Denver Daily Rocky Mountain News|
19 May 1877
An Interesting Sketch of An Interesting New Play.
[Washington correspondence St. Louis Globe-Democrat.]
"Ah Sin," the ungodly Chinaman, has made his bow, convulsed the audience and been assured by their enthusiasm of his success. As the joint play of two such humorists as Bret Harte and Mark Twain, it could not fail to be funny. The characters gained additional interest as one recognized the marks of their authors, and all through the performance one distinguished the humor and keen sarcasm of Bret Harte and the roaring fun of Mark Twain. The house was crowded with the most distinguished audience Washington could present, and there was a gala appearance about every one. "Abner Plunkett," the inspired liar, and the hero of Mark Twain's creation, appears in the first act with his unparalleled yarns about his doings in the Mexican and Revolutionary wars, and what Chris. said to him when they discovered America, playing poker to enliven the long journey to this undiscovered continent. "Ah Sin," the hero of Bret Harte, comes on, the most complete Mongolian ever born outside the Celestial Kingdom. It seems hardly possible for any white man to make such a perfect Chinaman as Parsloe does; but from felt shoes to pig-tail, he is faultless. The slant eyes, the innocent smile, the child-like sing-song voice and the peculiar gait are all there, and the first sight of him set the audience into roars of laughter. The plot is ingeniously constructed to bring "Ah Sin" in at every scene and step. It opens with a mining scene in the Black Hills, when "Miss Tempest," a San Francisco belle, by an accident to the stage coach, is forced to wait in the camp until it is mended. "Plunkett," the great liar, entertains the young lady--shows her a picture of "York," a mine owner, calling it that of his son, and giving it to her in exchange for one of her own, which he afterwards tells "York" is his daughter's. "York" buys his claim, and while talking to him "Ah Sin" steals his gloves, handkerchief, pistols and deed of the claim, stuffing them into his blouse, after all the other loose property has found its way there. "Plunkett" divides his pile with the villain "Broderick," and the two set down to a game of draw. "Ah Sin" fires off his pistol in the distance, and the players leave their cards to run to the sound, while the Chinaman deals out hands to suit himself and again hides. When they return and resume, the fun begins. Washington is said to be home of poker since mining days in the west, and the audience followed with breathless interest the little game of bluff that ensues. After betting everything, even to his mother-in-law, "Plunkett" holds up four aces against "Broderick's" four kings. He takes his pickax to the claim he was won, unearths a "pocket," and in the midst of it is killed by "Broderick" and his body thrown into the river. "Broderick" hides his blood-stained coat; "Ah Sin" finds it, puts it in his valise, and when assailed by him with a pick, softly holds out a pistol, accepts $500 for the coat, and while rolling it up with a brick, for "Broderick," substitutes some old rags, which the villain throws into the river, while "Ah Sin" displays the coat hidden under his own blouse. In the second act, "Ah Sin" is shown at his out-door laundry sprinkling the clothes, after his native fashion, and ironing. Mrs. and Miss Tempest arrive in advance of the father, to be the guests of York, and learning that he also expects Mrs. and Miss Plunkett to arrive, assume their names, and are treated by York as the wife and daughter of the murdered miner. The genuine Plunketts arrive, and mistaking Broderick for York, accept of his "hostilities," as Mrs. Plunkett calls them. Mrs. Malaprop was a mere tyro to this latter creation, and her Queen's English was embellished in every way the two authors could devise. Then Mrs. and Miss Plunkett are introduced to Mrs. and Miss Tempest, the little alias explained, and a plan laid for each to impersonate the other during a lunch with York. This scene is most mirthful, and the thing has become "all mizee upee like mushee," when York is arrested by Judge Lynch for the murder of Plunkett. The court scene is ahead of anything of its kind before presented. The judge sits on a box, draws his pistol and wants to know "if he's got to kill a man every time he tries a case like this," when the intelligent jury rush at the prisoner with cries of "Hang him!" "Ah Sin," on the witness stand, is a cause of laughter, even to tears. He produces the bloody coat, and, running out brings in Plunkett, whom he pulled out of the river, nursed and concealed in his own cabin. The inspired liar tells of his reform, and to prove his veracity tells a bigger lie than ever. "York" is released, and the curtain goes down on "Plunkett" in the bosom of his family, and "Miss Tempest" pledged to change her name once more to that of "York." The play is a roaring farce from beginning to end. Both authors have done their best to make audiences laugh and grow fat. "Ah Sin" is prominent throughout, his comments, asides and philosophical views being scattered through every scene. His drunken scene is inimitable, and his lively defense of his life with flat-irons is more than equaled by his efforts in setting the table, imitating every act of his nervous mistress in letting the cloth slide, breaking plates and filling the cruet of the castor with the medicinal oil of that name. He jerks along with his umbrella and carpet-bag, with a smile oh so childlike and bland, and, picking out a gold nugget from a claim, advances, holding it in his thumb and forefinger, and says: "Oh? Nellie," in a little, innocent, piping tone that takes everyone. The play can be considerably improved yet, by additions which the actors and authors will think of, and the pruning of much of the talk which constitutes the quaintness and charm of their writing, but rather less effective in drama. Plunkett, the swaggering, mendacious miner, has stepped directly from the books of both men, and his character was finely rendered; but Parsloe received the honors of the evening. After every act the pig-tailed hero was called out and greeted with storms of applause. When the curtain fell for the last time, there were roars and uproars for Harte! Harte! Mark Twain! Mark Twain! and finally "Ah Sin" came out with a telegram from Mark, which Mr. Varney read. As he unrolled and unfolded its long, snaky length, one foresaw a joke, and I expected it would be yards in length, with only a few words on it. Mark excused his absence with a sick-list excuse: said he had two speeches written, one for failure and one for success--let him know which they wanted. The calls for Harte were fruitless; that individual was hidden away somewhere in the house, remaining invisible to his admirers, but sending a kind note of thanks to the manager and the actors.