Affairs of State
At the Plymouth
Louis Verneuil's Broadway success has finally left the big town and started on the road to oblivion. It is easy to see why it was a long-run success but never a smash hit.
Affairs of State combines a small cast and a single gag with intermittent sprinklings of comedy, farce, and epigrams. June Havoc carries off very well the lead role, created by Celeste Holm. She and Shepperd Strudwick alone manage to give variety to their parts without sacrificing consistency.
But inconsistency is the production's crucial flaw, and it is writer-director Verneuil's fault. Although the pace never flags, although several of the jokes are funny, and although the basic situation is sound enough, the play cannot overcome this weakness. Reginald Owen, for instance, starts off his characterization of a retired Secretary of State with finest premium ham. Half way through, he becomes a shrewd man. Owen executes both neither has much to do with the other.
Barbara O'Neil is an exceptionally attractive woman of forty at the start. But as her allure becomes less important to the plot, her role changes too. Her costumes also become noticetably less flattering.
Consistent character is absent from the play as a whole as well. Farce, comedy, and boredom succeed each other slickly at random. Visual gags, political "humor," pseudo-Shavian epigrams, and Joe Miller favorites mingle democratically with a handful of really comic situations.
The final effect, however, is far from displeasing. And since Verneuil has neither aimed very high nor touched anything important, it would be difficult to reproach him severely. What he has done is follow the well-worn formula. And, by diligent use of standard ingredients, he has produced a success.