A Fable begins with Luke – a/k/a Lucifer – (Gordon Joseph Weiss) telling us that he is about to conjure up a story – Time for yet another worthless, muddled life, to pop unbidden into the bleak world. And for the next 2 hours and 30 minutes – there is one intermission and one Seventh Inning Stretch – that is exactly what we watch. The experience is painful.
There is a little of everything in this play by David Van Asselt. The blind man who becomes a seer. The hero on a quest who becomes sidetracked by evil and eventually renounces his bad behavior to do good. The woman who remains virtuous throughout her trials and tribulations, and who, when all worldly goods are lost, maintains her faith that all will be well. There are the evil soldiers and the crooked politicians and the manipulating capitalists – one by the name of Hallie Burton – get it? There is even a battle between God (Samantha Soule) and Luke for the soul of a human. Any one of these would be okay for a plot, but when they are combined they are less than the sum of their parts. The story gets lost while the play goes on and on and on. And on.
A Father (Alok Tewari) and his family – daughter Chandra (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) and her Mother (Liza Fernandez) live in a village outside a mythical place called Tahooty (seriously). They are set upon by soldiers (Edward Carnevale and Maxwell Hamilton) who do the requisite pillage, murder, and maim while their colleague Jonny (Hubert Point-Du Jour) acts as a lookout. Jonny is the soul over which God and Luke will fight. In the first round God convinces Jonny to return and rescue Chandra who is not dead. He does and they fall instantly in love.
Fast forward to the two of them as a couple. Chandra is stuffing herself with Lotus blossoms to forget what happened. God pulls in Collin (Sanford Wilson) to propose to Chandra and wake Jonny up. Instead it makes him realize that he has to find Chandra’s father and reunite them. Off he goes into the world. In the mean time Chandra goes to live with her evil Uncle (Jerry Matz) and is discovered by Biff (Maxwell Hamilton) who is a rogue in Dick Tracy clothes and part of the gangster scene.
When he is guided to the Father by Luke, the Father recognizes Jonny and tries to kill him. In the fight Jonny blinds the Father and as a result is convinced – at Luke’s urging – that the essence of humans is evil. He will now devote his life to that. He is looped into the world of Rocky Fug (Carnevale), who is the chief of malapropisms I am exonerated to meet you that are just not funny. Fug, Hallie Burton (Pamela Shaw) and Senator Fourhire (Matz) are busy insinuating themselves into the political scene. Jonny’s first job is as a bagman. He has a briefcase that needs to be dropped, but instead of completing the assignment, he falls asleep on a bench and the briefcase becomes the property of a kindly bag woman.
I could go on, but I think you are getting the picture. Eventually Jonny, Chandra and the Father are reunited, but the bad guys still win. Jonny’s campaign to become a leader with morals goes down the toilet. The father is poisoned. Johnny and Chandra return to the farm that has been reduced to a tiny plot of land and the house alone. We discover Chandra is pregnant. Luke reminds us The beginning of life is nausea. Jonny is elated and God and Luke see their future joined at the hip fighting over the generations to come.
As my friend John Randolph used to say, “You must never blame the actors.” This is a valiant group of performers. With no wing space to speak of they pitch in and do everything from move the scenery to bolt up and down the center aisle in high heels. They do the best they can with this soggy script, but their skill levels vary wildly and they are 95%unsuccessful. Innuendo is delivered with a baseball bat. Morals of the story are delivered fog horn style. Dialogue barely connects (With the exception of Soule and Weiss). Daniel Talbott’s direction does nothing to improve the evening.
The real culprit is the text. There is no story here. It is a series of incidents and scenes that amount to nothing. And it is a long, long, long trail to the final scene. How this play made it past the first set of readers is a mystery. Being released into the night air felt like a prison break.
A Fable by David Van Asselt, Directed by Daniel Talbott
WITH Edward Carnevale, Liza Fernandez, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Maxwell Hamilton, Jerry Matz, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Eileen Rivera, Pamela Shaw, Samantha Soule, Alok Tewari, Sanford Wilson, and Gordon Joseph Weiss.
Music by Elizabeth Swados; set design is by John McDermott; costume design is by Tristan Raines; lighting design is by Joel Moritz; projection design is by Kaitlyn Pietras; sound design is by Janie Bullard; fight direction is by UnkleDave’s Fight-House; hair and make-up design is by Caitlin Conci. The production manager is Dave Nelson; the production stage manager is Andrew Slater.
piece by piece productions and Rising Phoenix Repertory in association with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Presents A Fable. Tuesday through Friday at 7pm; Saturday at 2pm and 7pm; and Sunday at 3pm at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street. Tickets are $66 and may be purchased by visiting www.OvationTix.com or by phoning 866-811-4111. Tickets for those under 30 and theater artists are $26; student tickets are $21. For more information about A Fable, visit www.piecebypieceproductions.org, www. RisingPhoenixRep.org, or www.rattlestick.org.