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"John the Baptist" in Seven Episodes Is Repertory Theatre's Offering on Shrine of Better Drama

By H. C. R.

It seems there were so many voices, some good, some bad, some Harvard--see September Lampoon--when the Repertory Theatre Company opened its eleventh season last Monday night with the usual number of congratulatory telegrams and stiff shirts present. The trick was to distinguish the "voice crying in the wilderness" from the ordinary run of moans and groans, and that takes practice. It was quite a game and went on for seven periods, or episodes, as they are designated in the theatre rule book. The audience fought gamely but after all, seven is several too many.

The custom as well as the privilege of a drama uplift organization like the Repertory is to bite off larger pieces than it can chew. "John The Baptist," adapted by Frances Jewett from the "Johanues" of Hermann Sudermann, turned out to be quite a mouthful and was mangled with more or less success. The theme is worthy of the effort and one can admire the courage if not the discretion of the Repertory players in attempting it. The result to be truthful, was hard to digest.

The story of the Baptist-Prophet, is undoubtedly fraught with emotionalism, and the intensity of feeling, the suffering and anticipation which permeate the facts of his life, and the lives of his followers, were in some measure caught by Sudermann. The Repertory version catches even less of that spirit. Melo-drama vies with the ridiculous, approaching farce, where only dignity and religious feeling were intended. The mania for making the unreal appear real, for putting Hamlet in plus fours, can amuse but hardly impress. Perhaps there were wise-cracking merchants in Israel but we can't believe they had Irish-Mayfair-Swedish brogues.

Mr. Henry Jewett tried manfully to bear the title role and came even closer to success than did all his supporters down to the Harvard super pilgrims. His appearance was all that could be asked for, his eye wild enough; and his voice smacked somewhat of the wilderness, but the total effect was unconvincing. The part requires too long a performance of sustained excellence. Miss Francesca Braggiotti, to come to the more important matter of Salome and the Seven Veils, was not quite all we dropped for from that mad, bad daughter of Herodias. To give credit where credit is due, her dancing far surpassed her acting, although in a fury--which seems to have been Salome's favorite mood--she was as sibilant as a cage full of pythons.

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