THE NATIONAL THEATRE-ROSE AND HARRY WATKINS.
Mr. Harry Watkins’ impersonation of Fergus McCarthy, in the romantic Irish-American drama of “Trodden Down,” surprised and delighted his audience at the National theatre last night. Critics agree in speaking of it as one of the finest performances the stage affords. The text of the play is a singular, but for the actor, a happy admixture of comedy and pathos, exacting in its proper delivery the quickest apprehension, and the true form of genius. On thing in Mr. Watkins’ assumption is infinitely pleasing, and that is the completeness and entirety of the assumption. We see nothing of Mr. Watkins, but have before us constantly the exile of Erin.
The first act of the play opens in Ireland at the close of the rebellion on ’98 [88?]. it is merely a prologue, making the audience acquainted with the character and antecedents of the dramatis persona.
The second act introduces Fergus McCarthy disguised as a wandering bagpiper and fortuneteller, just arrived in Ireland from America, to learn the fate of his wife. He is recognized by an old comrade in arms, who in telling his sister about him is overheard by the rival of the accepted lover of Blanche Desmond, an adopted daughter of Desmond. The rival makes Fergus swear that he is the putative father of Blanche, and to drown his feelings he first gets drunk and then goes to Desmond castle to claim Blanche as his child. Here for a full half hour the actor not only depicts with rare fidelity a drunken, maudlin scene, and he must keep in prominence before his audience the sense of shame he feels, and his struggle to keep from telling the actual truth. The act is played with most excellent judgment, and with fine dramatic affect.
The third act reveals Blanche living in a humble home with Fergus, and while by education and refinement she is far above him, there is a mysterious sympathetic feeling between them, and its portrayal is one of the most enjoyable features of the play, and when the truth begins to dawn upon him, and when at last he finds out that she is really his child, Mr. Watkins rises to the full height of a grand impersonation, original in conception and execution. His endowment of pathos, his wealth of humor, and his great passion were all seen here to fine advantage, and from this time on the scenes are carefully and energetically worked up to the climax, which removes the obloquy hitherto resting upon his name, and which enables him to reassert himself as a hero and a man. Every situation is one of power, constantly moving his audience to applause and laughter. As represented by Mr. Watkins, there is nothing strained or unnatural in any part of the representation, and as a dramatic picture it is truly one of the very best to be seen behind the footlight. Rose Watkins as Blanche Desmond was admirable throughout. Gifted with a pleasing and handsome presence, ready knowledge of her art, and a highly cultivated contralto voice, she added greatly to the enjoyment of the evening, to-night the play will be repeated. During this, Christmas week, prices of admission are reduced.
National Republican (Washington, DC) December 23, 1874