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Critical Moments

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Mr. Rufus King has these past ten years done very well by himself through the medium of detective and mystery novels. His books have enjoyed, via the Crime Club, very gratifying sales but like the prize fighter who thought he could be a wrestler Mr. King had and for that matter still may have, theatrical ambitions. To satisfy that itch he wrote a thing called “Invitation to a Murder” which was produced at the Masque Theatre and will in all probabilities still be playing when these lines reach you.

“Invitation to a Murder” is not as cute as the title indicated and certainly there is nothing gentee, about it. Set in Southern Ca###nia it concerns the bloody doings in the Channing family, folks de scended from pirates. The current Channing is a witch-like gal whose capacity for dispatching her follow-beings is enormous. Most of the play concerns the plot to do away with one not very obstreperous member of the clan. To this end just about everything that can happen in a mystery play is trotted forth. Trap doors Maxim silencers, poison, ghost walking, curdling yells and sundry other methods calculated to keep an audience on the edge of a plush seat are used without stint.


Successful horror and mystery plays are usually those in which the author uses restraint in frightening his public. Mr. King has gone completely wild and has not only used both barrels but a whole battery of guns as well. The result is the familiar one-the audience after the first five or six gasps settles down and refuses to be moved by anything less than an explosion. Then again, an over-abundance of this sort of thing convinces the paying guests that they are safe and snug within the confines of a playhouse and all that is happening before them is unreal.


When the Theatre Union took upon its collective shoulders the task of presenting Paul Peters and George Sklar’s “Stevedore,” the realistic play about the ###tice of race prejudice, the Idea was to keep the show open ### about six weeks. Since the premier curtain went up at the old Civic Repertory Theatre on West 14th Street the Union has been so busy herding people into the show house that they have forgotten all about their original intentions. Imagine Sylvia Regan, manager, finding out the other day that the house is practically sold out for the remainder of the month!


It is all a little distressing especially to Broadway audiences who are in the habit of calling up their ticket brokers and ordering seats for whatever they want to see and always getting them. After the critics gave “Stevedore” a great big push these Broadwayites condescended to look to the quaint playhouse and its play for entertainment but they soon discovered that they would have to wait in the line with the rest of the common people. According to Miss Regan the entire house has been sold out for no less than 124 theatre parties, liberal and radical organizations being among the most constant users of the play as a means of raising funds. This in a measure accounts for the trouble in getting tickets but ever without these special parties “Stevedore” would find an audience because it is a sincere, stirring, well acted play.

If you really must see “Stevedore” you will have to be patient and if you can’t be patient then wait until the end of this month and take yourself to a book store where you will be able to buy a copy of the script in book form.

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