The Salt Lake Herald,
Salt Lake City, Utah
Thursday, May 21, 1896

A Splendid Performance Witnessed by a Brilliant Audience

If we were to set about the task of naming the play which of all other plays presented in Salt Lake during the past decade, best filled the idea of what a modern drama should be, best satisfied its audience, and left behind it the most vivid and ineffaceable impression, we would say that to "Jim the Penman" probably belongs that distinguished honor. "Pudd'nhead Wilson" is as wide away as the two poles from Sir Charles Young's play, but we question whether for a good many years it will not be quoted, held up and admired as being equally as great a dramatic landmark as the other. It may not be so great a play, from a literary and dramatic standpoint, but it is so fresh and unconventional, something so new in design and treatment, its characterization is so keen and so thoroughly American, and above all it is so admirably portrayed by the artists--we had almost said masters--of Mr. Mayo's company that one rises from viewing it feeling that it would be hard indeed to produce anything more nearly approaching the fullness of enjoyment.

When Mark Twain's sketch called "Pudd'nhead Wilson" ran through the Century Magazine two or three years ago it attracted very little attention. Out west, where the name of the author of "Roughing It" and "Innocents Abroad" used to be almost a household word, comparatively few people knew that he had written it. Probably to this fact is due the circumstance that there was not an overpowering crush at the theatre last evening, instead of merely a comfortably filled house. The name of "Pudd'nhead Wilson" suggested to most people a farce comedy, instead of a masterpiece of characterization, and theatre-goers had come to associate Frank Mayo entirely with "Davy Crockett," "Nordick" and one or two other things which ran down at the heel a number of years ago. Those, however, who follow eastern theatrical affairs, who knew of the sensation the new play had created, and of the rising tide of fortune which had come to Mayo with its production, were on hand in good numbers, and richly they were repaid. Mark Twain owes a great debt to Frank Mayo for his dramatization of a work which as a novel, added nothing especial to the author's fame, but which, as a play, touches up with new colors the reputation which of late years has shown auspicious signs of growing rusty. In "Pudd'nhead," Mayo gives to the stage a distinctly new creation, one as vivid, true and lasting as any that has been created on the American boards for fifty years past. He is mindful alike of Jefferson, Stoddart and Denman Thompson; only the slightest trace of the Mayo of old remains. The quaintness, the tenderness, the quiet humor, the patience, perseverance and determination of the old Missouri lawyer made up a character hard to think of as merely a portrayment of an actor. The audience last evening, it is pleasant to say, fully appreciated the beauties of Mayo's work, and confirmed the verdict rendered everywhere else the play has been seen. After Mayo, it is hard to say where principal praise belongs. The company is so even and so excellent from first to last that one hesitates long to name any order of precedence in it. Yet in strict justice it must be said that Mr. Campeau as Tom, and Miss Moretti as Roxy stand abreast of each other for admirably artistic work. Nothing could exceed the crafty depravity with which the former invested the role of the slave, through whose nature the ignoble instincts would assert themselves despite training and education, or the true, Creole indolence, weakness and ambition that the latter imparted to the negro mother. Scarcely second to them comes the Chambers of Mr. Daly, a delineation of tenderness and beauty that found an admirable mate in the girl of Miss Grahame (who, by the way is the wife of Mr. Mayo's son). The scene between the three young people in the old mill was a great piece of work, and rightly brought the house down. Mr. Aikens' judge and Mr. King's lawyer made a great pair, and the Italian twins of Messrs. Klauber and Hallton were most neatly drawn. Mr. Chiswell's sheriff was a small part, brought forcibly to the front by his ability. Miss Laverne's Patsy was a study in patterns from Godey's Ladies' book of half a century ago. We understand one of her gowns was the property of her grandmother, who was a Tennessee belle, and who graced Tennessee ballrooms in it years ago. Too much praise cannot be uttered for the admirable dressing throughout; it was accurately and admirably true to the periods of 1836 and 1858. The jury and all the small characters were gems of stage creation and were a constant source of delight. The play runs three nights more, and it ought to turn people away the whole engagement.