A recent addition to the Pendragon cycle (the other full-length plays have now been published by Samuel French, Inc.), Dreams of a Sinister Castle, requires four men and four women. The setting is a room in the “ancient wreck of a labyrinthine haunted house” in east Ohio. The furniture is covered with cobwebs and sheets and doors lead off in several directions. A stage area also represents a field with a ragged scarecrow outside the house. The time is autumn 1976 and in the darkness we hear an eerie calliope, the roaring of lions, and trumpeting of elephants. As the lights come up, five characters enter, carrying suitcases—Duncan Rose, 45, plays kings, villains, and “rather stiff heroes” and his brother Duff, 43, plays younger Shakespearean leads; Ally, their sister, 41, June Reedy, 33, and her sister Lorry, 32, complete the entourage. They are all tired and hungry, irritable, but Ally says she feels a spiritual connection with the house, their father’s house and of June and Lorry’s mother. Duncan declares that The Pendragon and Rose Theatrical Touring Company has hit rock bottom. The company’s costumes and scenery have been confiscated because their show in Pittsburgh failed to attract an audience and bring in the necessary money. As Duncan and Duff squabble, Ally remarks that she dreamed that they all joined a circus, and June thinks that they can stay in the house until they figure out how to raise the money to get their sets and costumes back. She says that Aunt Liz will make them all the fried chicken and mashed potatoes they can eat. Duncan says they have seventeen bookings left that they cannot get to, that they have no money, and that the other actors have deserted them. Ally takes out a huge, tangled ball of yarn, saying that knitting is the secret to her serenity. June and Lorry help her untangle the yarn and Ally has the feeling that someone is watching them. Lorry and Duff go out to the kitchen, and Duncan and June leave to use the telephone at Aunt Moll’s. Alone, Ally sits on the floor in the lotus position, talking to the spirits of the house, asking for their wisdom. As she speaks, a 20-year-old girl, Molkin, wearing a big false mustache, a tattered old wedding dress and a stovepipe hat, comes in, takes out a walnut from between her breasts, and places in on the top of the yarn. Then she puts the mustache under the walnut and the hat on top of the yarn. She looks at Ally and goes off as the lights fade.
We hear the sounds of crickets and owls and moonlight through an open window reveals Ally on the sofa, mumbling in her sleep. A dark figure crawls through the window and approaches her. When he (Romeo DeFlores) touches her arm, she screams and sits up. When Duff calls from offstage, Romeo leaves. Ally tells Duff that she has been talking with the Devil. Lorry comes on wondering what all the yelling is about and tells Duncan and June when they enter that Ally has seen the Devil. Ally insists that the Devil went out through the door, and when Duncan opens the door to disprove her, Romeo is standing there, saying he never actually left because he walked into the broom closet. June tells Ally that Romeo is her father, and Lorry’s. The girls want to know what Romeo wants. He tells them that he has had a dream that has brought him to the sinister castle (the house). He tells them his son and his wife are dead and he has come in search of his daughters. Reaching out the window he hauls in a large satchel which, he says, contains the insurance money from the fire that destroyed the house of mirrors and his son. He wants them to take the money. He feels guilty because in the past he had talked of burning the hall of mirrors for the insurance money, but he insists that he did not set the fire, although he feels that perhaps his thoughts did. He says he has what is left of the carnival—some old animals and a handful of freaks—on the other side of the hill. Duff looks in the bag and Duncan says they could use the money, but Lorry slams the bag into Romeo’s chest and pushes him into the hallway and out the door. Duncan tries to convince Lorry that they can use the money to get their theatre company back in business. Ally says that Romeo is standing in the middle of the yard and it is starting to rain. We hear Romeo howling like a wolf, then barking like a dog. Duncan says they should take the money that Romeo wants to give his daughters and then commit him to a mental asylum. Lorry says that Romeo is conning them and goes off to bed. The lights fade as Romeo howls, Duff drinks, and June and Ally look out the window.
We then see Romeo outside the house, howling at the moon beside a scarecrow. He talks to the scarecrow and says that elephants answer his howling. We hear an elephant trumpeting in the distance. June appears, with Ally, Duncan, and Duff behind her. June wants her father to come inside. When asked about the bag with money, Romeo says that he buried it. We hear thunder and Romeo tells Duncan that the ghost girl knows where he buried the money. He says she went to tell her father and Duncan is certain he will never see the money again. After June and Ally lead Romeo off, Duff and Duncan sit under the scarecrow and bemoan the loss of their acting company. Duncan wants to try to find the money before the rains come, but Duff has had enough to drink and wants to sleep. Duncan drags him off and Molkin, still in the wedding dress, comes on with the muddy satchel. She opens the bag and tells the scarecrow that the bag is full of grief. We see lightning and hear thunder as the light fades on her and the act ends.
Act Two begins with the sound of crickets as the lights come up on Ally sleeping on the sofa. Molkin comes in with a large “very ugly looking” ax, raises it to strike Ally, and falls over backwards. Ally identifies Molkin as the ghost girl Romeo talked of and asks her what she is doing with the ax. Molkin says she was going to cut her head off because Ally is going to take her daddy away. John Rose, 88, enters behind her and tells her to put the ax down. Ally recognizes her father, and he introduces her to Molkin as Lorry, Duncan, June, and Duff come on. Ally tells John that their sets and costumes are locked up in Pittsburgh and John asks why they need “all that moth-eaten crap.” He tells Duncan that he gave him the company because he wanted it. Molkin, thinking that Duncan has insulted her, offers to cut off his head but John takes the ax from her and sits on the sofa with her and Ally. Molkin tells Ally that John is her real father because he saved her life when she was starving and hearing voices. John says he left the company to come back to the Pendragon house, found Molkin, and stayed. When Ally wants him to rejoin the company, John asks her if the company is sets and costumes. When she says no, he points out that if the company is the actors they have what they need. He tells them that the essence of theatre is to use what you have, that no one can prevent them from practicing their craft. When Romeo enters, Duncanidentifies Molkin as the ghost girl he mentioned and asks her where the money is buried. She says she burned it. Romeo says he saw them in a play in Pittsburgh and complains that he didn’t see an actor exit pursued by a bear the way Shakespeare wrote it. Romeo says that he has a bear where his carnival is camped. Duncan, fed up with Duff’s comments, knocks him down and starts strangling him. Ally, June, and Lorry try to pull him off, but he persists until John, in his old actor’s voice, orders him to stop. When John asks what else he has in his carnival, Romeo lists a variety of sideshow artists and animals. Ally says they could call themselves the Pendragon and Rose Shakespearean Theatrical Carnival and use the animals in the forest of Arden and all kinds of places and use the carny people as extras. Lorry says she doesn’t have a problem with the idea, but she doesn’t think they can trust Romeo, but he says he has betrayed everything but never his carnival. The actors vote, four to one (Duncan resisting) to try. Duncan then agrees as long as John is not involved. Molkin wants to go with the actors. John admits that he loved the life of an actor and has missed it. Duncan says he has just learned that his wife has left him and Duff apologizes for sabotaging Duncan’s efforts and assures him that the company needs him and that his wife will come back to him. John tells Duncan to go back to England to straighten things out with his wife. While he is gone, he, John, will take over and help June restage the shows. With the sun coming up, Romeo leads them off to meet the animals.