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Variety (04/Feb/1942) - Plays on Broadway: Solitaire




  • Patricia Hitchcock was actually 13 years old when she played the role.


Plays on Broadway


Play in two acts, eight scenes, by John Van Druten, based on novel by Edwin Corle. Produced by Dwight Deere Wiman: staged by Dudley Digges: settings by Jo Mielziner. At the Plymouth, N.Y., Jan. 27. '42. $3.30 top.

Cella — Anna Franklin
Virginia Stewart — Pal 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

This is a sometimes beautiful, but consistently bewildering, exposition of the theme that the world in which we live is created within individual consciousness, and a change of viewpoint brings about changed circumstances. It's taking a long chance to epitomize in a sentence what John Van Druten seemed unable to expound in two acts and eight scenes. Nevertheless, that appears to be the idea. In the Broadway competition, 'Solitaire' will have a hard road ahead.

The passages which best held the audience are exchanges between a nine-year-old poor, little rich girl, possessing a weird imagination, and an elderly tramp, who lives the life of reilly in an improvised shack on the ground floor of a Pasadena arroyo, far removed from the temptation of a steady job. The child is in quest of wisdom. The old man expounds philosophically of the inner self. Between them, they make out a pretty good case tor the proposition that things aren't as bad as they seem, particularly when the little girl brings canned goods to the tramp which she pinches from her mother's pantry.

As for making some effective use of these theories in a dramatic plot, Van Druten fails completely. A bit of excitement occurs late in the play when the child's life is endangered by advances of some extremely tough characters, an ex-convict, a thief and a moron, unsavory neighbors of the old man. At this point all the poetry flies out of the stage door, leaving only unpleasant implications of what can happen to a little girl when, in disobedience of her parents' wishes, she strays from the safety of a California patio. The police enter in time to snatch her from harm.

It cannot be said that any laxness in the acting, the directing or the production itself accounts for the fog which envelops Van Druten's play. Part of the child is played flawlessly by Pat Hitchcock, nine-year-old daughter of Alfred Hitchcock. film director. Apart from the length of the role, which she takes right in stride, she wins the affections of the audience with each successive scene.

As the old man of the ditch, Victor Kilian turns sordidness and sloth into a kind of decency by the tenderness of his affection for the little girl. He's a slightly whacky character in a harmless sort of way.

Two settings by Jo Mielziner are extraordinary. The hobocamp at the bottom of a gulley is fine stage realism, enhanced by excellent lighting. The patio of the home overhead is neatly designed. Action of the play alternates between these two backgrounds, which are whirled into position with remarkable speed.

Others in the cast are distinctly secondary to Miss Hitchcock and Kilian. Sally Bates and Ben Smith are the parents; Howard Smith, Harry Gresham, Tony Albert and Frederic Tozere are the other arroyo residents. Joan McSweeney, of Miss Hitchcock's age, is as self-possessed a youngster with a cute manner as has been back of footlights in some time. It's a pity that she only has a bit.