"HAUNTED HOUSES." I
Presented by Players' Club.
The question "Haunted Houses" sets out to answer is whether young people, even when passionately in love, would venture into marriage if they knew the risks they were taking. Lucifer (who makes one of his l'nie personal appearances on the stage) thinks that the ardour of the mo.st bewitched pair of lovers would be cooled by glimpses of a matrimonial disaster or two. St. Valentine, a genial old romantic, takes the opposite view, and offeis to give ijucifci clmige of two lovers whom he thinks are proof against disenchant- ment. Lucifer can have charge of these young people for a day. He atcepts the challenge, and contrives to make them invisible witnesses of thiee scenes of domestic infelicity. Thus, for most of the play, the lovcis nud Lucifer and St. Valentine are unseen and the audience watches crises in the lives of three other people.
The pioblem which was faced -by^-Mr. John Appleton, who produced IhLs play for the Players' Club at St. James' Hall on Saturday night, was to give unity to this collection of episodes. In the foreground of the (drama am two fantastic characters, Lucifer and St. Val- entine, and the lovers. Yet these people are the most real fiom the audience's point of view. The Browns and the Smiths and the Robinsons, who are presented by Lucifer in his object lessons, though they are Intrinsically more matter-of-fact, nevertheless are once re- moved from the realities or the play. Mr. Appleton suggested this by displaying them within a frame set back on the stage, and by bridging the distance which separated the front-line characters from the imagined ones with music played while the stage was in darkness. These devices succeeded and this difficult play was given life and coherence.
Clarence E. Street made Lucifer a cunning old reprobate with a fine sense of the dramatic. St. Valentine (played by William Wines) was an agreeable old fogey. The young lovers were played by Barbara Smith (who made her first appearance after two years' of training and ex- perience in London) and Stewart Dibley. Miss Smith's confidence and clarity of expiession were exemplary, but in some of the play's quieter moments she seemed too tense, and this quality was emphasised by the excessive quietness of most of the other players. The most effective of those who appeared in the inset plays were Edward Jackson, as the dying scientist, John Copeman as" a suave seducer, Helen Blood, Gwen Langley, Alex Boden, and Leonard Bullen. Shirley Ann Richards, as the young wife in the third playlet, looked so captivating that It was difficult to feel sorry for her misunderstood husband.
"Haunted Houses," which was written by Geoffrey Whitworth, an English dramatist, will be repeated on March 21 and 28.