GALWAY BAY, Moving Dock Theatre Company, at Bailiwick Repertory. This company’s storytelling mixes simple narrative dance with conventional story theater, an ideal combination for its production of Galway Bay. Dawn Arnold and Amy Weinstein adapted the play from Morgan Llywelyn’s novella about an American woman on vacation in Ireland who falls in love with a roan, or selchye–a seal with the soul of a person, an enchanted creature who can shed its skin to take a human lover or lure humans into the sea to drown. The legend’s combination of sensuality and danger makes it one of my favorites, and Moving Dock Theatre Company captures both qualities in haunting, increasingly tense cycles of motion.
This one-act is most effective when Arnold and Weinstein let the story alone; it falters when it becomes too cute or intellectual. There are moments of lyrical beauty, like the seductive, rolling dance of performers who become the sea, from which the roan rises like a wave. When he sheds his sealskin, the struggle is vividly captured by undulations inside a sheath of brown cloth, which he peels away against the taut grip of the dancers representing the ocean. Unfortunately a few belabored scenes unnecessarily echo the film The Secret of Roan Inish, a modernized selchye fable that obviously influenced this production. And the final scenes are rushed and coy, as the narrator confides the lovers’ future with a smirk that undercuts their slow-blooming romance. Still, this adaptation has an endearing sweetness that makes it good family fare satisfying to most fans of Irish folklore. –Carol Burbank