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The Federal Theatre is now offering "The Deluge", a static study of character by Frank Allen, announced by the lights out in front as a "sardonic comedy drama". A minor calamity visits a city on the Mississippi, and the responses made to the stress by ten assorted characters comprise the substance of the piece.
They all think that they are trapped in a saloon by a flood. So they wall up the windows, thereby concealing from themselves the true state of affairs outside, and then they make sundry efforts to preserve their morale. Then, it is not so much that the danger passes, as that they find that they never were really in any genuine trouble anyway. What they took for a flood was really only a cloudburst, and the hermetically sealed door and windows only served to make the room stuffy. The result of this blunder is a wave of cynicism decidedly more bitter than ever could have been the moral letdown following a period of real rather than imaginary distress.
But much of the profit of this ingenious turn of affairs is wasted. There is litle interest to be derived from putting characters through revealing paces if the characters are not intrinsically interesting. Mr. Allen's creations are rather shadowy, tedious things. One character out of the ten, however, redeems the play, and demonstrates that the author can create, at least within narrow limits. This is a jovial Irish lawyer named O'Neill, who admits that he has plenty of brains but no character, and is therefore no good. He is altogether of the Sidney Carton pattern, except that at the last minute he is cheated of his opportunity to die heroically. He it is who in the dark hours establishes chains of brotherly love. His usual style is to hold forth in eloquence and mock piety, to the amusement of himself and his listeners off if not on the stage. The part is admirably handled by Ramon Greenleaf, who preserves the air of masterful nonchalance throughout.
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