Location: Aldwych Theatre
Part: Richard Gettner
Review: "James Donald plays this lost soul with a hangdog, sagging rasp, a cringing swagger which comes somewhere near the heart of the matter."
Christopher Frey`s latest play - a winter story - was written for Edith Evans, who gives an exquisite performance as the countess who loves all mankind.
The Countess has mysteriously disappeared on the evening of her Thursday "Salon" and the members of her circle are astonished at the unexpected appearence of Richard Gettner, formerly the Countess`s son-in-law, who, it transpires, she has rescued after a terrible journey in the snow. He is a deserter from the Hungarian Army at the time of the Hungarian Revolution in 1848/49.
The frail Countess is exhausted after her effort to save a man who seems so worthless to the others, but, typically, her high spirits remain unimpaired.
Count Peter, Gelda`s second husband, is held as hostage by the rebels against Gettner`s return, but this the Countess sorrowfully refuses to do.
Colonel Janik, the rebel commander, pays his respects to the Countess. The rebel army have taken up their headquarters in the house and the household has been moved to the stables, where Gettner is in hiding in the loft.
To wile away the tedious hours the Countess joins the soldiery in singing one of their popular songs and has persuaded them to dance for the assembly. They have laid aside their belts and pistols and, thus unarmed, they are helpless to cope with Gettner.
Stefan, incensed when he sees the hated Gettner kissing his sister, has challenged him to a duel, which the drunken Gettner tries to avoid. But the boy, having got hold of the soldiers`pistols, drags the deserter outside and is wounded in the ensuing fight. When the news is brought to the Countess she collapses with a hearth attack.
A few days later Stefan, recovering from his wound, hears of his mother`s illness.
The tables are turned; the rebels are defeated and the Government is taking its revenge.
True to her spirit of loving kindness and hatred of war the Countness had no hesitated to give refuge to Colonel Janik, the rebel leader, when he had suffered defeat. And now Gettner returns to the house having heard that the Countess is dying. In their last great scene together he still struggles against her influence. She dies, and it seems that the inspiration of her nobility is more powerfull than ever. Gettner cannot resist, and he stays to face inevitable death.
source: Theatre World Jul. 1954