|Gilbert > Plays > Review of Quits
An Old Score, one of the earlier works of Mr. W. S. Gilbert, originally produced at the Gaiety, has been brought out in Sloane-square with the new title, Quits, and has all the appearance of an absolute novelty, such a slight impression did it leave upon the memory of the public. This may seem strange, for within the last few years many pieces of far less merit have been seen which are far more vividly remembered. Two of the personages alone are sufficient to prove the author’s talent for the delineation of character. One is Colonel Calthorpe, an aristocratic imposter, deeply involved, who in order to marry a wealthy benefactress to mankind in general has gained a reputation for philanthropy by picking a poor boy out of the gutter and procuring for him a humble situation in a counting-house. The other is the boy himself, James Caseby, now grown to manhood, and so well established as a wealthy Indian merchant that the Colonel is only too glad to bestow upon him the hand of his niece. These characters are pitted against each other throughout the piece, the Colonel feeling, or pretending to feel, that Caseby can never cancel his obligations, and is consequently bound to pay any debt which his benefactor may incur, and Caseby, on the other hand, as steadily refusing response to the oppressive sentiment.
At last an opportunity of squaring accounts between the friend of humanity and the monster of ingratitude arrives. Among other ingenious proceedings the Colonel has forged a bill. This is taken up by Caseby, who, perfectly aware of its origin, destroys it in the Colonel’s presence, and is thus enabled to cry “quits.” We have thus briefly told the main plot of the piece, and we may add that there is an under-plot turning on the love of the Colonel’s son for a nursery governess, which brings him much paternal indignation and subjects him to strange vicissitudes, until the Colonel is extinguished in the manner above described.
But we have given no notion of the excellence of the dialogue that arises when the two combatants and an extremely sharp lawyer, named Parkle, hold together secret converse. The talk is not exactly brilliant, but it is pregnant with sense and sarcasm, reminding one of some of the happiest sallies of Mr. Frank Marshall. And very well is the dialogue spoken by Mr. Hermann Vezin, who not only acts, but has literally made himself into, the provokingly cool and conscientious Caseby; by Mr. Clifford Cooper, whose careful representation of the Colonel gives him a rise in his profession; and by the serviceable Mr. W. H. Hill, whose lawyer is perfect. The characters in the under-plot are likewise up to the mark. Miss Litton portrays in the best taste the devotion of Mary Waters, the governess; the words of the more strong-minded Ethel, niece to the Colonel, and, in course of time, wife to Caseby, are eloquently spoken by Miss Hibbert; and Mr. W. H. Fisher, as Harold Calthorpe, makes use of his new opportunity to display his wonted spirit.
Notwithstanding the great merits of the play and the adequacy of the acting, it has the drawback that it appeals almost exclusively to the head, scarcely at all to the heart, and to this drawback we may ascribe the oblivion into which it fell immediately after its first production. Worldly wisdom not only reigns but riots, and, admirably as she talks, there are a great many people who are only to be moved by sympathy, and who obstinately refuse to care for personages who do not seem to care for each other. The revival of Quits may, however, be declared successful, and indubitably it is worth attention as one of the characteristic dramas of the day.
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