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The Playgoer

The W. P. A. Adaption of Sinclair Lewis' Novel, "It Can't Happen Here" Is Interesting, If Not Completely Successful

By J. M.

Well, we left at eleven-twenty; by that time Orson Welles' "Five Kings" had got through the whole of Henry IV Part One, and up to the crowning of Henry V in Part II; some people said that Henry V made a third act, also, but we had to get home in time to milk the cows.

Mr. Welles plays Falstaff, and his characterization is always good and sometimes excellent Burgess Meredith has the part of Prince Hal, but he seems too boyish in his rendition and not at all gallivanting; furthermore his occasional lapses into a "toity-toid street" accent, ostensibly for lightness, does little credit to Shakespeare's blank verse. John Emery, as Hotspur, has great vitality, but often he palls in tearing his passions to tatters. Morris Ankrum as Henry IV gives a sterling performance throughout, and outstanding in the lighter vein are Gus Schilling, as Bardolph, and John Berry, as Poins.

James Morcom's idea of a Fourteenth Century castle looks like a clapboarded New England barn, and his revolving set often does not fit the scene, sequences. Millia Davenport's costumes never get beyond the phony chain-mail stage, and her costume for Hotspur's wife in the first act is one of the most atrocious bits of ugly design to appear for some time.

With all due credit to Mr. Welles, the Theatre Guild, and the Mercury Theatre, "Five Kings" cannot hope to compete with Maurice Evans' production of Henry IV--inaudible diction alone will ensure that -- and even the best Shakespeare has a limited audience appeal. When it is so difficult to produce one play, it is hard to understand why Mr. Welles has undertaken to produce two, and possibly three. Some of these days we will have to run over to the Colonial after breakfast and find out just how many plays are being offered, but in this case "Five Kings" are five too many.

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