In Robert Koon’s new play, the stranger who comes to town is death, and the focus is its impact on the dead woman’s ex-husband and sister. John Dewey is a professor burdened with the philosopher’s name who was cashiered for plagiarizing and handled his disgrace by drinking and wrecking his marriage to Marie. Though he later inherits Marie’s house, receives an unsought offer to write another book, and houses Marie’s resentful sister, Camille, when she volunteers to be his unpaid cook, still he does nothing but drift and despair of salvation. A deeply romantic play, St. Colm’s Inch is neither fatuous nor false. John’s unwilling journey back to the rocky shores of choice is at its core, but Koon also offers a nuanced account of marital love and the bonds between friends and between sisters. As in his Vintage Red and the Dust of the Road, he displays a keen sense of place as well as a gift for three-dimensional characters and complex situations. Occasionally he gets a bit full of himself, unable to resist a Dewey-Truman joke or overusing dialogue in French (the women are from rural Quebec). But as expertly directed by Anna C. Bahow, the play intriguingly both resists analysis and demands it. St. Colm’s Inch and Koon have big futures. Through 11/6: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago, 312-633-0630. $20-$25.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Johnny Knight.