Following a production of "I Was a King in Babylon" that shrunk some fifteen or twenty minutes with each presentation--and became, therefore, progressively incoherent--the whole concoction of "experimental drama" has reached a boiling point in danger of exploding the esoteric little test-tube--blowing obscure lines, allusive ripostes, and painfully witty scenes into that theatrical afterworld from which reincarnation is impossible.
While the purpose of the stage is not solely to entertain, it is also not to depress, embarrass, or mystify, as so many of the extremely outre productions of local theater groups have done. The Veterans Theater Workshop last week went through the motions of a play that was not only nebulous and long, but literally a poor piece of writing. The Harvard Dramatic Club, running in a flying wedge behind a superbly ingenious press-agent, managed to fill the house for a production whose only scintillating features were its novelty and its fig-leaf.
Fortunately, neither of the plays presented this season went bad for lack of acting ability. Ted Allegretti, John Lemmon, and others of the Harvard Dramatic Club have shown themselves capable of handling anything within the realm of reasonable histrionies. Mendy Weisgal, Marie Heath, and the company of the Veterans Theater Workshop displayed unusual talent in keeping a shoddy vehicle moving. Clearly, the faults that resulted in snarling press notices and red-scrawled ledgers lay in the choosing and not the acting of the productions.
The student playgoer and his companion aren't particularly anxious to see a third-hand version of a second-rate Broadway production in which the favorite college wit unsuccessfully attempts an imitation of Monty Wooley or Victor Moore. Nor are they cheered to the point of unharnessing two dollars to listen to a short-haired female with a ereased face speak several languages miserably in a baroque drama by a rococco Slovene mystic. Shakespeare and Jonson may seem hackneyed to the man whose camp-chair bears the words "Director," but they are being done weekly in the classroom with great success. And in the whole range of drama from Aeschylus to O'Neill are plays that will make theater-going something other than a trial by ordeal.
This evening the Radcliffe Idler opens in John Fletcher's "To Rule a Wife and Have a Wife," a bawdy masterpiece whose advertising blurb does not, happily, contain the words: "world premiere."