PYGMALION AND GALATEA
The New-York Times 1883 January 23 32(9791): 5, col. 3 AMUSEMENTS. MISS ANDERSON AS GALATEA. [unsigned review]
For one reason or another the Fifth-Avenue Theatre was but half filled last night, when Miss Mary Anderson appeared there as Galatea in Gilbert's play "Pygmalion and Galatea." It should be remembered, however, that the audiences at this theatre do not represent that illustrious and triumphant "dead-headism" which has been, during several years, a flagrant wrong against the stage. The practice of filling theatres with people who do not pay for their places, who belong to the amiable phalanx of "dead-heads," has been found a dangerous practice, and managers who are just and right-minded - like the present manager of the Fifth-Avenue Theatre - have protested vigiriusly against the practice, and have sought to do away with it. Some of the largest and most brilliant audiences which have assembled from time to time in respectable play-houses have been companies of men and women who are more delightful than profitable. The value of an audience, therefore, is not always to be measured by its numbers. Miss Anderson's programme was, at least, thoroughly engoyed last evening, and it was frequently applauded. If it was not enthusiastically applaused it was worth something close upon enthusiasm.
Mr. Gilbert, who is inevitably a humorist, has, one must own, put a great deal of truth and humanity into his "Pygmalion and Galatea." The play is, from one side, harshly and aggressively disagreeable. Its characters are low, vulgar, and selfish. Pygmalion - anantique poetic conception - is reduced here to snobbishness and priggishness. His sister, his wife, his kinsmen, and his friends are insufferable. But, though insufferable, they are not especially untruthful. Those who try to portray life are brought to the sad work of picturing absurd, weak and sordid personalitles. Men, as we know them, are not ideals. They are rather caricatures of ideals. Mr. Gilbert, who has bright satiric force, does not hesitate to put his sting into them - and his purpose is admirably praiseworthy. In several of his plays he is labored and fantastic; in "Pygmalion and Galatea," it seems to us, he presents the pathos of idealism in a very effective manner, contrasting it grimly and cynically with frank reality. Galatea is the spirit of sweet, ingenuous, aspiring womanhood; she is ushered into a world of bitterness, jealousy, vulgarity; she loves her maker, who is a narrow-hearted and fatuous sculptor; she meets those who prove to her that life is a thing of sorrow. At the end, forlorn and broken in soul, she returns to her pedestal, utters her melancholy farewell to the world, and becomes again a statue. The satire in a play like this is, of course, rather darkly drawn. The contrast between the innocent Galatea and the selfish Pygmalion is painful, mournful. But is the contrast, is the satire, under-true? There is nothing so beautiful, so bewildering, as the potency of life. It is astonishing, a posteriori, that life is as small, as unsatisfactory, as it is. "Pygmalion and Galatea" has, in consequence, a depth which it may not appear to have at first sight. It is a trifle on the surface - a jest aimed at our dull human affairs. But the plot has a barbed point. It is well not to overlook this fact. As to Miss Anderson's performance of Galatea, we can only repeat what was said of it last year, and repeat this with emphasis: the performance is strong and beautiful, intelligently conceived, and executed with a certain sculpturesque directness, breadth, simplicity, which charms the fancy. Miss Anderson is seen in no character more pleasantly than in Galatea. The stateliness, the ingenuousness, and the enthusiasm of the character find in her a sympathetic interpreter. She gives a ringing voice to its eloquent longing, a charming tenderness to its innocence, a mournful cadence to its lamentation. The sincerity and the sweetness of her acting in this character are perfectly genuine. The cast last evening was tolerable. On Thursday evening Miss Anderson will appear as Julia in "The Hunchback." In the meantime Mr. Gilbert's interesting play will be repeated.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 27 October 2003