repulsive husband, Stanley Vance, and it is only at the news of his death that she gets well. She plans a return to Broadway with a new show after a trial run in Greenwich. At the end of the first week, Stanley Vance reappears, not from the grave, but from San Quentin. Immediately his strange hold over Jessica reasserts itself and she falls sick again. All that Vance wants is money and he plans to get it through his control of the star. As soon as he appears, the audience realizes that he will be murdered somewhere in the second act, but the suspense is carfully handled and the interest is well sustained until the end.
Of course this is not the greatest mystery ever written, but it ranks high on the list of Brattle Hall's better plays, because it is acted by one of the best casts they have yet assembled. Miss Stuart, as Jessica Wells, performs with warmth and charm in a difficult, though short, role, requiring an ability to be gay at one moment and utterly wilted the next, depending upon the presence or absence of her husband. Robert Perry, who directed the play, also acted the part of Stanley Vance, the unattractive, unscrupulous husband, and succeeded in making himself so thoroughly hated that some of the audience applauded his gruesome demise. But the all-important part in the play is that of Jessica's brother, Damon, director and leading man in her new show. Philip Huston appears in this role of a puckish young man taking time off from his women and his beer to straighten out his sister's life. It is the best performance of the evening and will bring great pleasure to every observer. The nine other members of the east complete a very rosy picture, particularly Naacy Duncan as an inquisitive maid, and Mary Barthelmess as a "part-time" actress.
Other factors of importance in the show are the direction, which is some of the best this season, and the setting--both props and scenery, which all help to make "The Dark Tower" the best play Summer School students have had a chance to see.