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For the fifth in its current series of six productions in Boston, the Theatre Guild has chosen Sophie Treadwell's "Hope for a Harvest" and headed the bill with man and wife, Fredric March and Florence Eldridge. Of the two decisions, the casting one is the happier;-"Hope for a Harvest" presents the spectacle of a mediocre piece of writing admirably exploited within its narrow limits by a popular cast.
It is an interesting, if not novel theme which the author has selected, but one which has been dealt with only lightly by her pen. After twenty years abroad, a wandering farmer's daughter returns to the old homestead, seeking relaxation and rebirth which she feels that getting back to the earth again can give her. She finds the old and sturdy stock has deteriorated. The oak has turned into an Oakie, and the cheap dance-hall, the installment-burdened car and mortgaged farm comprise the life of a people squeezed of ambition by years of poor crops and unprofitable prices. Fortified by her determination to overcome the forces which have laid Europe open to dictatorship, she puts an erring girl on the straight and narrow and shames a defeated peach-grower into new life and hope for a harvest.
This isn't a bad skeleton, but it is so over-simplified in its development that you feel it never achieves full body. If Miss Treadwell had devoted more of her imagination to a revelation of the inner conflict between hope and defeat, and less to a chronicling of life in the San Joaquin (which can be pretty dull at times), she would have had a more successful time of it. There is a long list of excellent characterizations headed by that of the Italian truck-grower, Alan Reed. Despite its deficiencies in depth--by no means an uncommon failing of play writing in this confused age when most authors seem either unable or afraid to go to the heart of the questions they ask--"Hope for a Harvest" is certainly not an unpleasant evening. With the assistance of a good share of varied talent it should go Marching along well into the end of the season.
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