Playgoers Await ‘Star-Wagon’ and Musical Shows – By Charles Collins (Chicago Tribune – 1938)

Chicago Tribune – April, Sunday 3, 1938 – Page 93

Playgoers Await ‘Star-Wagon’ and Musical Shows

By Charles Collins

The Chicago stage settled down into Lenten poverty with last night’s departure of Orson Welles’ staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” as a parable of Fascism, and “Father Malachy’s Miracle.” “Room Service” keeps the spirit of merriment alive at the Selwyn theater, and Maurice Schwartz’s production of the Yiddish drama, “The Brothers Ashkenazi,” remains at the Studebaker for another week; but elsewhere there is vacancy, pending the renewal of activity, especially in musical shows, that the spring is expected to bring.

The first arrival of the spring theatrical season will be “The Star-Wagon,” a play by Maxwell Anderson with Burgess Meredith and Lillian Gish as the leaders of the cast. This work has been one of the favorite items on the Broadway playbills since last fall, and it will come to the Grand Opera house immediately after the closing of its New York run. The premiere is scheduled for the Tuesday before Easter Sunday, or April 12.

This work is a fantastic comedy, dealing with an old inventor and his colleague who are given a supernatural opportunity to live their lives over again and correct their errors of judgement which had deprived them of material success. The content and meaning of the play are serious and reveal certain aspects of Maxwell Anderson’s philosophy, but there is said to be much humor in the treatment of the incidents.

Lillian Gish, who appears as the heroine, has an international reputation because of her participation in some of the most popular productions of the silent films. It is said that no movie in which she figured over a period of fifteen years netted less than $1,000,000. They included “The Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East,” and “The White Sister.”

Two years ago Miss Gish and her sister, Dorothy, also famous as a film actress in the pre-talkie era, were travelling through the Balkan states. They stopped at a hut on the Albanian frontier, a mountainous region miles away from any motion picture theater. The woman of the house was an ignorant, barefooted peasant, but she recognized Lillian Gish instantly. Years before, the priest of the parish had arranged for an exhibition of the film, “The White Sister,” strongly religious of sentiment, in his church, and she had seen it.

Miss Gish withdrew from the film studios when the talkies arrived and returned to the dramatic stage in 1930 in a distinguished production of Chekhoff’s “Uncle Vanya,” which was seen in Chicago. Since then she has acted in a revival of “Camille” both at Central City, Colo., and in New York; in Sean O’Casey’s “Within the Gates,” in Philip Barry’s “The Joyous Season,” and in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She was the Ophelia to John Gielgud’s Prince of Denmark in New York last year.

“The Star-Wagon” gives Miss Gish a “protean role.” She acts a poor old household drudge, a winsome girl of 20, and a wealthy but unhappy wife of 55. These, of course, are phases of the same character.

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