Low Stakes

Dark of the Moon Tonight at the Leverett House Old Library Theater at 8 p.m.

ANY PLAY THAT ends with a rape at a revival meeting can't be entirely empty of excitement. But there is very little in Dark of the Moon except sensational melodrama, and a lively production at Leverett House can't solve the basic problem--that the play should never have been revived at all.

Even in the wake of The Exorcist, it is too much to ask an audience to take seriously a plot about a young witch-boy of the Ozarks who turns human to marry his sweetheart but is turned back into a witch by the jealous schemes of the witch-girls he has left behind. The only magic in the play consists of the near-miracle that the cast is good enough to keep the audience's attention.

The play takes itself too seriously, and the temptation to play it as farce must have been substantial. But the Leverett production is professional without being dead-pan and allows whatever there is of value in the play to come through.

After enough last-minute overhauling to sink a less determined group, the production is remarkably spirited. The witch-boy (Bob Buesman) puts together a set of mannerisms that brings an air of mystery to the stage, and his feline presence provides a focus for the rest of the cast. His human sweetheart (Ruth Freedman) makes an appealing victim, and the rest of the townspeople are engagingly high-spirited and down-to-earth. The preacher (Bob Stier) takes the caricature of old-time religion just far enough to be convincing, and the play is best at capturing the small-town fundamentalism that lives alongside older, more mysterious remnants of the supernatural.

But the cast was given an impossible job--acting a play with no characterization, no good writing, and no real ideas--and even the resourceful director, Robert Berger, couldn't salvage everything. The Leverett House Arts Society should have taken a hint from Cotton Mather of the class of 1678. He knew what to do with witches.