Proprietor / Lessee:
Harvey Bradley Dodworth
Price: $.50 dress circle and parquet; .75 dress circle reserved; .25 family circle; $1 orchestra stalls; $7 private boxes
Play With Music
9 September 2014
“Niblo’s Garden.—A new sensation play—place Ireland, period 1821—was produced here last evening. It is called the ‘Connie Soogah, or the Jolly Peddler,’ and is from the pen of Mr. Charles Gayler, a gentleman who has written better things—and worse. The dramatist who writes for ‘stars,’ has to bring his invention down to the common-place necessity of constantly keeping those ‘stars’ before the audience. It is for this and for no purpose of art, that he is employed. Mystery, the great element of all fiction, is therefore denied to him. In this piece—which is quick in its action, and good of its kind—the public anxiety is always relieved by the Irish hero. If a secret is being told, he is in waiting—round the corner or in a closet—to hear it; if a danger threatens, he is there to avert it. The scoundrel of the piece is allowed a sufficient amount of rope, but we know from the beginning that Paddy is at the other end and will surely haul him up. The interest of the piece is consequently not so much in the thing which we know will be done, but in the way it is done; an interest dependent on quick action, stirring tableaux, and good scenery. These atoms of a rather cheap whole are conscientiously attended to by Mr. Wheatley, who, whether he is dealing with mediocrity or merit, never forgets his responsibility as a manager. The tableaux are vivid; the scenery thoroughly admirable. The ‘Giant’s Causeway’ scene of the second act is one of the best things ever seen even at this house. As to the statement that ‘the production of this piece marks a new era in the history of the Irish drama,’ we can only express our regret that it is not so; and an additional regret that a responsible management should lend its name to such a statement. The ‘Connie Soogah’ is nothing but a ‘star’ piece; very good for those who are fond of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Barney Williams; very poor for those who are interested in broader mediums of public amusement. In a sentence, the piece is capital for the country, and capital for those who like to see country actors in the metropolis…
There is nothing to be thought of but Mr. Barney Williams [throughout the play]. He is omnipresent and chattering at all times. Let us say, briefly, that the house applauded his efforts, and that the piece was, therefore, successful. Mr. Gayler, who has written for Wallack’s Theatre with success, and is, in fact, the only practical hard-working dramatist that we have, will understand that this is a compliment to his tact if not his talent. To write for a ‘star’ is hard work for an author of ability; to consider that spasm, harder work for the critic.
The general performance of the ‘Connie Soogah’ was loud-voiced and good… The piece, was we before remarked, owes its success to Mr. Wheatley, and will probably run a week or so.”
“The routine of Mr. Barney Williams’ performace of the ‘Connie Soogah’ was agreeably relieved, one night last week, by a modest and characteristic little speech which that gentleman was kind enough to make before the curtain. It was not our good fortune to be present. We are pained, indeed, to say that we have never heard Mr. Barney Williams make a speech, but judging from this effort he must be an attractive orator. The only sensation that we ever remember him to have made—and our memory takes us back in an instant to the happy period of his obscurity—was on this occasion. By one of those accidents that sometimes occur, he succeeded in saying some thing worthy of criticism. That our reader may understand the pleasantry of the thing, we will mention that Mr. Barney Williams has recently purchased a new American play. He is naturally and properly proud of the enterprise, and flutters with the same sort of cackling fondness for his treasure that a hen with one chick is supposed to exhibit toward her limited and highly exaggerated offspring. Let us not be unjust to Mr. Barney Williams. He has several other plays. Do not we see hem [sic] every year, and yawn, and wonder what is Fate and Eternity, and future punishment, and the object of virtue (in the absence of whisky,) when such things can be without overcoming us like a wet blanket? But of American plays Mr. Williams has not until now been the special and peculiar patrons [sic]. Well, then this new play the ‘Connie Soogah,’ by Mr. Charles Gayler, was brought out last week. It obtained a moderate success, which we did not fail to record. But—such is the frailty of human nature—we neglected to ascribe that success to Mr. Barney Williams. Indeed, we did not hesitate to affirm, in the hardihood of long impunity, that the faults of the work arose mainly from the necessity that the author experienced of keeping this one actor constantly before the audience. In other words, we rudely implied and now distinctly affirm that the piece would have been better if the part played by Mr. Barney Williams had been left out altogether. Upon this the player makes a speech. He takes the critic—to speak figuratively—by the scruff of the neck, and flagellates him, soram populo. This open-handed, warm-hearted, highly-cultivated Macænas says that the critics (or reporters, as he was civil enough to call them to show his breeding,) attacked the play, not because it was of a very orindary sort, but because the author happens to be American, and was, therefore, an object of just loathing and detestation to every one except an Irishman.
We shall not waste words in refuting a statement that is as mendacious as it is puerile. Journalism deals liberally with all matters of art; how liberally, Mr. Barney Williams, who has obtained a position through its toleration, may well know. The record of this particular sheet is clear. It has conscientiously, persistently, and vehemently urged the just claims of Americans to the high places in art; but it has not wildly conceded them to every aspirant, or pocketed its truncheon when a bluff familiar endeavored to shouler his way past. We are glad to have the opportunity of saying, too, that able and brilliant pens, and earnest and simple spirits, are still devoted to this matter of histrionic police; to this protection of all that it honest; this exposure of all that is base. The blunt brevities of the press may sometimes be a little harsh, but they are generally just; and on any question of merit there is always a unanimity of opinion that should silence all detraction. At all events an American, be he actor or playwright, has as fair a chance as anyone else.
But—and this is the question which we proposed to ask at the commencement of our article—what has Mr. Barney Williams done for the American stage, that he should all at once become the champion of its drama, the contemner of its critics, the exponent of its genius? We will tell him. He, and his kind, have brought it down to a level of degradation that is unknown in any other part of the world; that is unrecorded in history; that is unspoken in the vivective of its hardest enemies. The ‘star’ system is bad enough, but it must not be confounded with the ‘Irish Boy and Yankee Gal’ system. Under both the drama deteriorates, but in the former we are privileged to hear people of talent; to listen to Mr. Booth or Mr. Edwin Forrest. Crippled as the company may be by a sad régime, we are at least allowed to hear good English; to weep with human woe; to shudder at mortal anguish; to rejoice at eternal virtue; to go home softened by calamity, and meekly to avert the Furies as best we may. How is it with the Irish drama? A dreary quagmire of vile colloquialisms; a senseless chattering on the part of one or two artists, and a mean subservience on the part of everyone else; a rancid humor of the whisky-bottle; a frantic glorification of the shillalah—these are its ingredients. Mix them as you will, their intrinsic worthlessness is the same. Does Mr. Williams imagine that by taking this play from Mr. Gayler he has furthered the cause of the American author? Let him disabuse his mind of the idea. Mr. Gayler is a gentleman of talent and experience. He has written—as we took pleasure in stating—for Wallack’s Theatre, and with a degree of success that was flattering and encouraging. Why is it, then, that he does not write more often in a similar happy vein of mingled intrigue and quaint characterization? Because our theatres are infested with actors—no, they are not actors, but ‘stars’ of the Irish drama caliber; because there is nothing for a dramatist to do but to degrade himself to their level; to prostitute his talents to their low requirements. The ignoble lapses of the stage are always from excessive toleration. This ‘star’ nuisance was so fostered. It will die with a small amount of ventilation; and as Mr. Williams has given us an opportunity of broaching a subject which we shall on some future occasion pursue, we thank him for his speech, and hope that he will speak again. We must add, however, that the less he says about American authors the better for his own cause. They owe nothing to him or his school, and are not likely to be flattered by his poisy championship of their cause.”
No mention of music. “‘The Jolly Pedlar’ made his first appearance at Niblo’s Garden…The drama is by Mr. Chas. Gayler, and was written to order, no doubt. As a literary work, it is not much; but as a play adapted to the tastes of Mr. Williams’ admirers, it is a most decided success…The new drama draws immensely, the passageways and other standing places being all opccupied the evening we were present, the 14th.”
“Not satisfied with the late action which resulted in a verdict of $1,000 against Barney Williams for acting as a ‘belligerent’ towards one of our New York critics, the Irish comedian applied for a new trial, last week, but didn’t succeed in getting it.”