DARK OF THE MOON, Bailiwick Repertory. Howard Richardson and William Berney’s 1945 fantasy earns its place in American theater textbooks for its roots in the rural folk ballad “Barbara Allen,” in which a witch-boy passes for human in order to marry the mortal girl he loves, with tragic results. Eerily like a fable of miscegenation, the play has two fundamental flaws: John, the witch-boy, isn’t a very good man, and Barbara Allen’s kinfolk eventually turn ugly enough to advocate rape “to save her soul.”

If the profundity of the lovers’ passion, or the coercion inherent in the community’s goodwill, is apparent from the start, the romance can save the play. But not even as competent a director as Cecilie D. Keenan can get a grip on this slippery mess of naturalistic and orchestrated dialogue: her chorus comes off as too cartoonish to represent any genuine threat, and Andrew Micheli’s John is too self-consciously cute to gain our support. Lynda White and Whayne Braswell’s shadow puppets, meant to suggest mountain magic, seem merely droll (and they necessitate a floor-mounted spotlight that shines directly into audience members’ eyes for most of the first act). The only sympathetic character is the put-upon Barbara, played by Dado with such conviction and dignity that it’s difficult to accept her eventual capitulation to the puny bullies of this production.

–Mary Shen Barnidge