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The Playgoer

At the Opera House


Weird is the word. The Smoky Mountain legend of Barbara Allen and her witch-boy lover in itself is strange and eerie. Made into a "legend with music" by Howard Richardson and William Berney, strikingly performed, and skillfully produced, the tale becomes an unusually dramatic theatrical experience.

This Barbara Allen herself is strictly down-to-earth, though. In fact, she probably ranks as the sexiest gal in them thar hills. And that's what makes trouble. For Barbara so out-sexes even the girl witches with whom the witch-boy used to spend his time, riding around in the moonlight on eagles, that he wants to become a human and marry her. Warned by the Conjur Man that being human isn't easy, and enticed by the wiles of the girl witches, he nonetheless insists on becoming a man "with a soul." "You'll be sorry, witch-boy," wail the girl witches.

And by the end of the play he is. Two conditions in his becoming human--one providing that he never enter any church of God and the other threatening to make him a witch again if Barbara Allen isn't faithful for a full year--make his sorrow, Barbara's death, and the story of "Dark of the Moon." Throughout this story, at the wedding, in the woods when the witch-girls display excellent reasons for the boy's return to the moon-and-eagle life, in the Allen cabin, and above all at the revival in the church when Barbara is accused of marrying a witch, through every scene runs a dominant strain of the supernatural.

That the ceriness seldom if ever borders on the ridiculous is the achievement of all concerned with the production. The outstanding contributions are those made by Esther Junger's dances and special staging effects, by George Jenkins' superb sets and lighting, and by Carol Stone's performance as Barbara and James Lanphier's as the boy, but the entire Shubert production displays great balance and skill. And, despite its long travels since it was born around the corner at the Brattle Theatre two summers ago, and since it first appeared in Boston under the Shubert banner, "Dark of the Moon" has all the pep of a young show. Add to that the assurance of a successful old show, and you have one of the best evenings, and certainly the most unusual, of the theatrical season.

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