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Can you speak French? Parlez vous Francais? No, don't clip the accompanying coupon, don't even bother to take another French course. Go, instead, to the Opera House and see the Guitrys. Then, if not before, you will realize that though it may be imperative to study Russian, Sanskrit, or Middle High German in order to make your way in the world, all an audience at such French plays needs is a program and two good eyes.
One gesture from Sacha Guitry is worth a paragraph. One smile from his wife, Yvonne Printemps, is a whole challenge. Don't let the dear old lady beside you try to use you as a dictionary, or the graduate student in front of you argue the history of the case. Follow Mozart with both eyes, and the devils take the hindmost.
The evening belongs to the Guitrys, man and wife, playwright and chanteuse. The others in the cast are all very well, but the audience has eyes for no one else so long as either member of this talented family is on the stage.
Mozart is as perfect as a Fragonard, and as naughty. That it is historically absurd matters not at all. That it may even miss the spirit of the composer almost fails to matter. All that seems of lasting importance is that Mile Printemps should have the most perfect, manicoloured bubble over which to dance ever so lightly and never too long. With that and the master of ceremonies air of M. Guitry in their pocket the audience goes away well pleased.
Of plot there is none. Mozart comes, arriving before two audiences well prepared for him, one before the footlights, one behind. Mozart goes, leaving behind him two audiences, both baffled. This youth of scarcely a score succeeds in three short acts in turning the heads of at least four women, and on the eve of his return to Salzbourg in dropping the apple of discord among them. One he loved. But whom?
With this pinch of salt Playwright Guitry has seasoned his most recent play, and to the Queen's taste. The comedy of manners, which surrounds it, mounted in the style of the seventies of the eighteenth century, with all the delightfully feminine thrills and furbelows which attended it, is a gem.
All the songs from the playwright's pen have the flavor of the whole piece, with an elusive note in tune and word which adds to the play's sparkle. But it is those songs, which fall to the lot of Mile. Printemps which give the most pleasure, and which on Monday night brought her back time and again for the applause of an audience which did not need to recall its French in order to be appreciative. Add to these songs the dance, which shows her substituting for the gentleman from the ballet, impudently demonstrating how she, or rather he Mozart, wishes it done, and the pleasure of the audience is explained.
The Guitrys are in town. Whether this will mean anything to you or not lies with your courage. You who are not of the Cercle face the tortures of all unlingual Americans. Fortified in a dinner jacket, and with your Petite Larousse safely tucked in your bureau drawer, venture out some night this week, brave the vasty spaces of the Opera House, and realize that while a French reading exam teaches one no French, there are interpreters who can speak with their hands.
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