It is with direct purpose that the discussion of the two-act has been confined to the kind of act that Weber and Fields made so successful—and of which Mr. Hoffman’s “The Art of Flirtation” is a more up-to-date, mild and artistic form. There are other forms of the two-act, of course, but the kind of two-act we have discussed is peculiarly typical of two-act material. It holds within itself practically all the elements of the two-act that the writer has to consider. It is only necessary now to describe the other forms briefly.
By “pure two-act form,” I mean the two-act that is presented without songs, tricks, or any other entertainment elements. Yet many of the most successful two-acts open with a song, introduce songs or parodies into the middle of their dialogue, or close with a song or some novelty.
Do not imagine that a two-act in which songs are introduced cannot be precisely as good as one that depends upon its talk alone. It may be an even better act. If it pleases the audience better, it is a better act. Remember that while we have been discussing the two-act from the writer’s view-point, it is the applause of the audience that stamps every act with the final seal of approval. But, whether a two-act makes use of songs or tricks or anything else, does not change the principles on which all two-act points and gags are constructed.
The more common talking two-acts are:
1. The Sidewalk Conversation or Gag Act
This form may or may not open and close with songs, and depends upon skillfully blended, but not necessarily related, gags and jokes.
2. The Parody Two-Act
This sort of act opens and closes with parodies on the latest song-hits, and uses talk for short rests and humorous effect between the parodies by which the act makes its chief appeal.
3. The Singing Two-Act
This type makes its appeal not by the use of songs, but because the voices are very fine. Such an act may use a few gags and unrelated jokes—perhaps of the “nut” variety—to take the act out of the pure duet class and therefore offer wider appeal.
4. The Comedy Act for Two Women
Such acts may depend on precisely the same form of routine the pure talking two-act for men uses. Of course, the treatment of the subject themes is gentler and the material is all of a milder character.
5. The Two-Act with Plot Interest
Acts of this character make use of a comedy, burlesque, melodramatic or even a dramatic plot. This form of sketch seldom rises into the playlet class. It is a two-act merely because it is played by two persons. Often, however, this form of the two-act uses a thread of plot on which to string its business and true two-act points. It may or may not make use of songs, parodies, tricks or other entertainment elements. We have now come to a form of two-act which is of so popular a nature that it requires more than passing mention. This is