The Pirate

S. N. Behrman
New York: Random House, 1943
First edition in dust jacket

Behrman’s next effort was to adapt in 1942 Ludwig Fulda’s early twentieth-century revel, The Pirate. It is a bedroom farce lacking the intellect which infuses Giraudoux’s Amphitryon 38, but it provided escapist entertainment for an anxious society enmeshed in a global war. Adapted on request from the Lunts, the emphasis focused on their bravura performance, particularly Alfred’s, as he danced, sang, walked a tightrope, and did feats of legerdemain. The story is minimal at most, and the New York Times’s favorable review referred to the evening quite rightly as burlesque or vaudeville. In The Pirate, a roving band of entertainers, led by the intrepid and wily Serafin, arrives at a small village somewhere in the West Indies. One of the inhabitants, Manuela Vargas, wife of the local censor from whom the entertainers must obtain a permit to perform, discloses to Serafin her romantic nature by revealing her fantasies concerning the notorious pirate, Estramudo. Bent on seduction, Serafin assumes the identity of Estramudo after recognizing Manuela’s husband as the real seven-seas marauder, since retired. His impersonation of Estramudo brings the Viceroy and his soldiers in pursuit of glory, not to say financial reward, for the capture of the pirate. Manuela, however, mesmerized by the dashing "pirate," saves the day, the play, and Serafin’s neck. The Pirate was produced by the joint partnership between the alienating Theatre Guild and the Playwrights’ Company. The Company recommended closing the unengaging production out of town following devastating reviews. The Guild’s Langner, however, insisted that everyone’s expertise, if applied, could doctor the spectacle. His faith resulted in financial rewards, the consequence of a lengthy run, and a movie sale.

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