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"Believe Me, Xantippo!", a melodramatic farce by Frederick Ballard, formerly a graduate student here, is the third of the plays to receive the prize offered by Mr. John Craig to dramatists of Harvard and Radcliffe, and the first to come from a Harvard writer. On Monday last it began an indefinite run at the Castle Square Theatre, Boston, presented by Mr. Craig and his stock company.
Like the great majority of present-day farces, "Believe Me, Xantippe!" depends very largely for its humor on its melodramatic touches. To have been told ten years ago that melodrama was on the way to becoming ludicrous would have been sacrilege; yet in this day of self-styled musical comedy the "blood and thunder" is quite the funniest thing we have on our stage--except of course in the "movies" where, fortunately for us, the sinning and the sinned-against are polite enough to allow themselves to be seen but never heard. It is perhaps this speaking out in meeting which makes the stage-acted melodrama of today highly amusing; in any case, it is what goes far to carry the present piece.
Of Mr. Ballard's four acts, only the second and last succeed in getting the proper response from the audience; nor is this owing to any lack of situation, for the playwright is blessed with a fertile imagination, but rather to the fact that he has failed to make the best of what he had in hand. The first act, for instance, is talky in the extreme. Before there can be a play the audience must know that the apartment of Mr. George MacFarland, wealthy New Yorker, has been robbed, that he is thoroughly disgusted with the stupidity of the police in allowing the burglars to escape and so, to prove how utterly dead is the arm of the law, he makes a wager with friends that he can commit a gross crime and, given but a few hours to make his escape, evade the police of the whole nation for a year. Instead of permitting us to see the bungling officers, to have first hand knowledge of their propensities to idiocy, we are given a colorless conversation between MacFarland, his butler, and two friends in which the facts of the matter are made known. So far as there is any response from the audience, this information might as well have been printed in the program. Why not convert the butler into one of the hopeless men from headquarters and so make the dialogue in the act something more than narration?
At the end of the third act, on the whole very much better than the first, MacFarland's cry of "Sing Sing!"--so tragically does Mr. Craig give the line--takes one out of the farcical atmosphere and brings the curtain down with a cold thud.
Despite its unevenness, the play is original and diverting, and it seems that with a little rewriting it should prove a "popular success." The second act in which MacFarland is captured by the daughter of the western sheriff,in turn captures a genuine desperado, then is put to bed with him while the young lady sits watching with a rifle in her hands, is farce of the best sort.
Mr. Craig as George MacFarland, Miss Mary Young as Dolly Kamman, the sheriff's daughter,and Mr. Walter Walker as the sheriff have parts nicely fitted to their abilities. The play is adequately staged.
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