In its second production of the season, Alan Gray Holmes' stock company of Boston is hitting the pace. With Erford Gage as its guiding genius, the company has put on a rousing production of Kaufman-Ferber's play, "The Royal Family." By taking the cream of the dramatic crop in the past decade, Mr. Holmes has made a wise move, for the pep of the script carries the play along when the cast has an occasional low moment.
Based on the wild and woolly saga of the Family Barrymore, the play makes little attempt to disguise the famous trio, Ethel, John, and Lionel, under any pretense of fiction. Even under the pseudonym of Anthony Cavendish, John is still breaking up cameras and swatting directors; even as Julie Cavendish, Ethel is still having great hand-wringing emotions. Perhaps the element of cats looking at kings, of theatre audiences looking at the royalty of the stage with their hair down, is what makes the play so entertaining and so eminently satisfying to the humble playgoer. Even the Barrymores have earthly problems and feet of clay!
Any play gagged up by Kaufman takes hair-trigger handling to put it across. The production at the Copley, however, started off like a funeral procession. About the middle of the first act hope was fast fading when in whooped Erford Gage in a coon skin coat and the show began to shake the dust off its feet. By the end of the second act everyone was talking at once. Mr. Gage was roaring up and down stairs, Joan Croydon (Julie) was standing mid-stage screaming her head off, and things looked brighter. Things continued to look bright straight through to the final curtain.
Perhaps the production at the Copley doesn't have the slickness of the Tremont Street plays, but once it gets started it has plenty of zest, and backed by the fine Kaufman-Ferber script, it's a pretty good show.