Chicago Inter Ocean|
7 August 1877 (reprinted from the Dramatic News)
What is Said About Mark Twain's Latest Contribution to Dramatic Literature.
The serio-comic lecture which Mr. Clemens calls Ah Sin and which is divided into four parts, was delivered at the Fifth Avenue Theater on Tuesday evening by about thirteen people. Not that they all spoke "contemporaneously," as Mr. Daly would no doubt put it. Each of the thirteen had a proper and solitary opportunity to "jerk in" his personal "chin music," as Mr. Clemens himself would certainly express it. Of Ah Sin, which is a harrowingly thoughtless aggravation of our present hot weather, we forbear to speak as a drama--principally because it isn't one, and our conscience is yet tender. To employ the energetic phraseology of its gifted author (who, no doubt, views its grave acceptance by the American people as the crowning joke of a mournfully "humorous" career) the hero of the lecture is an alleged Chinaman, who, through two hours and a half, waltzes through all manner of impossible incidents and situations, merely to give him a chance of saying "Melican man" every five minutes. In cooler weather the fun of this is, perhaps, enormous. With the thermometer at 95 degrees, persons have been heard to request of the usher particular instructions as to the proper instant for a smile. Mr. Parsloe is an exceedingly clever character actor. Perhaps, in some lines, he has no equal, and his Ah Sin is a wonderfully photographic portrait of the yellow heathen. Mr. Parsloe's Ah Sin, however, is his own creation, and not that of Mr. Clemens. It is the Chinaman of Mr. Parsloe's own experience, and not the Chinaman of Mr. Clemens' exuberant fancy. Therefore Mr. Parsloe deserves the hearty commendations which we should be glad to shower on Mr. Clemens, if we could. Parloe's "make-up" is not the least effective feature of his gallant struggle with the inanity which Mr. Clemens obtained from Mr. Bret Harte as security for a loan, and on which he has imposed an additional idiocy of his own.
Perhaps anything so commonplace, so trite, and so fustian as Ah Sin has never been offered New York, even at Daly's Theatre. Were it not for the excellent actors who, here and there, diversify its monotonous mediocrity, it would be a rather drearier entertainment than Waves or The Crabbed Age.
The cast which has been engaged to support Mr. Parsloe is a very good one. Mrs. Plunkett, the most conventional of Mrs. Malaprops, was admirably enacted by Mrs. Gilbert. Miss Dora Goldthwate [sic] made a charming Shirley Tempest, and Miss Mary Wells played her mother capitally. Edith Blande, a very engaging English burlesque actress, made a good deal of the part of Caroline Anastasia Plunkett, and, as a whole, the ladies were extremely good. Mr. Parsloe, as we have said before, was an enormously droll Chinaman, but even of his unquestionable merriment there was "an elegant sufficiency." Mr. Henderson's Plunkett was, of course, an almost perfect type of character, and the rest--well, the rest were pretty good.
Mr. Clemens, by the way, has got into a habit of going round with his "dramas," presumably to contribute the fun which they don't contain. This, it strikes us, has the merit of originality, and if he would let his apology take a postscript form and come after the "drama," the greater part of his audiences would probably sit out. As it is, the Dramatic News can hardly congratulate Mr. Clemens (to imitate his sparkling style) on becoming a "blower" for his own side-show.--New York Dramatic News.