Liberally sprinkled with Harvard talent, The New England Repertory Company has opened its fourth year in Boston with the production of Noel Coward's "The Vortex" and Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid." While neither play represents its author at his best, both are rendered with the same determined effort and youthful enthusiasm that has won so many friends for the Repertory in the past three years.
The Coward play is a short work, too much lacking in depth of characterization and scope of treatment to resolve successfully the large problem with which it grapples. Yet within this limitation it achieves a certain power and vitality, fully expressed by the Repertory's able cast. Life in the post-war twenties is depicted as a vortex of ever-accelerating tempo which sucks in both young and old, and crushes them in a mad whirl of meaningless activity, devoid of all values, empty of all reality. A climax is reached in the mad piano-playing of young Nicky in the second act, louder and louder as his sensitive mind is driven close to insanity by the chaotic scene that surrounds him; his solution in the third act seems weak and superficial by comparison.
As a satire on the medical quackery of his day, Moliere's play becomes dated for a modern audience. "The Imaginary Invalid" nevertheless, is a far cry from the archaic. In the witty lines of the French master, the universal idiosyncrasies of the hypochondriac are ample material for an evening of delightful comedy. The Repertory version employs a single setting--Argan's sick-room--in which the familiar touch of John Holabird '42 appears with good effect.
Among those back from last year's season and doing creditable work in "The Vortex" are Catherine Huntington, and John Rand '43. Charles Stepanian and Director Robert de Lany, outstanding newcomers in both productions, show promise of aiding Boston's only full-time professional company on its steady climb to theatre prominence.
At its extremely low subscription and single-performance rates the Repertory continues to offer Boston its best entertainment buy, and certainly warrants a full house for each of the season's ten productions. "The Imaginary Invalid" will play again on November 5 and 6, with "The Vortex" following on the 7th and 8th.