'Mag Mor's' Mulligan Stew of Irish Angst

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's nothing like a little Irish mysticism to shore up a haphazard plot. Despite a promising central premise, Megan Condit's "Mag Mor" at the Chandler Studio substitutes Gaelic intensity for authoritative storytelling.

The action is set in 1985. Tensions in Northern Ireland have reached a particularly bloody juncture, thanks to the likes of Colm (Jason Cramer), an IRA bomber with a fearsome reputation and a full-blown case of post-traumatic stress. With the Old Sod too hot to trod, Colm flees to San Francisco, where his IRA connections will help him assume a new identity. Colm holes up with Claire (Jeana Blackman), an expert in assimilation who will help him shed his broad Irish dialect and become thoroughly Americanized. But for Colm, shedding the trappings of his past, including his guilt over the deaths of his two younger brothers, is not so easy.

Why the pacifistic Claire, who lost her lover in the Troubles, remains so deeply enmeshed in the radical underground is never made clear. And Condit's decision to make Colm a junkie seems arbitrary at best. In case you didn't understand what a tortured guy Colm is, the ghost of his butchered brother (Scott Dawson) stalks through as a regular reminder.

Director Kyle Knauf plunges gamely into Condit's mulligan stew, with mixed results. All pugnacity and subterranean passion, Cramer's brooding Colm is the glue of the evening. As Scott, an American-born IRA recruit, Matt Roberts is a lively presence, although his playfully goofy portrayal falls short of elucidating Scott's underlying pathology. Claire is so obdurately glum that it's hard to fathom Colm's growing attraction to her--another of this production's many missed beats.

*

* "Mag Mor," Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends April 15. $15. (818) 908-4094. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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