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William Inge has written a play, his first of note, which should mark him as one of the most promising of the new authors. Choosing a simple theme: a search for happiness can be rewarded only by looking forward, he has given it life by vivid portrayal of emotion and tightly knit dramatic action. His play falters only because of his personal insecurity as a new author.
Although Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer are excellent in their representation of life as Inge has painted it, he allows his theme to come out too bluntly. The first scene reveals a dream of Miss Booth's in which she is walking with her dog, Sheba. As they slowly begin their trip, Sheba is admired, but as they walk faster and faster, passing many blocks, Sheba becomes lost. Miss Booth calls for Sheba to come back, just as she is trying to call her youth back, but events have passed since she has achieved this admiration and Sheba does not answer.
Mr. Inge does not feel that the audience will be able to understand his theme, and therefore he supplies us with this all-enclosing, but unnecessary analogy. Fortunately this comparison is packaged into two short lumps, that of the first scene and one in the last in which she sees that Sheba is dead and her husband Sidney Blackmer (her present life) is taking its place. Because of this condensation however, interest in the play itself is diminished.
The drama is essentially one of emotions. Miss Booth, previously known as a comedienne, reveals herself as a sensitive actress. Her interpretation of a housewife who tries to regain her former happiness by reliving her youth through a young couple presents a tragic episode of the highest calibre.
Mr. Blackmer is also highly successful in his portrayal of a man who tries not to look back, realizing that his past is sealed and he must go on despite it.
"Come Back Little Sheba" in its present form does not have the polish necessary for complete success. However, because of Mr. Inge's valiant attempt and the superb acting of the players it offers a very intriguing production.
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