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The Federal Theatre gives a comedy called "Help Yourself", by John Coman, at the Copley Theatre this week. The play is a broad adaptation of a script by the Viennese Paul Vulpius, and is staged here by Arthur Ritchie. Its boisterous title indicates the whole tone of the play, for it is a farce-comedy of bluff characters, headlong plot and broad burlesque. Even the heart interest is handled in this way: first the here doesn't want to kiss the heroine, and then he does.
At the hilarious conclusion of the piece a certain long-lost Mr. Knubinsky turns up, and when he insists that he would rather be a messenger (it's safer) at the Mutual Trust company than a director, the hero delivers the key line: "All right, Mr. Kubinsky, anything--bank director, bank messenger, vice-president -- help yourself!" And that is just what this hero, Christopher Stringer, did: he walked into the bank, appropriated a desk, stirred up an imaginary deal about which only he knew anything, thereby making himself indispensable--and waited for things to pop. They did, the final explosion coming in a directors' meeting in which the deal is discussed, approved, and launched by the financial wizards with shouts of "Up she goes!"
In "Help Yourself" there are excellent characterizations, particularly by Frank Thomas (an old hand) and John Taylor: they are types, but convincing types. But in addition the whole performance possesses a unity and an activity rare in these productions; the scherzo established by the entrance of Stringer is maintained unto the final curtain. The part of Stringer is kept on the jump by Ramon Greenleaf, but gains nothing beyond its writing in his performance. An admirable sketch is supplied by Arthur Barry in the part of Bittlesby, who switches from effeminate efficiency to an entertaining attitude of merrily-we-go-to-hell-the-fake-is-falling-through, singing and dancing to "The Darng Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" en route. In the end, of course, the fake does not fall through. Bittlesby is gotten by stenographer who will teach him things, and Stringer gets the girl (Louise Kirtland)--and there, gentlemen, he has something, for Miss Kirtland is a charming ingenue and something to look at.
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