- James A. Herne's four-act comedy, written in collaboration with his wife Katharine Corcoran Herne, opened at Chicago's McVicker's Theatre on 17 May 1892, after which it settled in at New York's Fifth Avenue Theatre for 244 performances. Herne labored on the play in several versions titled The Hawthornes, Shore Acres Subdivision, and Uncle Nat. Particular praise was directed at Herne's performance as avuncular Uncle Nat and the local color of its coastal Maine setting. A long New York run and five years on tour made a fortune for Herne, restoring a vast sum he had expended attempting to produce his controversial drama Margaret Fleming (1890), a play inspired by Henrik Ibsen's realistic social problem plays.Shore Acres, a domestic comedy, deals with Nathan'l Berry, "Uncle Nat," a genial old man who has been ill-used by his brother, Martin, who married a woman Nat loved. Martin, keeper of the Berry Lighthouse, attempts to sell off family property, including a farm his mother is buried on, and stands in the way of his daughter, Helen, who is in love with a young doctor, Sam Warren. When Nat helps the lovers elope, they are caught at sea in a storm and Martin refuses to turn on the light to save them. Nat, rushing to the rescue, prevails in a fight with Martin and turns on the light, saving the lovers. Nat puts up his pension to save the family property, a selfless act which finally shames Martin into admitting his foolishness. Everyone goes to bed and, in one of the play's most memorable scenes, Nat silently goes about the business of closing down the house for the night. Motion picture versions of Shore Acres appeared in 1914 and 1920.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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