We Are No Longer Children, 1932
We Are No Longer Children, a play by Léopold Marchand, adapted by Ilka Chase and William Murray
Produced by William A. Brady
Settings designed by Livingstone Platt
Directed by William A. Brady and Leslie Howard
Booth Theatre, New York
March 31, 1932
Cast of Characters
|La Vattier||Walter Bonn|
|Lisa Duval||Spring Byington|
|Jean Servin||Geoffrey Kerr|
|Cecile Breton||Freya Leigh|
|Aristide Breton||Frederick Roland|
|Paul Verdier||Harold Vermilyea|
|Count de Moreau||Wallace Widdecombe|
|Pierre||H. N. Worth|
|A Man from the Provinces||George V. Dill|
Easily the best play that has come to town in weeks is the one that arrived last night at the Booth Theater, an ironic comedy adapted from the French of Leopold Marchand by Ilka Chase and William B. Murray.
It is about a boy and a girl who were lovers, grew up, got married, but not to each other, met again, were lovers again and found that the old feeling could not quite be recaptured. “We Are No Longer Children” is the name of the play and it is simple and wise.
June Walker and Geoffrey Kerr, who should never try to be French, because their feelings are not fluent, are the girl and the boy. Neither is at all effective until the final act when, grown up and married, they run off together in search of the love they once knew and will always regret. Then both Miss Walker and Mr. Kerr for the first time seem to mean what they say.
The chief defect of the production at the Booth is that there is only one Spring Byington in the cast. The leading players had all evening to move their audience. Miss Byington had only a few minutes. But she was lovely, putting more sentiment, more sensibility, more evidence of affection into her few lines than was displayed by the others in all their long scenes rolled into one. By comparison Miss Walker and Mr. Kerr are actors made of wood. French plays particularly demand fluency of feeling and speech in the actor and this’ pair has none of it.
So when we see them as young lovers, of 19 and 25 Miss Walker can only chirp to show her youth and happiness and Mr. Kerr adores h e r like a wax figure. The girl discovers, at the end of a first act that seemed long but need not have seemed so, that without telling her her lover has decided to leave her and get married. They part. Both are torn. It could be an affecting scene. It isn’t.
Then each marries some one else and several years later they meet. They have not forgotten, they cannot forget. They fall into each other’s arms and before long they are off to Dieppe to begin their love all over again, to be the lovers they were at first, to forget that ever they have been parted. And they find that just as they cannot forget that once they were lovers so they cannot drive from their minds the knowledge that each has changed since that time, that they are not really the two who lived in adoration before. They are two others with nothing left but fond memories.
Here the actors do better. Miss Walker has grown up and stopped chirping. She can act herself now. And she does. That helps a great deal, for she is a good actress when the role is right for her. Mr Kerr, needing no longer to egg himself on to be impetuous, which for him is impossible, also finds himself more in his element.
The woman has said she left a letter for her husband to tell him she was leaving him. The man, so he says, has, similarly informed his wife that he can be a husband to her no longer. But both are lying. Dieppe is dreary. They will go to Italy, to Siena and Ravenna and be young lovers again where the world is beautiful… That is his suggestion. “I’ve been there” is her answer. And at last they find that they can find no place in the world, however romantic, that will make them 19 and 25 again, restore to them the love they had, the satisfaction they found in each other. The love they remember was the love of their youth… and they have youth no longer.
It was Spring Byington who, in the role of the mistress of the boy’s dead father, brought to the play its highest quality. It was she alone who made it possible to believe in the love the others talked about. Freya Leigh plays the woman Mr. Kerr marries with a certain grace and tranquility. Though Leslie Howard assisted in the staging, there is little about the proceedings to prove that he did so. Nothing is very graceful or very French. The fault lies in the casting. And, too, the pace is dogged and unvaried, resulting in a monotony altogether unnecessary. “We Are No Longer Children” is a much better play than it is permitted to seem.
(Arthur Pollock, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 1, 1932)
It is a well-written play, in the adaptation by Ilka Chase and William B. Murray. For the most part it is well played; in at least two scenes it is played with heart-breaking tenderness. In fact, “We Are No Longer Children” has about so much that is genuine and beautiful that one hesitates to add that it is also languid, and that M. Marchand has contributed nothing original to a gently melancholy legend.[…]
Although June Walker and Geoffrey Kerr give good performances in the two central parts, they share the play’s monotony. Doubtless one should not expect them to improvise on the author’s theme. But the fact remains that a little improvisation, a little variety of vocal inflection and a little stylization of attack would bring luster to a script that need assistance. Spring Byington gives a splendid, quietly exalting performance in the brief scene as the father’s mistress; she pours sincerity into an episode that requires precisely that. And as the middle-aged simulacrum of a boyhood comrade Harold Vermilyea has a burgher’s stodginess that makeshis part of the last act forceful.
Livingstone Platt has designed three settings of two interiors and a café that capture the varied moods of the play. William A. Brady Jr. and Leslie Howard, co-directors, have had the courage to set a slow tempo that suits the brooding flavor of the story. For all its thoughtful charm, “We Are No Longer Children” is tepid. One dislikes equivocating about so evocative a play.
(J. Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times, April 1, 1932)