Theatre-by-the-Sea’s owner and producer, Bill Hanney, has taken a risk by opening his summer season with the world premier of a new musical comedy, “Love and Other Fables.”
Set on the Greek island of Samos in 600 B.C., the “screwball comedy” tells the tale of Aesop, the slave who wrote all those famous fables, in his early years.
Lyricist Jay Jeffries takes two pages in the program book to give you a history of the musical’s development, which began back in 1970. With all of its changes and ups and downs, the musical is still struggling for its center, at times hilarious and at times cliché-ridden.
Aesop (Brian Sears) falls in love with another slave, Lycaena (Landree Fleming), but the young lady is turned off by him and lusts for another tall, dark and handsome slave, Philocalus (Peter Saide). Aesop uses his wits to save Lycaena when she is sent off on a boat filled with other slaves. He must also solve three riddles to avoid the Egyptian king from waging war.
There are funny lines and silly lines in this parody that pushes too hard at times for a laugh at any cost.
The first act is slow to start and overridden with too many scenes. The story comes together in the second act, which also includes two good dance numbers.
The acting is good, and the sets and costumes add to the fun. A little tightening of the plot would go a long way to improve the play.
Jeffries, who collaborated on the book and the music with John McMahon, integrates many of Aesop’s fables into the musical, using them as morals and solutions to much of the plot.
It is not up to the standard of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” but it does have potential. At Theatre-by-the-Sea through June 16. Call 782-TBTS for reservations.