Play:    “Mischief Moon”

Group:    Stray Dog Theatre

Venue:    Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue

Dates:    Run completed

Story:    Nula O’Connor is a fiery, headstrong and beautiful lass, the object of desire for many in her quaint Irish village, circa 1915.  She also is the spurned fiancée of Dallan Creegan, who stood her up on her wedding day two years before to her lasting enmity.

    While farmhand Colin clumsily conveys his love for Nula, she prefers to play practical jokes at his expense through the unknowing cooperation of her younger sister Abigail.  When Dallan unexpectedly shows up at the doorstep of Nula’s home, the house of her grandfather Papa Doogan as well as her widowed mother Marni and unmarried Aunt Amber, the sparks fly.  Nula’s passion, though, runs deep.  Just when she seems on the verge of capitulating to her lost love, however, the vagabond Dallan reveals an explosive secret that threatens to send their combustible relationship up in flames anew.

Highlights:    Stray Dog Theatre, under the guidance of artistic director Gary Bell, has joined HotCity Theatre and First Run Theatre in offering new works to local audiences.  The initial production of Stray Dog’s New Works Laboratory is this two-act comedy written by Richard Kelly, which was given three, free performances April 8-10 at Stray Dog’s home, the Tower Grove Abbey.

    All of the folks involved, including cast and technicians, volunteered their time and talent to give Kelly’s effort a full-fledged performance.  The result was a charming if often predictable and ‘precious’ piece of theater that shows potential for future development.

Other Info:    Kelly directed the production and succeeded in delivering an outstanding performance by Colleen Malone in the pivotal role of Nula.  Malone’s rich Irish accent and engaging, spirited portrayal of the independent Irish charmer was reminiscent of Maureen O’Hara’s iconic performance in “The Quiet Man” more than half a century ago.  She was most ably assisted by Bess Moynihan as her envious sister Abigail and Donna Weinsting as the wise matriarch who more or less runs the Doogan/O’Connor household.

    Laura Kyro contributed a nice bit as the addled Aunt Amber, Chuck Lavazzi was the impish grandfather and Luke Lindberg nicely essayed the role of the lowly farmhand Colin.  Wes Cannon delivered a sincere etching of the prodigal village son, Dallan, but doesn’t really have the needed ballast to provide a suitable match for the powerful Malone.

    Kevin Kline Award-winner Tyler Duenow provided some nicely atmospheric lighting of the modest set, with a starry-night background and the title orb looming over proceedings.

    Kelly’s work has promise with appropriate editing.  The meeting between Nula and Dallan, for example, happens much too quickly and lacks the emotional conflagration one would expect given the circumstances of their separation.  Additionally, supporting characters all are introduced somewhat clumsily and quickly, and then hang around on stage for no discernible purpose in what often should be key dramatic scenes between the two major characters.

    Hopefully any rewriting by Kelly will emphasize the intriguing, core relationship between Nula and Dallan and further develop its complexity.  Still, “Mischief Moon” has potential for entertaining diversion.

    (No rating because of the introductory nature of the work)