New York — ''The Accrington Pals,'' at the Hudson Guild Theatre, is a concerned and articulate drama about a group of Lancashire folk in the years between 1914 and 1916. When the men go off to fight and die in World War I, the women are left to keep the home fires burning, assume new roles, and cope with news and rumors from the Western Front.
The central figure of Peter Whelan's group portrait is May (Amelia White), a good-looking, sharp-tongued spinster whose livelihood is her vegetable stall. May, who has practical ambitions, scorns the dreamy idealism of Tom (Anthony Fusco), the artistically inclined young employee who shares her home but not her favors. The play's pivotal foursome is completed by easygoing Eva (Kate Burton) , a newcomer who wins May's friendship, and Eva's boyfriend Arthur (Ian Stuart).
''The Accrington Pals'' is a play of atmosphere, character social commentary, and local color . Mr. Whelan clearly cherishes these spirited Lancastrians. As one of them observes: ''There's not much you can do here, but you're in the midst of life.'' The story of their daily rounds in a wartime situation can be humorous, moving, and ultimately devastating.
The strengths of the play are firmly realized in the authentic performance staged by Daniel Gerroll. One feels the homogeneity of this small community. ''The Accrington Pals'' does, however, manifest a certain diffuseness in its conscientious accumulation of small details and in its frequent shifts from home front to war front as the drama unfolds.
The chief strength of the production lies in the feeling of provincial homogeneity and British character it achieves. Besides those already mentioned, the admirable Hudson Guild cast includes Amanda Carlin, Veronica Castang, E. Keyishian, Denise Stephenson, George Taylor, and Thomas Virtue.