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God, being bored, has sat down at the table of the world, shuffled the cards, and is now diverting himself with a variety of solitaire called Idiot's Delight. That is the cosmic view as modernized by Robert E. Sherwood, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne are made to sit in a resort hotel in the mountains of Italy that were Austria's not so long ago and welcome in the Second World War. "Onward Christian Soldiers" comes forth from them and the piano to mingle with the crash of bombs and the tinkle of glass in the sporadically lit-up darkness. But in with the searing cynicism of their rendition of the martial hymn, there is somehow a terrible heroism. And the theme of the play, if we may be allowed to extract it out of the molten swirl of observations on Communism, Fascism, the League of Nations, Germany, Italy, England, the Middle West, yea-man hot stuff, is that men, despite the foul mess they kick up now and then, are essentially decent animals, except for one percent consisting of such specimens as international munitions-makers.
All the observations which might be tedious in another play, such as those on the basic goodness of human nature and the limitless folly of war, are saved in this one through having them spoken by an extremely typical American with a rasping nasal drawl and a fondness for clinches. Heroics, chivalry, and faith are so out of place in this American handyman with his pack of dancing girls, that they come with the freshness of surprise.
"Idiot's Delight" is crammed with characters as well as comment. Suffice it to say that every role is brilliantly filled: the raving Communist whom the Italians have to shoot, the fat German scientist who decides to turn from his cancer cures to the invention of a new and deadlier gas, the pitiable little pawn of a waiter who went out resignedly for the Austrians and is now seen ready to go out resignedly for the Italians. Alfred Lunt is overflowing with the shrewdness and practicality his part calls for, and if no Middle-Westerner ever heard speech so raucous as his, he has simply gone too far on the right track. Lynn Fontanne is flawless as the London gutter-snipe who, when her hair was red, slept with him in a hotel room in Omaha, and now that her hair is yellow, tells in fine Romanov inflections of her escape from Soviet Russia.
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