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Billboard (07/Feb/1942) - New Plays On Broadway: Plymouth





Beginning Tuesday Evening, January 27, 1942


A Play by John Van Druten, from the novel by Edwin Corle. Staged by Dudley Digges Settings designed by Jo Mielziner, built by Turner Scenic Construction Company, and painted by Studio Alliance. Business manager, J. H. Del Bondio. Press agent. Philip Stevenson. Stage manager. John E. Sola. Assistant stage manager. Andy Anderson. Presented by Dwight Deere Wiman.

Celia  — Anna Franklin
Virginia Stewart — Pat Hitchcock
Claire Ensley  — Joan McSweeney
Mrs. Stewart  — Sally Bates
Mr. Stewart — Ben Smith
Ben — Victor Kilian
Gosh — Harry Gresham
Tex  — Tony Albert
Heavy — Howard Smith
Dean — Frederic Tozere
First Officer — Blair Davies
Second Officer — Charles George
Third Officer — Robert Gilbert
Ryland — John D. Seymour

ACT I—Scene 1: The Stewarts' House and Garden in Pasadena. Afternoon. Scene 2: The Arroyo. Next Afternoon. Scene 3: The Same. Ten Days Later. Scene 4: The Stewarts' House. An Hour Later. ACT II—Scene I: The Arroyo. Four Days Later. Scene 2: The Stewarts' House. Ten Minutes Later. Scene 3: The Arroyo. That Night. Scene 4: The Stewarts' House. Five Day? Later.

Dwight Deere Wiman continues his campaign to aid the daughters of the rich with his production of Solitaire, John Van Druten's dramatization of a novel by Edwin Corle, which he presented at the Plymouth Theater Tuesday. In his recent Letters to Lucerne he hired for the cast the daughters of Leopold Stokowski, Clive Brook, Richard Barthel-mess, Stephen Morehouse Avery and himself, and was fortunate in that two of them turned out to be actresses; in this he has hired for the lead the 12-year-old daughter of Alfred Hitchcock, British film director. Little Miss Pat Hitchcock is a cute and engaging youngster who displayed a terrific memory by learning a marathon role and who shows occasional flashes of incipient talent while playing it. But she's no more ready for a Broadway lead than any other talented amateur of her age. She does a couple of scenes very nicely — notably the last — but for the most part she sounds like a little girl reciting a lesson that she doesn't understand very well, and even when her voice gives effect to the lines her movements are stiff, awkward and unnatural. Except for occasional moments it's very difficult, while she's on, to believe that you're watching anything but a rather ill-at-ease little girl trying to act in a play.

This is all the more a pity since Mr. Van Druten's comedy is charming, tender, occasionally moving and sometimes even exciting. It tells of a little girl in a well-to-do family in Pasadena, whose parents have brought up her on the "modern" plan (and who, as a result, have no understanding whatsoever of her needs and desires), who finds, in the weed-grown gulley beneath her house, a tramp who owns a live rat. The child and the tramp, viewing life with the same clear eyes, unmisted by the wried and sullied standards of adults, find warm reciprocal companionship. She brings him food from the pantry; he teaches her the rudiments of the philosophy of the pre-eminent mind (nothing is unless you thing it is) and gives her the sympathy and understanding she so badly needs.

But the evil of worldly, adult standards creeps into both their lives. The tramp's camp, shared with a few others, is invaded by a jailbird filled with glimmerings of social reform and is turned into a regimented dictatorship; the child.'s parents find out about her visits to the tramp and, since a little girl has been killed by a tramp in another part of town, get the authorities to burn out the camp. The youngster creeps out in the night to warn her friend, is manhandled by the new hobo forces and rescued at the last minute by her father and the police. Thereafter she grieves, hating her mother, who had said that she'd like to see the tramp dead, and she only recovers when her father gets her hobo friend out of jail and he sets her straight and bids her a final farewell. He's going to walk over to Arizona, where the sun is hotter.

There is, in the writing, a delicate yet warm interplay of viewpoints, a fine understanding of the psychology of the child, a few thrusts at unseeing modern parents and much humor and charm. It would be a finely effective and ar-fecting play if only Miss Hitchcock and her co-workers would allow you to believe more than momentarily in the reality of the characters. The fault is not in the writing, but in the playing.

Exempt — pre-eminently so — in the general indictment is Victor Kilian, who returns from a long sojourn in Hollywood to play the tramp and offer an altogether beautiful performance. It is warm, sincere, quiet, understanding and finely effective. So good is he, in fact, that when he is alone with Miss Hitchcock he even puts that young lady comparatively at her ease. Her stiffness, tho, manages to communicate itself to many of the others, notably to Sally Bates and Ben Smith, who play her mother and father. Nice jobs in smaller roles are offered by Howard Smith, Tony Albert, Harry Gresham and Frederic Tozere, but none of them are particularly aided by Dudley Digges' direction, which should have brought an easier flow and movement both to the individual players and to the general action.

Jo Mielziner's sets are magnificent and the entire physical production is excellent. You'd think that, after going to all those pains, Mr. Wiman would have insured his investment by hiring an actress' for his lead. Little Miss Hitchcock looks as tho she may become an excellent one some day, but meanwhile Solitaire, a lovely and charming play, has had to suffer.