That plays founded on American life, in which well drawn character studies of real American people tell the story, are popular, is demonstrated beyond a doubt by the success of such plays as "Pudd'nhead Wilson," a dramatization of one of Mark Twain's quaint and witty stories. This play comes to us again, opening a four-night engagement at the Creighton Thursday night, with almost the same cast seen in it before. Theodore Hamilton will be seen in the title role, and "Roxy" will be played by Emily Righ [sic]. "Pudd'nhead Wilson" is as purely American in its character studies, in its scenes and in the story it tells, as is the Star Spangled Banner. It is an intensely interesting story, told by people whom you never think are simply acting, but to those who see the play, Dave Wilson, Rowy, Roxy, Sheriff Blake, Aunt Patsy, Judge Driscoll, "those wonderful twins" and "the wise men of Dawson," are real people, to whom your heart goes out in interest, love and sympathy. The joys and sorrows of the people of the sleepy Mississippi river village at once become your joys and sorrows, and they absorbingly hold your interest until the final fall of the curtain. Seats will be placed on sale this morning.
Considerable curiosity was felt among local theater goers the past week as to what kind of entertainment "Pudd'nhead Wilson" would provide with dear old Frank Mayo out of the cast. Many predicted that it would be another case of Hamlet with no mention of the melancholy Dane. Others sanguine, hoped for better results, remembering that men have passed away before, leaving hearts inconsolable and a vacancy in the world which no one seemed large enough to fill, and that, nevertheless, the wound has healed over and the gap closed over somehow.
The event proved the latter and less sentimental hypothesis to be founded on the deeper knowledge of human nature. The play is intrinsically stable enough to endure, at least for a time, and another is playing the title part so well that, although he never causes the strong and gentle original to be forgotten, he goes far to satisfy even the exacting requirements of Mr. Mayo's most ardent admirers. Mr. Hamilton's conception of the role and method of interpreting it are different from those of his predecessors, in that he does not wholly succeed in conveying the impression of simplicity and guilelessness which was the chief heart charm of Mr. Mayo's impersonation. It may be doubted whether the "select idiots" of Dawson's Landing would have needed to wait a quarter of a century to find out what manner of man Mr. Hamilton's David Wilson was. Even in the matter of the dog, one cannot conceive of this Pudd'nhead expressing a desire for fractional possession otherwise than with such a knowing expression of countenance that even the wise men of Dawson must have been warned of his real quality. But this is largely a question of temperament, and a temperament cannot be put on and off like a coat. Mark Twain may have had Frank Mayo in mind when he wrote the story. Mayo assuredly had himself in mind when he prepared it for the stage. But although no one but his originator could play Wilson perfectly, it is much to be thankful for that one has been found who can play him so conscientiously and in a manner so generally acceptable as Theodore Hamilton.
Leaving the title role out of further consideration, the present cast will average quite as strong as that with which our play-goers became familiar last season. It is in many respects the same. Mr. Campeau still offers his admirable impersonation of the blackguard Tom, one of the most thoroughly enjoyable character studies furnished by the contemporary stage. Miss Grahame (Mrs. Edwin F. Mayo) fills, as heretofore, the full measure of the ingenue role of Rowy. Mr. Aiken, that excellent actor of an old school, has his former part of York Driscoll, and Miss La Verne [sic] brings to bear upon the lines and business of Aunt Patsy her accustomed delightful comedy method, assisted in no small degree by the fashion plates of fifty years ago. Messrs. Tucker and Gill deserve special mention as usual. Theirs is the only bit of comedy in the piece which its familiars can wait for with confidence, and enjoy, when it comes, with full consciousness of hopes fully realized. The sheriff's "Order in the co't!" was anxiously stayed for, but it proved a poor and feeble thing and got few laughs. The controversy over the "general dog," however, and the little bit about the "evidence to sift" are joys forever, or at least so long as these two clever people have them in hand.
Of the newcomers, Emily Rigl easily leads, as she generally does in any company. Mr. Smiles is much like young Daly in the part of Chambers, and is quite as acceptable in every essential particular. Edwin F. Mayo does better than might have been expected with the sheriff, although it is difficult to understand how he could ever have been considered in connection with the title role.
Although in the nature of things comparisons must have been made, it was found that by reducing them to the smallest possible extent, enjoyment of the present "Pudd'nhead" was vastly enhanced. Judged strictly on its merits, it is an excellent performance, and one which quite deserves the patronage which it has been receiving and will no doubt continue to receive.