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The New York Idea

The New York Idea by Langdon Mitchell
By: (1862-1935)

I find it very hard to classify "The New York Idea" under any of the established rubrics. It is rather too extravagant to rank as a comedy; it is much too serious in its purport, too searching in its character-delineation and too thoughtful in its wit, to be treated as a mere farce. Its title—not, perhaps, a very happy one—is explained in this saying of one of the characters: "Marry for whim and leave the rest to the divorce court—that's the New York idea of marriage." Like all the plays, from Sardou's "Divorçons" onward, which deal with a too facile system of divorce, this one shows a discontented woman, who has broken up her home for a caprice, suffering agonies of jealousy when her ex-husband proposes to make use of the freedom she has given him, and returning to him at last with the admission that their divorce was at least "premature." In this central conception there is nothing particularly original. It is the wealth of humourous invention displayed in the details both of character and situation that renders the play remarkable.

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[Illustration: LANGDON MITCHELL]


(Born Philadelphia, Pa., February 17, 1862)

The performance of "The New York Idea" at the Lyric Theatre, New York, on November 19, 1906, was one of the rare, distinguished events in the American Theatre. It revealed the fact that at last an American playwright had written a drama comparable with the very best European models, scintillating with clear, cold brilliancy, whose dialogue carried with it an exceptional literary style. It was a play that showed a vitality which will serve to keep it alive for many generations, which will make it welcome, however often it is revived; for there is a universal import to its satire which raises it above the local, social condition it purports to portray. And though there is nothing of an ideal character about its situations, though it seems to be all head, with a minimum of apparent heart, it none the less is universal in the sense that Restoration comedy is universal. It presents a type of vulgarity, of sporting spirit, that is common in every generation, whether in the time of Congreve and Wycherley, whether in the period of Sheridan or Oscar Wilde... Continue reading book >>

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