THE RED ROBE by Eugene Brieux 1900
Translated by F.O. Reed
This four act play was interesting in its way, as an artifact from a not so distant past era. The entire first act could have been cut as far as I’m concerned. Lots of “getting to know you” that seems superfluous once the second act gets going. It’s a strange task I’ve set for myself in reading and blogging these 20 plays published nearly a century ago – criticizing plays based on the page rather than the stage (and, in the case of half the scripts, translations as well).
I can’t imagine that this piece would get staged today. Too many characters who are mere foils. Declamations of motive and intent are frequently used to advance the plot. There is drama, certainly. And I admire the playwright’s longing for justice. It’s interesting that water pollution is an issue, albeit in a passing way. Then again, the play was written nearly 2 decades after “An Enemy of the People”.
In a nutshell, an innocent Basque farmer is accused of murder. His life is ruined but he is finally acquitted when the prosecuting attorney throws away his career and reveals his doubts to the jury. Unfortunately, this all happens offstage, entr'acte, so to speak. (I suspected the guy was guilty.)
Wikipedia refers to Brieux as a didactic playwright. I couldn’t agree more. The action and speech at the final curtain are blatant in this regard. As a whole, the play lacks subtlety.
The absence of Shaw and Ibsen from this volume becomes more and more disconcerting.
Plays read so far from "Chief Contemporary Dramtists" (Cambridge, Mass 1915):
"The Rising of the Moon" by Lady Gregory
"Lady Windemere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde
"The Hourglass" by William Butler Yeats
"Riders to the Sea" J. M. Synge
"The Scarecrow -- a tragedy of the ludicrous" by Percy Mackaye.
"The Witching Hour" by Augustus Thomas
"The Weavers" by Gerhart Hauptmann
"The Vale of Content" by Hermann Sudermann
"The Red Robe" by Eugene Brieux
-- Uke Jackson