The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Van Zorn

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VAN ZORN. This comedy of New York artist life (1914), is one of two published plays by Edwin Arlington Robinson, the other being a tragedy of modern New England, called ‘The Porcupine,’ published at about the same time and just before the volume of poems called ‘The Man Against the Sky.’ Although ‘Van Zorn’ has had no public performances except a series given in a hall in Brooklyn by a semi-professional company in 1917, it is not, like so many poets' plays, a chamber-drama. It is distinctly a play for the theatre, a play of ideas such as would have found a ready welcome all over the continent. It is one of a limited number of good acting plays, which are literary as well, written by Americans. ‘Van Zorn’ is a comedy of character, the story of a fatalist who, in an attempt to play the part of destiny in a love-affair, runs counter to a man with a destiny better than his own. The theme and the treatment are both unusual, the dialogue is brilliant and the characters, especially the men, are not theatrical types but thoroughly real people. Anyone familiar with Mr. Robinson's poetry would recognize in ‘Van Zorn’ the author of ‘Richard Cory’ and ‘Flammonde,’ his philosophy and his technique — especially his bold elisions — but no more disturbingly than he would recognise the dramatist in ‘Merlin’ or ‘Ben Jonson Entertains a Man From Stratford.’ ‘Van Zorn’ may be classed among important American plays even if it remains a play without a stage history.

Edith J. R. Isaacs.