The newly-formed Boston Repertory Association, in presenting its first offering, "The Road to Rome," at the Copley Theater last night, has revealed that Boston, after a lapse of some years, is again to have a first-class professional repertory group of its own. There have been, and still are, several local groups operating is Boston on a repertory basis but enjoyment of their presentations has usually required either a blind admiration for the play itself or a charitable turn of mind. The Boston Repertory group promises to ask of its audiences very little (there is even a 30 percent price reduction for students) and to give in return competent, professional productions.
"The Road to Rome" was the first play of Robert E. Sherwood '18 and a success on Broadway in 1927. It is somewhat in the vein of his "Idiot's Delight" in that it has a comic situation set in a period of history which allows Mr. Sherwood to work in some of his anti-war feelings. It is not as forceful, bitter, or integrated as was "Idiot's Delight," nor is it as funny. Furthermore, while it shows no signs of old age, neither does it show reasons for revival.
Mr. Sherwood has set his play in 216 B.C., at the time when Hannibal was nearing the end of his march on Rome. Hannibal didn't attack Rome when he reached it, Mr. Sherwood explains, because a certain blonde, the bored and sex-starved wife of Rome's dictator, got to him first. When Rome seems doomed, she flees the city and breaks through Hannibal's lines, because for her boredom there are the elephants and for her bed there is Hannibal. In addition to seducing him she casually persuades Hannibal of the futility of warfare, popping grapes into her month all the while, as it were.
Most of the cast of "The Road to Rome" has had Broadway experience and three were no glaring evidences of amateurism. Robert Harris as Fabius Maximus was very comical in the role of the frightened politician-turned-dictator. Huge Franklin as Hannibal and Michael Sivy as his younger brother gave assured, first-rate performances. As the character with Mr. Sherwood's best comedy lines and all of his thoughtful ones, Polly Rowles, the Roman wife, acted with such vagueness and ennui that many of her lines just seemed to curl up on the stage floor and die, lacking vitality to cross over the footlights. Miss Rowles in an accomplished actress--but seems in need for better direction in this part.
"The Road to Rome" is an amusing but uninspired comedy which has been given a production worthy of better things.