Caste, the much revived three act comedy by T.W. Robertson, was first produced at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, London, on 6 April 1867, with Squire Bancroft as Captain Hawtree, George Honey as Eccles, John Hare as Sam Gerridge, Marie Wilton as Polly Eccles, and Lydia Foote as Esther Eccles. The first New York production of Caste took place at the Broadway Theatre, on 5 August 1867. The revival at the Empire Theatre, New York, 25 April 1910, was under the management of Charles Frohman. The cast was as follows:
|The Hon. George D'Alroy
|The Marquise de St. Maure
'The first production of Tom Robertson's comedy is traced back to 1867; the latest took place last week at the Empire [New York), and everybody voted Mr. Frohman a trump for providing his patrons with an unqualified treat.
'In spite of one of the most violet rain-storms of the year the house was crowded, and everything went to show that the audience – to many of whom the piece was a novelty – was so responsive to its humor as audiences of twenty-five or thirty years ago.
'A play of modern life that has outstripped two-score years can hardly be up to the fashion of to-day, any more than a bonnet of the vintage of the Civil War period. The little domestic story of the modernized Prince Charming, who in the person of the Hon. George D'Alroy throws caste to the wind and makes the daughter of a hopeless old inebriate and labor agitator his wife, is indeed little more than an infusion of weak tea to a sophisticated public which knows its Ibsen and Pinero.
'But that is not the point. Caste contains a character which, next to Falstaff, is probably the most humorous character in English comedy – Eccles, the tragically-comic old drunkard, philosopher, denunciator of the aristocracy and upholder of the cause of labor.
'To be sure, there is Rip Van Winkle; but Rip has almost passed into mythology and does not touch us nearly with the poignancy as that of Eccles. There is this in common between the notably comedy triumvirate – that whereas Falstaff is devoted to his sack and Rip his schnapps, so Eccles is willing to make a sincere try of drinking himself to death on gin within a year on the £2 a week which Captain Hawtree offers him.
'The performance was remarkable for the uniform excellence of the playing. Mr. Huntley is an admirable Eccles. Known to us only through his impersonations of more or less exaggerated London swells and a peculiar swagger which he attributes to them, he surprised his audience by the happy manner in which he denoted the characteristics of the role in which John Hare in England and John Dillon and others in this country have scored distinct triumphs. He gives the little cough of the man afflicted with the dry throat of the confirmed tippler and the deliberate mimetic movements of the type. His business of stuffing his pipe and lighting it consumed three or four minutes of silent pantomime, during which the audience hardly stirred.
'Miss Tempest was the embodiment of magnetic vivacity as the lively Polly, and enriched the role with some unique touches of interesting business, as where she gives her picturesque display of the parading horse guards. But with the same felicity was denoted by her the more serious phrases of Polly's temperament in the scenes with her sister, when Esther's imperious mother-in-law, the Marquise, humiliates her so cruelly in the second and third acts.
'Elsie Ferguson was sympathetic and interesting as Esther, and gave the light and heavy shadings of the character with nice discrimination. If she would only overcome a certain awkwardness of gait and learn to acquire a light and elegant stage walk! Edwin Arden played George D'Alroy in an excellent manner, and Graham Browne – who last December did so well as the son in Israel – gave the kind-hearted gasfitter, Samuel Gerridge, in all the phases of his humorous half-tones. Two of the best performances were the Captain Hawtree of Julian Royce and the Marquise of Maud Milton. Both were interpreted with the rarest display of appropriate color and shading.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 7 May 1910, p.8a)
'Empire. – This theatre closed Saturday night [4 June 1910]. The all-star cast in Caste has disbanded. During the last week G.P. Huntley, the Eccles of the production, was suffering from a mild case of typhoid fever. His role in the production was successfully assumed by Percival Aylmer.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 11 June 1910, p.6b)
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