On stage

India Osborne and John Keeney portray lovers with some explaining to do in the Mickle Maher play “There Is a Happiness That Morning Is.”

A very public lust fest between two professors on a college quad sets the scene for “There is a Happiness That Morning Is,” currently getting a stellar production on the Scoundrel & Scamp stage.

The poetry profs teach William Blake. So Blake, the original hippie, naturally figures into the explanations of their behavior — which the university president insists they apologize for, or else.

Barnard (John Keeney) enters, hair and clothing rumpled, leaves and twigs stuck in his pants and shirt. He’s spent the night in the woods. He is delirious with his passion. And he turns his public display of intercourse into a teachable moment, using Blake’s “Infant Joy.” “I happy am,” he says, quoting the poem while standing on a chair. Though, of course, he’s sorry, too.

Ellen (India Osborne), on the other hand, is not so happy. Nor is she sorry. Teaching a different class, she uses Blake’s “The Sick Rose” to own up to the tryst, but not to apologize. She rebels against the school, echoing what Blake may well have done in the same situation.

When these two lovers come together in her class, things explode.

This is not an easy play to do. Playwright Mickle Maher has put this heady and very funny piece in rhyming couplets.

With lesser actors it could be a sing-songy mess.

Keeney and Osborne would have none of that; the language flowed with a natural ease from both of them.

Keeney’s Barnard is loose and passionate and wild. Osborne’s Ellen is restrained and angry at the university administrators.

There’s also a big surprise that was outrageously funny. Feels like it would be a spoiler to say what it was. But brace yourself.

Bryan Rafael Falcón directs this play, staged in the theater’s intimate studio space, with a fine comedic sense. But he never loses sight of what the playwright has to say about relationships: They are messy. Mercurial. And when passion flares, fan it. Even if you are on the campus quad in sight of students and faculty.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128.