BWW Review: LOVE AND OTHER FABLES at Theatre By The Sea
Set on the Greek island of Samos and the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia in 600 B.C.E., the show tells an imagined love story involving Aesop, the author of time-honored fables, such as The Tortoise and The Hare.
Billed as the "World Premiere Musical Comedy You've Been Waiting 3,000 Years For!" it definitely has the feel of another century - the mid-twentieth. With its comic take on classical civilization, it's reminiscent of 1962's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the 1972 animated series, The Roman Holidays -especially with its bright, cheery scenic design by Kyle Dixon.
And while it's catchy tunes and clever lyrics have all the appeal of a classic mid-century musical, it also feels mid-century in an archaic, uncomfortable approach to the culture of ancient Greece, topics like slavery and abduction, and a ham-handed joke about the island of Lesbos.
Still, if you can overlook that factor, the show on the whole is an entertaining and light-hearted way to spend a late spring evening - especially with such a talented cast and live orchestra.
The show stars Brian Sears as Aesop. With his high-energy, high-quality performance, he is instantly endearing as the slave who outsmarts everyone around him.
Blake Hammond as King Croesus of Lydia might be reason enough to see this show with is rich powerful vocals. His substantial Broadway experience includes playing Edna in Hairspray. He also brings a larger-than-life portrayal of the king that is loads of campy fun. In this aspect, he is well matched by Alison Nusbaum's sharp portrayal as Catastrophe, the nagging wife of Aesop's master. Throughout the show, she was commanding and captivating as the awful Catastrophe. She also sported the most outrageous of Bobbie Clifton Zlotnik's many charming wig designs.
As Xanthus, Catastrophe's hen-pecked and forgetful husband, Brad Bellamy had one of the show's few serious moments as he sang, It Doesn't Always Look Like Love with a heartfelt tenderness.
The hardworking David Croccia plays multiple roles with ease, seamlessly swelling the play's population. Erica Malachowski makes the smaller roles of a shopkeeper and hysterical woman stand out with her fine comic sense.
Love and Other Fables runs through June 16. For more information, see www.theatrebythesea.com.