A general roughness and unevennes in the Canterbury Players' production of Dirty Hands by Jean-Paul Sartre prevented the play from achieving anything like its potential effect on Thursday and Friday. Although certain performances were unquestionably good, there was little doubt that the show would have profited by considerably more time in rehearsal.
Almost every aspect of the show seemed to suffer the dire effects of too little time. Fortunately, there were frequent indications that this was the major shortcoming of the whole affair; most of the actors showed that despite their lack of polish they were capable of highly creditable performances, and John van Itallie's direction, too, seemed a basically competent job spoiled by lack of time for study and correction.
Holding the play together from beginning to end was Royall Tyler's performance as Hugo--the young intellectual revolutionary. Tyler, more than any of the members of the cast, brought his part to life. The confusion, frustration, and near hysteria of Hugo until his final understanding are implicit in his gesture and intonation throughout, and it is fair to say that he largely carries the production.
James Rieger and Jane Slater generally equal Tyler in skill if not in importance. Rieger, as Hoederer, the party leader, emanates the proper charismatic dignity for his role. Miss Slater handles a rather difficult character transition with promising deftness. This is Miss Slater's first appearance on the local stage, but, we hope, not her last.
In the category of more or less minor roles. Robert House and Fenton Hollander handle themselves with gusto and understanding. Margaret Groome, as Olga, misses her difficult characterization by a hairsbreadth. Other members of the cast are unable to overcome an apparent lack either in preparation or understanding of their roles.
The direction was rather difficult to judge. Blocking seemed adequate, and the movements of the actors on stage were natural enough. Throughout the performance, however, it seemed that van Itallie could have made more both of the parts and the situations.
The settings bare and shabby as they may be, are actually quite suitable to the situation of the drama, and the same sort of remark about the costumes can be excused in the same manner. Nevertheless, the staging seems at least to suffer from the same element of slapdash that injures the whole.
With more time, there is no doubt that Dirty Hands could have been a good, if not first rate presentation. But under the circumstances, it suffers to an unfortunate degree from lack of polish.
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