In her first stage appearance in this country Miss Elisabeth Bergner acted the role of rescuer. She did a noble jobâ€”in fact, her acting was of such a quality that the audience at the Shubert Theatre was willing to forgive Margaret Kennedy for the weakness of “Escape Me Never,” the title of the vehicle in which Miss Bergner appeared.
Facing a New York audience for the first time, Miss Bergner found herself under a tremendous handicap. Her reputation preceded here. “Escape Me Never” had played in London for over a year; in addition, Americans had seen Miss Bergner in motion pictures. Selwyn and Franklin first announced Miss Bergner’s appearance and, when that producing firm relinquished its rights, the Theatre Guild took over the presentation. All this was done with a maximum of publicity and the premiere of “Escape Me Never” took on the aspects of an “event.”
“Escape Me Never” is a mediocre play, but it possesses one virtue â€”it gives Miss Bergner a chance onic talents, and they are consid-to show the range of her histrierable. Cast in the role of a spirited girl, who is at once a nearly vulgar wanton and an angel, Miss Bergner breezes her way through the scenes with a buoyancy and charm that transmit themselves across the footlights. She is able to do that one thing which is the gift of the truly great artistâ€”make you forget that she is acting.
PLOT OF DRAMA FOLLOWS MISS KENNEDYS’ NOVEL
In plot “Escape Me Never” follows closely “The Constant Nymph,” Miss Kennedy’s widely read novel. In fact, the present play is somewhat in the nature of a sequel. Again the turbulent, carefree Sanger family are the protagonists but this time Sebastian, the fool of the family, is the leading figure. Hugh Sinclair plays this role in a fitting and able manner.
In “The Constant Nymph” most of the characters were a rather delightful lot, but Sebastian in the present play is an utter cad. He leads Gemma Jones (Bergner) a bitter life. He allows her to share his poverty and deserts her when she needs him most. He not only mistreats Gemma but ruins his own career, yet through it all she remains devoted to him.
Although his characterization has not the element of great drama, it does give Miss Bergner the opportunity to show herself in a number of moods. As the play opens she is a sharp-tongued guttersnipe, then a flighty but winsome girl in love. As the play progresses she is required to act the part of a faintly jealous woman and finally must go through all the phases of despair. The scene in which a child by a former lover dies is a most poignant bit of acting.
The true test of Miss Bergner’s ability is your imagination, Try to picture another actress in this part. Her playing was never to be found in either the script of the play or the mind of the director. It was her own inspiration.
Welcome, Elisabeth Bergner, to the American stage. She is neither pretty of face nor figure, but she is an actress and what an actress!
GOLDENBURG MAY APPEAR IN SHOW ON BROADWAY
Samuel Goldenburg, the Yiddish actor, recently returned from Europe, where he visited and played in France, Belgium, Lithuania and Poland. Well known to Yiddish playgoers, he is not so familiar to patrons of the American stage, although he has played in such productions as “American Dream” and “Star Dust.” It is hinted that he will be seen in a Broadway production before this season’s snow has been forgotten…. The Group Theatre, whose last effort was “Gold Eagle Guy,” will offer on February 18 at the Belasco Theatre a play called “Awake and Sing.”… The cast of “Fly Away Home,” one of the season’s more amusing plays, will be entertained at tea by the Drama Club tomorrow afternoon…. S. Hurok, big dance and pantomime man, who last year offered the “Ballet Russe,” will start things going on February 18 when Michel Cheknov, nephew of the writer Anton, will introduce his own company with a repertoire of classic and modern Russian plays. The company calls itself the Moscow Art Players. Which reminds meâ€”what ever happened to the Russian entertainment that the positive little Oliver Saylor threatened to import to this country? Last year he sent out glowing notices of large impending events. It does seem as if the whole burden has again fallen on S. Hurok, who incidentally, does very well with his importations…. “Three Men On a Horse,” a comedy by John Cecil Holm and George Abbott, which had its premiere in Washington last week, will be brought into New York on January 30….