We never believed that stuff about art flourishing on empty stomachs. "The theatre is in my blood," was just a line that sounded pretty when you became a Cornell or a Fontaine. We're still rather skeptical, but very much in spite of the New England Repertory Company and its current revival of "The Vinegar Tree." As an evening's entertainment, this surpasses almost anything now available on the local stage and screen.
The Repertory players, who have made the former Joy Street livery-stable their workshop for the past few years, board communally in a house on nearby Beacon Hill. Out of the modest proceeds of a box-office that depends on playgoer contributions (50c minimum) come first, production expenses and second, food for the Company; salaries are largely wishful thinking. "Which means," says Norman Mailer '43, in charge of publicity, "our diet is somewhat irregular."
Paul Osborn's "The Vinegar Tree," which they will perform through August 8, is a ten-year-old comedy of manners that, for harmless social nonsense, retains a surprising freshness. Except for a brief third-act lapse into didacticism, its clever risque dialogue will not lack punch for a generation schooled on the sharpness of Kaufman and Hart.
The plot, involving a maze of confused love relationships, centers about the well-meaning female scatterbrain whom we knew in Kaufman-Connoly as Dulcy. It was a role tailor-made for Billie Burke, who acted it in the original version, but Joy Street's Adele Thane plays Laura with a vitality that is not beyond compare.
John Rand '43 is an adequate juvenile lead opposite Carol Wheeler, a young lady with charm enough to make Harvard forget Mary Barthlemess.
Harvard Summer School Night, to be held at Joy Street on Saturday, August 8, should prove a soothing antidote for final exams.