THE CAIRN STONES, Bailiwick Repertory. Anne V. McGravie’s play, receiving its world premiere with this Bailiwick production, is based on an interesting premise: the reunion of an elderly man with his childhood love, who returns to Ireland from Chicago, stirring up long repressed feelings in the man’s eccentric half sister. And McGravie’s characters–all of them opinionated and very verbal–are just the sort of Irish originals for whom dialogue seems to have been invented. Even the play’s setting, a craggy island off the coast of Donegal, seems destined to please audiences hungry for reminders of that wild, gorgeous country. But somewhere between conception and production this play went awry; in its stronger moments, this sluggish, undramatic work feels like a second-rate soap opera.

The problem could be McGravie’s script, which takes forever to reveal twists in characters that we’ve already figured out. Or it could be David Zak’s direction and casting. As the older versions of the characters, Gail Curry, Martin Halacy, and Dolcye Johnson can’t begin to communicate the play’s deeper emotional currents; they even have trouble maintaining passable Irish accents (only Jodi Wonio, playing the protagonist in her youth, is able to do so consistently). And when it comes to more difficult tricks, like seeming to listen when another actor is speaking, forget it. Not for a minute did I believe that Halacy and Johnson were ex-lovers. But then I didn’t believe much of anything about this production.

–Jack Helbig