THEATER REVIEW: World premiere of "A Dram Of Drummhicit" is a work in progress

An unpronounceable title, an American real estate mogul, lots of barely buried “bog bodies” (from the Iron Age) that pop up at inconvenient times,“faeries” no one has seen but everyone believes in and oh yes, romance are just a few of the elements in “A Dram Of Drummhicit,” in its world premiere through June 12 at La Jolla Playhouse. Christopher Ashley directs.

If it sounds a bit scattered, it is, and that’s one of the problems of this new play by Arthur Kopit (perhaps best known for the book of the musical “Nine”) and Kopit’s former student Anton Dudley.

The mogul, Robert Bruce (not to be confused with Robert the Bruce of Scottish history), has designs on the wild, windswept and largely uninhabited (but terribly picturesque) Scottish island of Muckle Skerry as the site for two golf courses. He’s sent fixer Charles Pearse (Lucas Hall) to finalize the deal.

The problem? He wants to build the 18th hole on top of a hill and under a rock where, legend has it, the faeries live. Faeries don’t like their homes messed with.

In between circular conversations about who owns the property, what appears to be folk dancing, a mysterious washerwoman whose significance you’ll have to Google and finding bog people where you don’t want them, Kopit and Dudley have decided to interpose a Shakespearean-style romance and toss in a British Museum representative who wants to know what this “magic” is that allegedly goes on at the top of that hill.

It’s all pretty diffuse and lacking in theatrical logic and may leave you, like me, wondering what the point is.

Still, Ashley keeps it moving. Points go to set designer David Zinn for a craggy and atmospheric set that magically revolves to become both a church and a bar, and to lighting designer Philip Rosenberg, whose fine work adds visual interest.

The actors work their hearts out but for little dramatic payoff. My favorite is octogenarian Alan Mandell, recalcitrant partner of Edinburgh businessman Harry Morgan (Joseph Culliton), who lights up the stage whenever he’s on it.

Hall is also excellent as Pearse, who finds himself drawn more and more to this little outpost of humanity.

Other well played oddball characters include Kelly AuCoin as bar owner Mackenzie Stewart, Murphy Guyer, suitably hatable as Bruce; Polly Lee as bar waitress Fiona, John Ahlin as Fiona’s dad and Kathryn Meisle as museum rep Felicity Oliphant.

Oh, Drummhicit (pronounced drum-HICK-it) is the name of the local firewater, apparently barely drinkable and used mostly to torture visitors.

The basic plot idea is intriguing enough, even inspired by fact: a British newspaper story about a housing developer stopped when locals objected to construction of a road that would require moving the rock the faeries alleged lived under.

But somewhere along the way, the storytelling gets mucked up with too many extraneous elements.

The details

“A Dram Of Drummhicit” plays through June 12 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre on the UCSD campus.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m.

For tickets call (858) 550-1010 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.