Harbor Lights

At the Wilber

This play deals with elemental themses associated with the return of a bum sailor to his child and wife, who has remarried in his absence, and his clumsy efforts to wrest their affections from the well-meaning and honest spouse number two. The bum never has much trouble with the kid but doesn't get to first base with the old lady. It is doubtful that one play ever bit off so much and chewed so little; the drama is sloppily constructed and implausible; and the resolution is meaningless.

Normal Vane, apparently a newcomer top the craft of playwriting, sets up his characters with contrived dialogue and them with their actions knocks them down again. The vain, colorful husband number one tells lies and most of the audience understands why; he is so pitiful that he should inspire our sympathy; but in the end he goes away unrewarded. The wife, frustrated in her quest for security, thrives on honesty so it is natural to assume that she once was in love with him; but there is never any hint of this. Husband number two, attentive and mild-mannered, is a model of stability; but quite inexplicably, he maliciously slays his step-child's pet duck.

Even amidst all this confusion, Harbor Lights might have been interesting had it had a lyrical or even believable line of dialogue. "If I've failed you, honey, it is all my fault," someone says to someone else. Now when would ordinary Staten Island white trash use that kind of language? If both the action and dialogue are impossible, even such accomplished players as Miss Linda Darnell and Mr. Robert Alda of Hollywood, Calif. are bound to have trouble. Most assuredly they at least know their lines.

Miss Darnell waddles around self-consciously, and skims only the surface off a perturbing character. She never appears to be a woman worth arguing about. Mr. Alda, charming at first, seems to know that to be, but falls with his weak lines and impossible character into a confused and directionless series of histronics. Paul Langton, who gets third building as husband number two, is indistinguishable in one's memory ten minutes after the final curtain. The unlucky kid who is a party to the unlucky marital trio is played well by young Peter Votrain. Well, it preseverance and energy in face of medeocre material is well. The production is directed by Thomajan, according to the program.

Harbor Lights straggled in from New Haven or Peoria or someplace at the beginning of the week, and the management has promised it will straggle out by early Sunday morning.