"A Thousand Years Ago," Mr. Percy MacKaye's latest play was produced for the first time on any stage at the Shubert Theatre last night and a large and genuinely appreciative audience forgot the commonplace world that buzzed outside the door and lived in a world of grotesquerie and romance, rings and roses with a beggar's wallet thrown in for good measure. Mr. Macrame waved his magic wand and bade us step with him into the Land of Heart's Desire, where men dared all for the love of fair women. And his audience followed him joyously.
Mr. MacKaye has taken the old Arabian Nights' story of Turandot and given it new garments. He has appealed to the child's heart that lies dormant in us all and proves that Romance is just as much alive today as it was a thousand years ago. The story of "A Thousand Years Ago" is that of Calaf, Prince of Astrakhan, whose father has been slain by Altoum, Emperor of China. Calaf is supposed to have been drowned but he reappears in the streets of Pekin in disguise and declares his mad love for Turandot, the daughter of the Emperor. And in the same-streets of Pekin appears Capocomico, a vagabond player, a devil-may -care imp of romance. Capocomico agrees to cure the Emperor's daughter of a mysterious illness, provided he be allowed to change places with the Emperor for a day. The Emperor agrees and Capocomico reigns for twenty-four hours, during which time many bizarre and interesting things happen but in the end Capocomico proves himself to be the god in the car and brings the lovers together, because after all, Turandot was only sick for love and wily Capocomico knew it.
The play was in four acts and was given a most gorgeous Oriental setting. Notably beautiful was the mountain scene in the third act with its atmosphere of eeriness and unreality. The simplest means were employed but the effect was all there. And, by the way, it is very significant that a practical manager like William A: Brady, who produced the play, should use the new settings.
Mr. H. Cooper Cliffe, who played the fantastic role of Capocomico, brought out the debonair and mischievous qualities of that part most admirably. Miss Rita Jolivet was a most winsome and attractive Turandot and Jerome Patrick made a handsome Calaf.
Mr. Percy MacKaye is to be congratulated on "A Thousand Years Ago". He had a most whimsical and unusual theme to handle and the appreciation of last night's audience showed that he handled it supremely well.