An 11th-hour rescue in the best theatrical tradition has saved "Watch on the rhine" from closing just five performances after its Broadway premier last Thursday at the John Golden Theater. Actors, crew members, and others creatively involved in the revival have made financial concessions. Outside well-wishers have raised necessary funds. The result of these valiant efforts is that a new generation of playgoers will be enable to see the Lillian Hellman anti-fascist melodrama that won critical and popular acclaim in 1941. This is said to be the first major production since the work was originally presented.
As a piece of polemical stage writing, "Watch on the Rhine" reflects Miss Hellman's ideological commitment as well as the structure and form of its period. By present-day standards, the pace of the play and its three-act unfoldment seem considerably relaxed and leisurely, though the latter circumstance may have something to do with Arvin Brown's respectful staging.
"Watch on the Rhine" begins with the return to a family homestead near Washington of Sara Muller, a long-absent daughter, her German husband, and their three lively children. Also enjoying the comfortable luxury of Fanny Farrelly's mansion are a Romanian count and his American wife. From these elements, Miss Hellman develops a skillfully detailed plot in which the count attempts to blackmail the German refugee, who turns out to be an anti-Nazi underground fighter.
The Long Wharf Theater production is an honorable piece of playmaking. Mr. Brown and his actors respond enthusiastically to the shrewdly calculated excitements of the piece as well as to its quality, style and humor. Jan Miner is both amusing and substantial as the formidable widow who cherishes tradition and her distinguished husband's memory. George Hearn plays the anti-Nazi with a quiet conviction that grows in strength as the man's situation becomes increasingly threatened. Joyce Ebert's Sara matches him with her courage and wifely devotion.