by Henning Berger
Cast of Characters of "The Deluge"
Z. Friedland .................................
"THE DELUGE, a play in three
acts, by Henning Berger.
Presented in Hebrew by the
Moscow Theatre Habima. At
the Cosmopolitan Theatre."
From the NY Times review,
"'Deluge Well Received"
January 11, 1927
"...Influenced, no doubt, by
the play's success in Sweden
and Germany, the Habima
players included it in their
repertoire. Last night's
performance moved with a
vitality which pleased the
Habima's Jewish constituents
as much as its Broadway
The play is sardonic comedy,
intelligible not only to
those conversant with Hebrew
but to English theatregoers
as well. What seemed to
please the audience most
last night were the
The plot deals with several
persons in various stations
of life, marooned in a
saloon of a small town along
the Mississippi after a
awaiting the bursting of the
dam and the approach of a
flood, they become united,
despite their personal
animosities, and swear
eternal friendship. The
gambler forgives his rival
on the Stock Exchange. A
woman declares her love for
her betrayer and he
promises to marry her as
they escape. An
impoverished investor wins
promises of general
assistance. Under he shadow
of a catastrophe they all
make vows of loyalty and
promise to help each other
if they are rescued. Here
the Habima players sing
Hebraic chants effectively.
The lights go on again in
the saloon. The telegraph
ticker begins its staccato.
It is reported that the
deluge is slackening. All
are saved. Now the true
sides of their characters
are revealed. As soon as the
fear of death has been
removed, all forget the fine
pledges of friendship.
Miss H. Gruber played
Lizzie, the woman, with a
rare understanding to one
only slightly familiar with
Hebrew her performance
seemed sharply etched. D. Itkin, who portrayed
Stratton, the bartender, and
A. Baratz, his assistant,
were generally amusing. The
others in the cast also
The morning of a
hot day. Stratton, the owner of the saloon, and
his assistant, Charlie, are excited because
O'Neil has said that there will be a flood. "The
earth will tremble, the heavens will reveal
themselves, frightened mankind will crawl out of
their caves as if pursued. The deluge will wipe
Charlie as to yesterday's happenings. It appears
that the speculator, Beer, lost heavily in
yesterday's stock market. This delights the
gambler, Fraser, who has also lost.
overhead; it begins to rain. In the saloon "it
becomes thick as a grave," says O'Neil. They
light a fire. The telegraph ticks out more and
more disturbing news: "The lake is overflowing
its shores. Bread is getting dearer."
Beer is robbing me again," growls Fraser. O'
Neil asks him if he likes crabs. Fraser resents
O'Neil's remarks about the failure of his
business (he is the owner of a brothel). Angry,
he goes out.
It begins to
thunder. Two tramps rush in, seeking shelter
from the storm. They describe the downpour.
Stratton wants to drive them out, but O'Neil
suggests that the door be left open "for fresh
air." The newcomers order ale. They are
unemployed. One is a mechanic, the other is an
actor. O'Neil laughs when he hears their
stories. The actor is indignant and O'Neil
increases their alarm when it announces that the
dam has burst. All are depressed. O'Neil mocks
at their fear. "Yes, indeed, the saloon
will be the first to be carried away by the
water." They are frightened and at a loss. The
door is closed. "That scoundrel O'Neil is
responsible for all this!" cries Fraser. The
quarrel becomes more intense. A fight follows,
in spite of the proprietor's place for peace.
rings. Nordling answers. It is Beer's fiancée.
She is worried, and wants to know where Beer is.
Lizzie, a prostitute, enters. She hurries to the
phone. "Beer isn't here. You'll lose your
interest in him when you know him better."
The owner is angry
with Lizzie for coming down during the day. "For
your sort this place is open only at night," he
tells her. "Isn't my money as good in the day as
it is at night?" she retorts, and goes off to
"Don't open!" says the owner. But it is Beer,
the saloon's best customer. He is let in. His
fiancée call sup again, and he answers. The
telegraph announces further increases in the
price of bread. Beer laughs at Fraser's losses.
"I wish the flood would come now and drown
everybody!" shrieks Fraser.
A loud noise and
the rushing of nearby waters is heard. All are
scared. But O'Neil remains calm, and suggests
letting down the iron shutters. They run to all
sides, seeking a way of saving themselves.
Charlie runs to the cellar. Norling observes
that the place is built of concrete and says
that it will resist the pressure of the waters.
But should the waters rise still higher, they
would all be imprisoned.
Beer if frantic.
Today is his wedding day. Lizzie, who has come
down again, laughs at him. He recognizes her;
she is a girl whom he has recently dropped.
"What have you got against me?" he asks her. "I
guess I wasn't the first!"
loved you... You brought me to this life."
O' Neil tells them
not to lose courage. "We are all going to die,
it is only a question of hours. Let us be calm
and reasonable." Stratton goes to the telephone
to call up his family. The telephone is not
working. The rushing of waters is heard nearer
Imprisoned in the
water-surrounded saloon, the men try to forget
themselves by drinking. "We're all going on the
same journey. Let's forget our quarrels," says
O'Neil. Fraser waits in vain for the telephone
to ring. Beer tries to make peace with him. "Why
hate me? I'm the same kind of good-for-nothing
as you. My fortune is just as doubtful as my
wedding. It's all speculation. Let's forget our
enmity and he stock exchange!" Fraser, touched,
takes both Beer's hands. "Down with the stock
exchange! We'll die together!" O'Neill says,
"Here are two enemies, like Saul and David in
the cave. Come Fraser, let's be friends." Fraser
is pleased. Beer orders champagne. Stratton
enters and says, "Everything is on me today. I'm
treating all of you. It's all going to be
rings; all rush to answer it. But it was an
reminiscent about his family. "I'm only a
barkeeper, but my son was going to be a doctor."
They comfort him and lead him out.
"What do you
think, Lizzie? Do you think I'm crazy?" asks
O'Neil. "No." "A thwarted genius?" "You said
it." "And the reason? Wine, women, money...
No... Once I condemned an innocent person...the
most unfortunate person in the world... We're
Beer comes in. He
tries to make peace with Lizzie. She tries to go
away, but he stops her. "You promised to marry
me," she says. "But that isn't the worst of it.
The horrible thing is, that you promise, you
tell us lies and we believe you. We don't demand
things of you -- marriage, or a home; only a
sincere smile...kindness... Now you have cast me
off...and I love you...still. Oh, it's idiotic
to love..." She touches him caressingly; hey
make friends, and go to join the others.
Thus under the
leadership of O'Neil they await death, united.
Charlie tells them
that the flood has reached the sixth step. They
become panicky, but O'Neil warns them not to
lose their heads. He asks Nordling to tell them
about his discovery (for he used to be an
inventor). Fraser tells him that the rich Beer
and O'Neil will help finance him if they are all
saved. Nordling explains that by means of his
invention, a septem of telescopes and mirrors,
the moon and stars can be brought so near as to
be clearly observed and studied. All are
impressed with the ingenuity of his invention.
Stratton meanwhile serves punch to everybody.
The actor recalls is former fame, and tells
stories of his acting days.
"Friends, all of
us, gathered here, can understand for the first
time in what consists the true beauty and
meaning of life, in brotherhood and equality."
cries Fraser, interrupting. "Yes, we will be
like brothers; we'll die together in friendship
and love. Let us unite and form an inviolable
bond of unity." At this point the fire goes out.
"Bring a light!" The water is beginning to flow
into the saloon. There is silence. "Now -- Give
us your hands...form a chain...swear
Slowly the lights
go out. Stratton asks for lamps. Charlie brings
them. It is midnight... It is midnight...
Suddenly a clicking is heard. Frightened, they
crowd together. It is the telegraph working
again! It tells of the rising lake, the storm,
the price of bread still going up. It is a sign
of hope! Nordling hears a noise. "Look around --
everything is in the same old place!" O'Neil is
disappointed. "Charlie, go look in the cellar."
They all go to look. Wonderful, that the stars
have resisted the pressure of the water!
Nordling hears the noise again. All listen
intently. Lizzie clings to Bert.
"Perhaps it is
rescue! Perhaps we shall be saved!" she cries.
"Then I shall really marry -- have money -- have
a few pleasant days in my life!" All turn as the
noise is repeated. O'Neil suggests that it is
merely the sound of a wall falling in. Yet their
hopes are roused. They all go down into the
"Hurray! The floor
of the cellar has dried up!" Rescue is near.
Perhaps they can send a telegraphic message for
help. But the telegraph is not yet completely
"Fraser, unable to
wait, drinks to their return to life. "The flood
taught us how to live," says O'Neil. "I drink to
the health of Stratton, who has treated us so
royally!" says the actor. Stratton does not know
what to reply. Charlie has figured out the cost
of all that was drunk during this time. "All
right, let's figure it out together." They
reckon aloud. Beer ignores Lizzie. He calculates
as to the amount of his gains on bread. The
telephone rings. Beer answers. The station
announces that the wire is in order again. There
is an argument as to whether it is safe to open
the door now. O'Neil opens the window. A bright
light is seen. All hurry to go. Stratton
presents a bill for the drinks. "A new day
comes, with its new vileness," says O'Neil.
"That bond of brotherhood is shown to have been
weak." "And it's a fine day for a nice walk,"
concludes Fraser. Nordling reminds Beer or his
invention. "It's a crazy notion," snorts Beer.
Stratton calls for order in the bar. All go out
except O'Neil. "Life has begun anew," he
soliloquizes. "Stock exchange, marriages,
money... People have returned to their everyday
The flood is over.