Shine on

Little Moon of Alban

By James Costigan
Directed by Gary Seibert
Theater at Holy Cross Church
329 W. 42nd St. (279-4200)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 8)
Review by John Chatterton

This production favorably marks the inauguration of a new theatre space, a conversion of a church basement into a black-box theatre. If future productions make as imaginative use of the space as this one, it has been an auspicious beginning indeed.

The play, which dates back to the '50s, concerns life, love, and death in post-World War I Ireland, just before Eire became a reality. Most of the story revolves around Bridgid Mary Mangan (Barbara Pflaumer), who is in love with a Republican would-be gunman, Dennis. Dennis gets his wish soon enough and gets shot by the English, leaving Bridgid Mary no choice but to join a religious nursing order of quasi-nuns. There, she meets and nurses back to physical and spiritual health the young English lieutenant, Kenneth Boyd, who shot her young love. At play's end, he has fallen in love with her but is off to convalesce in England, where he will wait for her if she would care to marry him. She is determined to stick out the nursing life without romantic love, but who knows...?

This is the kind of material that can provoke snickers without careful management, and it is a credit to the company that it did not. All took their roles seriously. (Attention to detail in the dialect department, led by consultant Stephen Gabis, helped.) In particular, Ms. Pflaumer, who carried most of the play, did so with seeming effortlessness and luminous emotion.

She was helped by a multitude of supporting characters. In particular, Jeffrey Brown as Dennis Walsh, Noel O'Neill as the older revolutionary Patch Keegan, Helen Calthorp as Bridgid's mother, Don Sheehan as the earnest Father Curran, Carol Vernon as the amusingly sharp Sister Servant, and Dudley Stone as the burnt-out case Doctor Clive provided a believable human backdrop for Bridgid's drama. Thomas Keating, as the young lieutenant, while a good actor, didn't develop as a character during the play: he started at the same emotional intensity as he ended, which robbed the audience of a chance for a good, Brief Encounterish cry at the end.

The staging, using what looked like hospital screens of scrim material, let characters appear and disappear at will and greatly helped the fluidity of the production (set design by Mary T. O'Connor). The costumes (Jeff Fender) showed much work on a low budget; the nursing sisters in particular were gloriously outfitted, though their hats were too glorious for the occasion, sometimes hiding their faces from view (the harsh lighting, designed by G. Neal Krogh, was hampered by the low ceilings).

(Also featuring Kevin McMahon, Carl Palmer, Jennifer Young, Lucy McMichael, Hilary Howard, Gerry Glennon, Jeff Topf, Peter Cotroneo, Greg Drozdek, and Daniel Haughey. Fight director, B.H. Barry; music, Gerry Enright.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 2
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 2
Lighting 1/Sound 2

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Copyright 1997 John Chatterton