Drama as She Is Played

In “My Lady’s Dress,” Edward Knoblauch created a new character for the theatre. He was the man dressmaker, the exquisite, whose refined cruelty and tastes brought him success and in the end disaster. With great skill Knoblauch revealed the man’s feline qualities, his vanity, his hardness, his practical devotion to business and even his charm. Now we have a different kind of man dressmaker on the stage. He appears in “Lombardi, Ltd.” Lombardi, the latest stage man dressmaker, is very kind, sweet, very good but not very interesting. He is so full of self-sacrifice and piety that one’s heart goes out to his traducers. Indeed his sweetheart, whom he refuses to kiss (so pure is he) is really the tragic figure in the play. Naturally she runs away with another man without the formality of a wedding certificate. Furthermore, as she explains, she will never get married. Lombardi’s goodness had ruined the poor child. The most amusing character in the play is the innocent little mannequin who insists that Lombardi seduce her. She had been told, she explains, that it was impossible to remain virtuous and be a mannequin at the same time. “I am ready to be ruined,” she tells the astonished Lombardi, “any time you say so.” Needless to say, in Lombardi’s shop the poor working girl is safe. I am inclined to believe that in real life Lombardies do exist in greater quantities than the kind of dressmaker depicted by Mr. Knoblauch. That accounts for the dullness of life, for the pleasure “My Lady’s Dress” gave everyone.

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It was a very great relief to witness the “Gay Lord Quex.”

I always thought the play a good one; an excellent portrayal of the manners of the period. Pinero was a very shallow person. He never got over that stage of boyhood when a night at the Empire represents fascinating wickedness. But just for that reason he got a capital grasp of what average people in England really think. The clever people that think Shaw so wonderful do not realize that his characters might possibly exist in the moon, but have nothing to do with life on this particular grain of dust.

The play was well enough acted; though, of course, Americans can never give the tone of English society. John Drew came nearest to success, though perhaps he was aided by a strong personal resemblance to a well known Welsh aristocrat. Valma was played extremely well, and Margaret Illington was very good indeed in what I think is one of the most difficult woman’s parts ever written. She was certainly far from successful if she wished to make the part sympathetic, and indeed I think it never could be altogether so. But the quality of her acting was certainly extremely fine. The famous bedroom scene could not have been better played. Muriel Eden was particularly charming, with the largest and most fascinating mouth ever seen on any stage. The part of Sir Chichester Frayne was very cleverly played; exactly the right foil to Quex. The Duchess was an American Duchess.

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“What is Your Husband Doing,” is a marvelous farce. It is marvelous because it is funny without being risky. Every character in the play is thoroughly respectable and yet contrives to be intensely amusing. It is a genuinely American farce, borrowing neither from Paris nor from Berlin nor yet from London. Boston would call it “in good taste”; Chicago, “dainty”; San Francisco, “clean cut.” We call it good comedy. May George V. Hobart never write a worse piece.


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