Theatre World Magazine, United Kingdom,
"Echoes From Broadway" By E. Mawby Green
Just when it seemed that nothing could cast a shadow on the all-time record breaking engagement of John Gielgud in the Guthrie McClintic American production of "Hamlet," Maurice Evans took over the quarters vacated by Mr. Gielgud at the St. James's Theatre and prepared to dress for his first New York performance of "King Richard II," in which part he was seen at the Old Vic two years ago.
Oddly enough, Broadway had not seen a performance of "King Richard II" since Edwin Booth portrayed Richard on November 8th, 1875. While Mr. Evans had already been highly praised over here for his Romeo opposite Katharine Cornell, his Dauphin to Miss Cornell's St. Joan, and earlier this season for his Napoleon in "St. Helena", no more than a casual interest was being shown in this Eddie Dowling and Robinson Smith revival of "King Richard II".
At the close of the opening performance of "Richard II," Maurice Evans received a tremendous ovation. For several minutes the audience refused to leave their seats, the thunderous applause finally necessitating that Mr. Evans step forward and make a curtain speech--a rare occurrence in New York.
Evans as Richard II
The morning after revealed that the critics had been "knocked out cold." Evans was heralded as the finest actor of our times. "King Richard II" opened on February 5th. It is expected to run at least until June. The box office is taking in over $20,000 weekly. Shakespeare has actually declared a dividend, all the members of the cast having had a salary increase of 10 percent. A strange contrast to "St. Helena" when Evans agreed to take $50 a week to help keep the play going.
Nobody can account for the phenomenal success of "King Richard II." Evans did not find it easy to get a producer, and even put up some of his own money to get the play on. "Richard II" was timely, and this was one of the roles he liked and performed best. If this play is revived in America at some future date without Evans, we do not think it will stand a ghost of a chance. Evans will undoubtedly carry the prestige for "Richard II" that John Barrymore has preserved all these years for his portrayal of "Hamlet". Maurice Evans, suddenly and unintentionally, accomplished in America what neither Gielgud nor Sir Cedric Hardwicke was able to do. He had every New York critic shouting his praises from the top-most skyscraper. "King Richard II" became the outstanding event of the season.
"Richard II" is by no means a woman's play. There is no immortal love story to cling to, and to the uninitiated its politics are dry and confusing. In these unusual circumstances, how long can this success last? And that is the question that is puzzling its producers.
Other excellent features of this production include Augustin Duncan's portrayal of John of Gaunt, Ian Keith's interpretation of Bolingbroke, and the dignified simplicity of the staging by Margaret Webster.