Anonym anmelder i The Times
OPERA COMIQUE THEATRE.
It is a thousand pities that the admirers of Ibsen in this country did not first put forward as an example of the Norwegian dramatists powers the play entitled The Pillars of Society, which was the subject of a matinée performance yesterday at the Opera Comique. The impossible metaphysics of A Dolls House proved to be no better adapted to the theatre than to the lecture room. If the freshness of the dramatists method aroused some curiosity, it was impossible for the ordinary student of psychology or even of human nature to accept his quasi-scientific conclusions which of late years have gone out of date, the human animal not being so readily moulded by circumstances as Ibsen, more Darwinian than Darwin himself, seemed to suppose. Like other original minds, Ibsen would appear to have suffered from the indiscriminate admiration of his followers. The Pillars of Society, which does not attempt to solve debatable problems in metaphysics, or to illustrate an abandoned phase of the evolution theory, is really a fine play, and its success yesterday was great and well deserved. It is an admirable comedy of manners, satirizing scathingly and pitilessly the smug respectability, the humbug, the Pecksniffian morality of the leading members of the community in a straitlaced provincial town. To pretend that this is a new art is nonsense. In all ages, castigat ridendo mores has been descriptive of the dramatists function. Abandoning cheap science and sham realism, Ibsen has proved in The Pillars of Society that he can write an excellent play on conventional lines; and with that distinction he will do well to content himself instead of striving after the establishment of some new artistic formula.
The central figure in this piece is Consul Bernick, a leading citizen and philanthropist, who in his youth has had an «entanglement» with an actress. The brunt of his escapade is borne by his younger brother, who, taking the scandal upon his own shoulders, goes to America. In the height of the great mans prosperity the young man returns and the scandal is reopened, with the result that Consul Bernicks immorality is exposed at the moment when his fellow-citizens are presenting him with a piece of silver plate as a testimonial to his unimpeachable conduct and public spirit. The story is set forth with admirable art and unflinching severity of style. If Ibsen had written nothing else, this play would stamp him as a thinker and a moralist of exceptional gifts.
Yesterdays performance was in all respects satisfactory. Mr. W. H. Vernons impersonation of Consul Bernick is one that haunts the memory. It is a splendid monument of human weakness and folly. Other leading characters were carefully embodied by Miss Geneviève Ward, Mr. J. G. Grahame, and Miss Annie Irish. It is noteworthy that each subordinate part exercises its influence upon the story a circumstance which proves a high degree of dramatic ability on Ibsens part.