Even if it could be compared to other recent productions, comparatives would not be enough to praise the Harvard Classical Players' production of "Miles Gloriosus" (The Braggart Warrior) which opened last night at Agassiz Theater, and which, unfortunately, closes this evening after only a two-day run. No, superlatives are in order for the local classicists, both for reviving the production of Roman drama after a hiatus of 13 years and for presenting a sparkling production of Plautus' rollicking comedy.
The production, given entirely in Latin, has a spontaneity seldom seen even in plays whose medium is English--a tribute to Messrs. Maurice Snowden and Robert Brooks for their direction of a theater-piece that offers such obstacles to "sophisticated" tastes. Language difficulties are reduced to a minimum, and the obvious enthusiasm of the cast--which sometimes, but infrequently, amounts to overplaying--carries the play along when exact meaning may be in doubt. A sense of timing, so important to the success of any farce, seems to be well nigh perfect, so that situations are always clear though subtleties be lost.
Plautus, done in the right spirit, can't fail to be amusing. You don't have to be a student of the Classics, you don't really need Latin at all to appreciate and guffaw at his comedy. The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy have been successful at the same type of comedy for years, a slapstick variety with humor arising from situation and double-meanings rather than from plot intricacies. That is the type of humor in "The Braggart Warrior." Briefly, a soldier with a bigger mouth than a sword has one woman and would woo another. He keeps the first against her will, while her real lover waits next door. He is tricked into releasing her, and receives a beating and almost a fate worse than death--from his standpoint--for his pains in chasing the second woman. It's not too difficult a plot, and its possibilities for humor are made the most of by the cast.
Albert Borowitz, as Pygropolynices, the soldier whose amorous conquests pale before his last defeat, plays his role with a flair that is truly laugh-provoking. Swishing his sword about, gazing at himself in his mirror--which he continually carries about with him--he plays the title role with great gusto. He enjoys it himself, and certainly last night's audience did. John Rexine plays the old gentleman of Ephesus, Periplectomenus, naturally and well and George Mulhern gives a fine performance as a slave through whose agency the true lovers are reunited and the warrior disgraced. The real show-stopper is Joseph Dallet as a slightly tipsy slave. Brooks Emmons and Dorothes Reynolds do exceedingly well as women who look and act as if they knew what life were all about.
For the Latin purists, some criti- cisms can be offered. Lines were spoken far too quickly in many cases, and some niceties of the language could not be appreciated. (Cries of "Tardius!" came from last night's audience, and the troupe will probably take the hint tonight.) In fact, perhaps the whole performance is keyed at slightly too fast a tempo; but that is far better than dragging it out.
There was a good-sized audience last night. Unfortunately, it appeared to be composed largely of patrons of the classics. You don't have to be a Latin genius to understand and enjoy the play, and a lot of people are going to be missing out on a good time if they don't see it before it closes tonight