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Whimsy, wit, charm, and pace has Max Reinhardt's production of Thornton Wilder's new farce, "The Merchant of Yonkers," which opened last night with Jane Cowl in the leading role. And yet this sometimes touching story of the petty desires of mankind for excitement and fun and just a little money, is not really so different from the poignant "Our Town" in its sympathetic treatment of the average mortal, a treatment almost Dickensonian in quality which has made Mr. Wilder one of the foremost dramatists of our-time.
The plot revolves around the machinations of a certain Mrs. Levi, an inveterate minder of other peoples' business, who is set on marrying for his money Horace Vandergelder, a self-made old skinflint who runs a feed store in the Yonkers of the early '80's. In the end she hooks him, but not until young lovers have been kept apart, new ones brought together, and everyone found the adventure that he has been craving.
As Mrs. Levi, the artful Miss Cowl once more displays her superb timing and mastery of comedy technique. It is only to be hoped that sometime, somewhere, she will be made to play a whole scene with her hands in her pockets. But Miss Cowl is not the whole show by any means. Percy Waram is grand as the stingy and irascible Vanergelder, known to his subordinates as the "wolf trap". Tom Ewell, in the role of Cornelius Hackl who is getting away from it all for the first time in his life at the age of 33, is corking. June Walker, staunch old trooper, turns in an adequate performance and John Call, Joseph Sweeney, Bartlett Robinson (who looks startlingly like a Bennington drama boy), and Nydia Westman are all excellent in minor roles.
If any fault can be found with this play, it is that it is considerably too long and just a touch preachy in some of the soliloquies: both faults which can be remedied by pruning.
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