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The Playgoer

At the Shubert

By Herbert S. Meyers

Take a basically funny situation, put in the first act of a play, discuss it for an hour and forty minutes, and you have the substance of the new play at the Shubert, a French farce comedy, written by Andre Roussin, and adapted for America by Samuel Taylor.

If the situation is ludicrous enough, and if the actors handle it correctly, the result can be an evening of quiet chuckles with an occasional guffaw thrown in. "Nina" presents such a combination.

In the first act The Husband attempts to kill his Wife's Lover. Just as he decides against it, his Wife (The Mistress) arrives. For the remainder of the play the characters discuss their mutual relationship.

Gloria Swanson, David Niven and Alan Webb are starred in this production, and they all have their moments. Miss Swanson, fresh from being batted around by Jose Ferrer in "Twentieth Century," confirms the fact that she is a terrific ham. After a slow first act, she adjusts to the requirements of the "bon mot" dialogue, tossing off her lines with graceful aplomb. But she lags badly in the serious moments, gesturing wildly, striking majestic poses, and trying to act. Fortunately, there aren't many serious moments.

Niven, the suave, debonair Lover, is suave and debonair, but it is largely as a foil for Miss Swanson and Alan Webb that his role has signicance. He is the befuddled straightman and, as such, he hands the show to Webb on a silver platter.

Webb, remembered as the father in "The Winslow Boy," is a surefire comedian. At first the indignant husband, he is soon impressed by the glamorous life of Niven, and in a show-stopping soliloquy, makes the third act by extolling the duties of the carefree bachelor. He is magnificent.

All in all, the production is good. There is no action to speak of, but Taylor's dialogue is smooth and witty, and the three actors are able to maintain a rapid pace once the expository first act is over.

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