A play in three acts and thirty-four scenes, by Hugh Stange. Settings by Arne Lundborg; staged and produced by Frank Merlin. At the Little Theatre.
NOT GRAND HOTEL
No matter how hard you try, you can’t get around comparing Mr. Stange’s “False Dreams, Farewell” with “Grand Hotel”, and it is equally difficult with the latter play in mind, to say very many nice things about this new arrival on Broadway.
The action in this thirty-four scene play takes place on the not-so-good ship Atlanta. She is off on her maiden voyage with a distinguished passenger list which includes a celebrated author on his way to receive the Nobel Prize, a Broadway columnist, an old millionaire, a cancer specialist, the inevitable movie queen and an assorted lot of scoundrels. A more badly behaved crowd would be impossible to find. Before the Atlanta, which of course is doomed, sinks, a series of misdeeds are performed by her passengers, who consider murder a minor crime.
The background of the play concerns the tight plight of an American ship-builder who is certain to be ruined unless his ship can sail the Atlantic in three days. The captain warns him that to push the vessel too fast will cause a breakup, but he nevertheless followed instructions and, sure enough, the Atlanta goes to pieces and you are left to imagine the watery death of the entire company.
With these ingredients you can readily see the melodramatic quality of this piece. Scenes showing the various passengers in their staterooms flash on and off the stage with rapidity. It is all supposed to give you little slices of life in the raw. An interesting vehicle, no doubt, but the lines are rather hackneyed and the whole thing is much too far removed from reality.
The large cast contains some names familiar to playgoers. Lora Baxter, Glen Anders, Frieda Inescort, Clarence Derwent, Natasha Boleslavsky and Millard Mitchell, who plays the part of the obscene novelist with gusto and not a little fun. The production itself is stagey, nobody ever quite gets the impression that they are viewing the interior of a great ocean liner. It looks like something you gave the kid to sail in the bathtub.