The Little Hut

At the Plymouth

Both the handbill and the marquee at the Plymouth Theatre insist that the current offering is a "light comedy." And indeed it is, a very funny one, buoyed above the usual theatrical problems and conflicts by recurring updrafts of fantastic whimsy. So that the audience may never doubt its airy intentions, The Little Hut is built on a desert island. Three shipwrecked Britishers live there: Philip, his wife Susan, and best friend Henry. Clothed in the dinner jackets and evening gown they were wearing when the ship foundered, these little corners of England brave the balmy wilderness with a pre-dinner coconut milk hour and post dinner coach shell fingerbowls. The total effect is Robinson Crusoc as revised by Noel Coward.

But unlike Coward, author Andre Roussin is no master of sustained dialogue, so the humor comes in quick thrusts and two line jokes. Many of the laughs derive from wryly incongruous lines in the accent and style made familiar to America by Ealing Studios. In the present case, Henry first stuns Philip with the news that Susan has been keeping open house in her bedroom for the past six years, then says to the ashen cuckold in clipped syllables, "I hope you're not upset, old boy." Now, there obviously can be only so much of that particular type of nonsense at any one sitting, but it's fun for a while.

Recently, many comedies have been variations on the theme of immorality, but few have so successfully skirted the wide bog of poor taste into which much humor based on sex falls.

As unstraining as the script, and only occasionally resorting to pratfalls and double takes, the small cast maintains the cheerfully precise manner that Britain seems to expect of her theatrical children. Roland Culver, as Philip, seems the most competent, and is assured enough a comedian to risk being an unobtrusive straight man when the libretto so demands. But his colleagues, Anne Vernon and Celin Gordon, are certainly more than adequate, and the cast's measure of excellence is the smooth mesh of the three parts into a gently round of risque chuckles.

A stylized set by Oliver Messel, with out-sized exotic fruit and flowers run wild, help free the improbable story from the sight bounds of possibility. And, while there was probably little confusion, Peter Brooks' direction keeps the action flowing at a leisurely step. In all, this pleasant trifle should enjoy a respectable run applauded by many friends. ROBERT J. SCHOENBERG