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For its third production of the current season, the Cambridge Summer Theatre has wisely chosen Samuel Raphaelson's sophisticated comedy about New York drama critics. Neither an extremely intellectual nor a provocative play, "Jason" does offer reasonably amusing entertainment and affords Conrad Nagel, a fine actor, an excellent opportunity to star as Jason Otis, most austere of the critics.
Jason, the ivory tower aesthete, has married a girl named Lisa. Actually the daughter of a Southern mill-hand, she poses as an aristocrat from Virginia. Into their marriage comes Mike Ambler, a reasonably accurate facsimile of William Saroyan, whose new play is about to open on Broadway. Ambler takes a fancy to Pason, tears down his reserves, and just as the critic is becoming stale, brings out the human qualities in him. But Ambler also falls in love with Lisa. The night of the opening of Mike's play the crisis comes: Lisa prepares to run off with Mike and Jason fights back with the only weapon he has--words. As Jason dictates his review of Ambler's play, he wins back his wife, re-establishes himself as a man and critic, and sends Mike off an humbled and perhaps slightly chastened man.
Since, at best, "Jason" is only a triangle play with a new twist, the acting of the two men and the wife must be top-notch. Fortunately Conrad Nagel provides the necessary suavity and elegance along with enough warmth and kindness as Jason to overcome the essential priggishness of the character. William Mendrek, though, as the passionate humanitarian, Mike Ambler, carries the first two acts. His crisp and colorful performance of the half-genius, half-charlatan, stands fair to steal the show until Mr. Nagel gets his chance in the third act, where he manages the review-dictating scene with intelligence and fine technique. But Louise Kanasireff, as Lisa, fails to rise to the level of the men; the wife is a badly realibed character and Miss Kanasireff contributes little to it. Among the others, John Taylor, Dennis Gurney and Nancy Duncan stand out as representative people of Ambler's beautiful world.
There are serious flaws in the script, but Raphaelson writes clean-cut dialogue with some stimulating conversation between critic and playwright. Had he been content to omit the love angle and concentrate more heavily on the conflict between the two men, there would have been a better play.
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