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Critical Moments

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Beginning with Sunday’s issue of The Jewish Daily Bulletin, Critical Moments will appear regularly on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday of each week.

The Day of Atonement, I hope, found the producers of “First Episode,” “Errant Lady,” and “Alley Cat,” three new productions that came to Broadway this week, in a repentant mood. Each had something to atone for.

“First Episode,” which the Shubert’s presented at the Avon, is not an American product. It was imported from an England which is not so merry. The work of Terence Rattigan and Philip Heinmann, it is said to have been greeted with some warmth by British audiences. Americans, however, will not react in the same way.

“First Episode” is almost a good play. Had the authors developed their theme with any consistency, the result might have been rather moving, but they bog down badly and end in a limp. The story is one of life among the undergraduates in an English university. It seems Tony has been having an affair with the beautiful Margot. Tony’s room mate, David, is aghast. In fact he is downright jealous, being that kind of a boy. Margot, who knows the bad influence David wields over Tony, plays David a pretty mean trick and manages to have him expelled from college. What finally happens is quite routine.

The leading roles, played Patrick Waddington, Leona Maricle and John Halloran, do not quite convince for the simple reason that the play itself is sloppily conceived and indifferently directed.

Nat N. Dorfman’s comedy, “Errant Lady,” is a slight improvement over “First Episode.” It contains moments during which the laughter of the audience at the Fulton Theatre was genuine but, alas, the mirth-provoking scenes are all too few.

The plot of “Errant Lady” is calculated to titillate Broadway play goers. Set in a country estate in Westchester, it concerns a wealthy family. The middle-aged mother is the domineering head. This lady is all bound up with the idea of the social graces. Vulgarity to her is almost anything she does not approve. She has an equally senseless daughter who is married. The young lass pops into the house and announces she is going to give up her husband for a dashing expatriate Russian nobleman. Her husband, and I thought he was foolish, will not give up his silly wife without a struggle, and in a drinking bout with the Russian nearly reaches the point of homicide. Ma, however, tries to save the day by stating that the Russian is really in love with her, and much to her surprise her own husband is delighted over the prospect of losing his wife and amiably wanders off to do some hunting. In the end things right themselves and the daughter returns to her husband.

Leona Powers, as the mother, plays her role with tact and skill. Her cloying characterization of a forty-odd-year-old matron who is a nuisance to everyone is excellently done. Helen Walpole, as the flighty daughter, is also well cast. The rest of the cast act as though they enjoyed their work.

“Alley Cat,” adapted by Alan Dienhart and Samuel Shipman from a story by Lawrence Pohle, is a melodrama which was, I am sure, opened by mistake at the Forty-eight Street Theatre. It is one of those impossible things that give people who do all their theatre going on passes a chance to say nasty things about the Broadway stage.

For the sake of keeping the record intact this is to tell you that “Alley Cat” is the story of a great love, the love of a broker for a little and, of course, shapely waif. Our broker is broke. His wife has left him. He has decided to end it all when into his life comes the gal. She is also on the verge of giving up but they decide that misery can be sweetened if they share their misfortunes. They are happy for a time, when the broker’s wife returns to the scene and claims her spouse. Our heroine very nobly gives him back to his wife but before the final curtain rolls down the broker and his waif are reunited and you are given to believe that they lived mildly happily ever after.

“Alley Cat” would make a bad second-rate movie. It undoubtedly will be seen on the screen next Summer.

Beginning with Sunday’s issue of The Jewish Daily Bulletin, Critical Moments will appear regularly on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday of each week.

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