Eva the Fifth

Subtitled The Odyssey of a Tom Show in Three Acts, this play was written by Kenyon Nicholson and John Golden. Produced by Golden and Edgar Selwyn, and directed by Golden, it premiered at the Little Theatre in New York, 28 August 1928. It is the story of "Ed Bondell's U.T.C. Co.," a struggling company of Tommers on the road in very small towns in Kansas. The main storyline is a love story involving the actress who plays Eva, though her love is for the stage as much as for the hero.

The comedy is gentle, and the ultimate resolution contains a certain amount of sentimentality, but like other re-presentations of Stowe's melodrama during the Jazz Age of the Twenties, the script gains much of its effect by juxtaposing Victorian ideality and modern facts of life. Act One (not included here) begins as the company comes offstage in their "Tom Show" costumes: Eva is fresh from what the stage directions call the "Transformation Scene, in which she has been hoisted to the flies on a piano wire." Her "paper-maché angel's wings" are "soiled," and her first line of dialogue in the unEva-esque "Who in hell are you swearing at?"

The last act (which is accessible from the link below) includes a scene of the play in performance. For that scene Nicholson and Golden picked Eva's death, the most sentimental moment in the original novel, and an icon of melodramatic pathos -- and revised it to break the parallel illusions of theatrical make-believe and 19th century gentility with a Little Eva who isn't dying but who is about to throw up.

In 1929 MGM adapted the drama for an early sound movie under the name The Girl in the Show. The text and the enlargeable illustrations at left are from the published text of the play:
Eva the Fifth: The Odyssey of a Tom Show in Three Acts, by Kenyon Nicholson and John Golden (New York: Samuel French, 1928)

  • "Town Hall Tonight" New York Times   (27 November 1927)
  • "Fly-By-Night" Chicago Tribune   (16 April 1928)
  • New York Times Review (29 August 1928)
  • Herald Tribune Review (29 August 1928)
  • Billboard Review (8 September 1928)
  • Los Angeles Times   (19 April 1929)

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