At the Cambridge Summer Theatre
Like the dirty, coal-blacked miner who could "touch with his hand where the corn is green," the egocentric murderer of "Night Must Fall" is a good brain stifled by its environment. But unlike the poor laborer who is given educational outlet for his intelligence and goes on to Oxford, Dan, the former bell-hop, sailor and local lothario, takes to strangulation and ends on the gallows. Both are Welsh; both are Emlyn Williams; both are, as Dan himself expresses it, a piece of chocolate "with a soft center."
When Robert Montgomery played the megalomaniac in the movies some ten years ago, he established a role that summer stock stars have been trying to emulate ever since. The latest attempt, by Walter Starkey, is unfortunate. His portrayal of a murderer is convincing enough, but it is a job unfinished. He forgets the depth of the character in completely failing to expose that "soft center" he claims to have. But Montgomery had some advantages: first, of being a superior actor, and second, of having, on the screen, a medium more effective for emphasizing the mysterious hat-box, in which the murderer's guilt is contained. Dame May Whitty, a rather old party whose very name takes the place of a huge neon sign, plays the dowager who bestows her repressed maternal affection on the strangler, and is repaid in trade. She gets her only opportunity for expression in the last act, and shows her years of experience well in building up to a pitch of fear that is broken by the murderer's dramatic entrance, and sends the balcony audience into the rafters. Ruth Homond, a winsome lass when she removes her horn-rimmed glasses--and you know she will--is a well-bred Pegeen Mike to the predatory "playboy," suffering only the occupational disease of being adequate. William Mendrek is a figure of bumptious incompetence as the casual prig who, in a poor imitation of a young English squire, half-heartedly tries for and loses the girl. This summation leaves three leftovers: a detective and two maids. The former has, if nothing more, an almost valid English accent; the younger of the latter two proves that it doesn't take an American Army to put a Limey biddy in a family way.
The plethora of accents--most of which are aimed at Cockney and miss by wide margins--are a constant reminder that this is Summer Theatre. Dame May Whitty, for whom you will probably be looking, will be the little old lady in the wheel-chair, surrounded by the various people who make this pleasant, if not very provocative, pastime for a cool evening.