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A Critic Turns Playwright

THE LITTLE BLUE LIGHT by Edmund Wilson, Farrar, Straus. 163 pp., $2.75.

By George A. Leiper

Early last fall a prominent literary critic was in Cambridge trying to interest the people over at Brittle Hall in producing a play he had just written. Nothing over came of it, and had the playwright not been named Edmund Wilson, the general public might have been spared such a preposterous serving of rag-tag dialectics as his "The Little Blue Light."

There is nothing to recommend this play to the reader. It does not have even the grace of good writing. Mr. Wilson's blurb writers say that it is satirical and compare it with his "Hecate County" stories and the late George Orwell's "1984." It is lacking in the originality and horrifying interest of the latter; it doesn't have the graphic eroticism of the former. There is an uneasy amount of symbolism (to put across in dialogue), and the symbols and extended metaphors are brought up and then dismissed to make way for others. (This, by the way, is not Wilson's first published play; a collection of his earlier plays was issued under the enticing title. "This Room and This Gin and These Sandwiches.")

The setting for "The Little Blue Light' is a suburb of New York in the "not remote future." Politically and culturally, America is in a bad way. Only the Democratic Party remains, and it is just a collection of pressure groups trying to throttle each other. The only left-wing group is the Constitutionalists--they want to keep the Constitution. The Reds are a strong factor and the most reactionary. The most dangerous group is called the Children of Peter (Mr. Wilson has been justly frightened by "American Freedom and Catholic Power," it would seem). The central character is a magazine publisher who is the Voice of Reason. His wife is the Eternal Hussy: the intelligent emancipated woman, who, while flaying with one hand the dragons her man must kill, still holds fast to the bedpost. There is a visitor to their household who writes modern Gothic novels about an evil spirit named Slime Shindigs, and who can see a little blue light hovering over the house. His function is to play Cassandra, which he does by jamming about the blue light and his damn Shindigs (which, spelled backwards, you see, is almost Myles Standout: Puritanism?).

Edmund Wilson doesn't know, apparently, too much about play writhing. But if this play were ever produced, he would make one actor very happy, I wager. That would be the actor who played The Gardener. He is the character who does the moralizing; he is the philosopher whom no one ever listens to. When everyone else has been killed by a death-ray flash-light, he is left on the stage to talk by himself for a good three minutes. A good deal, eh? But now get this--in the first scene the Gardener is an Italian, in the next he has an Irish brogue, then Scottish, then Russian, and, finally--for his last speech he is the Wandering Jew! (Where!

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