Inish, Shapeshifters Theatre, at the Irish American Heritage Center. It’s easy to see why Fergus Linehan and Jim Doherty thought Lennox Robinson’s 1938 play, Drama at Inish, would make a good musical. The story is strong–a theater troupe’s arrival in a sleepy Irish village turns it upside down–and it’s packed with charming small-town types: the cowardly politician, the heartsick young man, the sharp-tongued hotel proprietor.

Unfortunately, book writer Linehan cut away too much to make room for Doherty’s dull songs, the best of which sound like cheap imitations of old standards. There’s almost no character development, and the story jerks along so awkwardly that one might well conclude the piece is just a plotless slice of life.

Still, Inish hardly deserves the subpar production it gets from the Shapeshifters. Not a single element works. The acting is amateurish, the singing excruciating, and the dancing–well, there is no dancing, even when a song cries out for it: Eddie’s sweet love song sounds like a soft-shoe number. Only Patrick Carton, playing a buffoonish cog in the political machine, delivers a rich, entertaining, multilayered performance. Whenever he’s in a scene the play perks up–sadly, that’s only about 25 percent of the time. The rest of the evening is rough going indeed.