The Wayward Saint
At the Colonial
Perhaps The Wayward Saint might best be described in terms of its theatrical ancestry. Certainly author Paul Vincent Carroll owes something to the Faust legend, since his comic-fantasy is based on the time-worn duel between heaven and hell for another eligible soul. The owner of the soul, however, is a simple Irish priest, Cannon Daniel McCooey, whose origins could no doubt be traced to Going My Way.
Luckily the combination is better than it sounds. Mr. Carroll's plot may he ageing but his dialogue is unusually fresh, and Liam Redman's portrayal of McCooey is something of a masterpiece in the Irish Priest line, Briefly, the canon is reputed to be a saint; he talks to birds and donkeys, and for that matter," all God's little codgers." The prediliction is bearable only because neither Redmond or the author take themselves seriously; they allow the priest to emerge as nothing more than a charming. Witty, and befuddled old cleric.
With McCoocy's soul up for option, the play must have its bidders: St. Michael, who make a brief but irreproachable entrance in the third act as a bright center-stage light; and Baron Nicholas de Balbus, the devil's advocate who attempts to corrupt the priest and his household. The ensuing battle between darkness and light is garnished with much theatrical hokum as lights go on, clocks stop, and furniture takes to the air. But despite the commotion, the final triumph of Good is a melodramatic inevitability.
As a fantasy, The Wayward Saint may be excused for its reliance on the supernatural, but in same instances the author should have left more to the imagination. The playgoer must be prepared for sporadic visits by the devil's cohorts, Sebena, Serena, and Salambo. The first two are scantily-clothed nymphs, who do lusty dances in the priest's parlor under fittingly blue lights. The latter, Salambo, is a messenger dressed something like the Batman. If this trio is expendable, one could also make a case for the deletion of all God's little codgers, including two stuffed donkey's a bird, and someone dressed up as a lion.
The rest of the cast--especially William Harrigan as the Bishop--are able performers. Paul Lukas receives top billing in the role of Baron de Balbus, but this time the devil receives more than his due. Once he learns his lines, however, Lukas will be suitably suave in a part patterned after something Adolphe Menjou might do.
With some alterations, author Carroll will have a promising play, particularly if he refrains from letting theatrical gimmicks obscure its genuine humor. As a final quibble, the playgoer might urge some deletions in the dialogue, including several unnecessary references to Communists. Carroll insists that that are all in hell, which shows his heart's in the right place, but the subject is somewhat irrelevant for Canon McCooey's parlor.