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CRIMSON PLAYGOER

"The Eldest" is Well Acted Portrayal of the Morbid Family Life Which a Freed Husband-Killer Leads

By J. M.

Shades of Jessie Costello and friends appear on the stage of the Wilbur this week as Eugene Courtright's new play, "The Eldest," answers the vexing problem of what happens to American wives who are freed of charges of murdering their husbands.

The plot briefly concerns the trials the family of a husband murdering mother goes through after she has been acquitted, the family be it understood being of a far more different ilk than the homicidal wife. They are far more sensitive to the infamy and whisperings which are theirs than she who has been the cause of it. The husband-killer is most ably played by Lillian Foster who succeeds admirably in making herself as thoroughly despicable and disgusting as anyone possibly could wish. There is, however, a strange contrast to her entrance into her old home for the first time after the six years of her trail and re-trial, and her later simpering, nasty temperament which makes her ruin the lives of the rest of her family. When she first arrives home she acts the part of a normal person coming to her family circle after some extremely trying, emotional ordeal. Her joy and sadness and reactions here, however, are in direct opposition to her later, flighty giddiness which show her to be the utterly disgusting, carnal lover that she is. But such points are of minor importance in considering the excellent job Miss Foster does in this most difficult part.

The rest of the cast act quite well from Nancy Sheridan as the oldest daughter on whom the brunt of the family troubles lie, down to young Richard Jack, who puts on a surprisingly fine performance as the young boy of the house. It is the task of the eldest child to keep the publicity loving mother and her nefarious actions from driving the rest of the family to distraction. The boy and his young sister, Helen Claire, take the eccentricities of their mother most sincerely to heart with the result that they are unable to stand the atmosphere she creates in the house and are on the verge of killing the mother's paramour, who has also been freed of the same murder charges and who now openly comes to the house and is avowedly in love with her. The girl threatens to run away from it all and the boy nearly succeeds in killing the lover. Miss Sheridan admirably performs the difficult task of keeping the family from going completely berserk and also guiding the mother and her lover away from the house and off to South America so that peace and quiet may return to the household.

As a picture of what goes on in the home of a freed murderess this play is probably most excellent. But it is indeed an unusual mind which can write this sort of drama for an evening's entertainment. The acting is so good that one cringes with rage at the doings of the mother who in her tantrums succeeds also in causing the death of her aged invalid mother. There is little to raise the play from the depths of morbid despair into which it falls. The comic relief provided by the grandmother comes at the wrong moments and the silly simperings of the giddy mother serve only to heighten the horrors of the household.

The acting of the young men who are interested in the daughter of the house is as plain as need be, but the portrayal of the white haired grandmother falls short of the standards set by the rest of the cast.

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