Around the symbolism of The Living Room, Graham Greene has based a highly philosophical play. If his emphasis is on ideas, however, Greene does not allow them to push emotion from the stage. His characters take their place in the living room as men, as well as spokesmen for opposing philosophy. The result is fine drama.
In presenting the clash between psychologist and priest, one of the author's favorite themes, The Living Room makes use of both dialogue and symbolic plot. Barbara Bel Geddes, as Rose Pemberton, plays a young Catholic caught between the demands of her faith and her desire to remain the mistress of a middle-aged psychologist. Attempting to influence her decision are, quite naturally, the psychologist (Michael Goodliffe) and the priest (Walter Fitzgerald).
Ultimately, both religion and psychology fail in their earthly mission, as Rose escapes her dilemna with suicide. In the last scene, however, a philosophical post mortem takes place, in which Greene contrasts the pessimism of the psychologist with the hope of the priest. Reinforcing this contrast is the subordinate theme of the heroine's two maiden aunts. Both Catholics, they have attempted to escape thoughts of death by closing all rooms in which their relatives have died. Presumably, Aunt Teresa's final decision to sleep in the living room where her niece has committed suicide represents Greene's idea of coming to terms with life, based however on the hope of immortality.
With its bent for philosophy, The Living Room is a difficult vehicle for the cast, especially since the plot is barely plausible. Greene has added to the difficulty by placing most of his dramatic scenes in one overloaded act. The first part of the second act contains in this order: an hysterical scene between Rose and her aunts, an hysterical scene between Rose and the psychologist's wife, an hysterical scene between Rose and the priest, and finally her suicide.
Miss Bel Geddes' supply of tears is not unlimited, but she does as well as could be expected under the circumstances. For the most part she is the innocent and unaffected girl which Greene intended. Walter Fitzgerald manages to make the priest a sympathetic blend of the wise and ineffectual, and if he seems more deft at both than psychologist Michael Goodliffe, it is probably because Greene has given him the better arguments.
Despite is structural weaknesses, and occasionally its wordiness, The Living Room provides an evening of entertaining and certainly provocative drama. It should find New York equally as congenial as the stages of London or Paris.