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The Theatre

January 19, 1934
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A play in three acts and six scenes, by Charles Knox Robinson. Staged by Eduardo Ciannelli; settings by Thomas Farrar; produced by John R. Sheppard, Jr. At the Bijou Theatre.


The House of Prostitution as a national institution has always been vastly over-rated as a place of amusement. Its attractiveness can be blamed squarely on the deliciously enjoyed horror of the reformer and the downright sappiness of writers. As a matter of fact, even the academician knows that this once prevalent industry was as unpleasant as a factory job and about as colorful as a small town in North Dakota. Because it has always been under a ban it earned a reputation for wickedness quite at variance with the facts. Why prostitution has always either been glorified or defended has never been clearly pointed out. Most inmates of these houses go to them and stay in them because it is a comparatively easy way to make a living.

Charles Robinson, co-author of that bawdy and amusing farce, “Sailors Beware,” falls into the same error that confronts all sentimentalists when they write about realistic subjects. Unwilling to accept a house of prostitution as it really is, Mr. Robinson sets forth a rambling and particularly boring piece that purports to show life among the ladies in one of these places. He has made them a collection of neurotics and philosophers, who at the slighest provcation, go into long discourses about life, love and other general subjects. He points out that most of the girls do not like men and that their lives are a constant agony. As for a plot there is one and it is as trite as it could possibly be. It recounts the love of the Madame for her piano player, the good old professor, who is more interested in Bach and Beethoven than he is in sex. Madame Paris, who has used men all as a means to advance herself, falls heavily for the philosophical piano thumper and when they get together they sound as though they were preparing a tome for immediate publication and I might add, a tome that would find few readers. It is stale, and gawky.

The interior scene set up on the stage at the Bijou is just a little too grand and so are the costumes of the sad ladies who flit around like so many birds in a too-gilded cage. Olga Baclanova plays the part of Madame Paris and does about all that she can do with the lines. Eduardo Ciannelli is the professor, and why the Madame picked him out for her great and pure love is not quite clear. The rest of the cast goes through the motions with ease and some embarrassment, inspired no doubt by the paucity of the script. The entire production fails to reach a note of authenticity.


The Forrest Theatre has been booked to house “Theodora, the Queen” when it opens here during the week of January 29. The play is by Jo Milward and J. Kerby Hawkes and directed by Jo Graham. Elena Miramova and Minor Watson head the cast with Lina Abarbanell, Paul Everton, Lester Alden, Julia Colin and Carla Gloer supporting them.

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