PLAYGOER

At the Copley

It represents no great strain of the imagination to call the new Courtney Burr production a Victorian melodrama, despite the fact that it says quite plainly on the program that its episodes occur in 1945 and in spite, also, of its very un-Victorian lead, Percy Kilbride, who steals the show until he finally falls through the thin surface of "Little Brown Jug's" plot and of his own tedium.

Kilbride, who has appeared in such movies as "The Southerner," "State Fair," and "She Wouldn't Say Yes," will be remembered as the Western Union messenger on the Jack Benny radio program a few years ago who drawled, "Sor-ry, but y'can't have the telegram 'thout signin'...comp'ny reg'lations y'know." He nasalizes similar lines as the psychopathic villain in the slight chiller now filling the Copley Theatre. The down-easter with the Maine twang is, in blunt fact, "Little Brown Jug's" sole claim to a dubious fame.

In the first scene, a woman slaps her ne'er-do-well son-in-law, who loses his balance and falls out the window of his Maine boathouse. The fatality, as it proves to be, is witnessed by the young man's wife and by a little old man who is hidden in a bunk at stage-left. The death is clearly an accident, but the little old man--Kilbride, of course--insinuates, "Wa-al, you slapped him, and he fell, and now he's dead....Police sometimes nasty about things like that y'know...."

From there on the little old man attaches himself to the "murder" and her daughter and oppresses them with his assumed liberties until he comes to consider himself the family's sole protector against suitors and snoopers. The Maine twang soon palls on the audience, however, and there is little else entertaining in the stock characters and weak plot of "Little Brown Jug." jgt