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The Genius and the Goddess is just about what one would expect of a play by Aldous Huxley. A sharp, glib, often brilliant novelist, he can give his play a facade, but his matter is not always up to his manner. Moreover, his construction is often obvious or even awkward, and he does not build up to important moments quite plausibly.
His too-pat shuffling of characters on and off stage reveals his unsure stage craftsmanship, as do some of his strongest assets: some of his pungent, well-wrought lines, which sounded excellent from a nearly excessively bright novelist, can sound overpolished in the mouths of characters on stage, especially such a character as a housemaid.
There is not much to the play. A splendidly impractical, bumbling and brilliant Nobel-prize physicist, his wife, their children, and the professor's aide, form the nucleus of a mild plot involving near-death and a bit of adultery that reinstills vigor into the marriage. Philosophy bumps into the comedy a bit in the second half of the evening.
The best thing about it all is the character of the professor, who puddles around quoting Zeno and being abstract, and turns out to be perceptive even about one or two of the details of everyday existence. Sex, for instance. His bland assertion of delightfully simple and complex statements is masterful.
The credit for this constantly engaging role goes not just to Huxley but also to Alan Webb, whose face, postures, coughs, and general acting of the part come close to perfection. This portrait of a professor deserves to be seen and remembered.
Nancy Kelly is more than competent as the less intriguing, more familiar wife; Michael Tolan seems appropriate but not fortunate in the rather lifeless role of the professor's assistant, a role that seems to be forgotten by Huxley at the end of the play. Billy Quinn is a charming young boy, but Nina Reader, who plays his sister, should perhaps be sent back to a toy store. She intrudes on a play that is on the whole an often amusing bit of nearly nothing.
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