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deLEARious

Lyricist-playwright Ron West and composer Phil Swann’s overly ambitious travesty about King Lear, modern musicals and the King James Bible is often fun, always energetic — but ultimately overbearing. West and Swann also stage, musically direct and play featured roles in this rollicking, far-too-long exercise that seeks to sink to the lowbrow brilliance of the Troubador Theater Co.’s musical Shakespeare parodies, while reaching for Spamalot’s organized chaos. Many of the lyrics succeed with clever silliness, and a large portion of the melodies are catching. The three-tiered plot (set, according to the program, in “AD 60,” “1603” and “Office in Los Angeles 2008”) begins as Shakespeare (Michael Churven) attempts to write Lear in spite of constant criticism from newly crowned King James (Bruce Green), who has blackmailed him into adapting the Bible in English verse. Soon we travel into Lear’s pre-Christian Britain, embodied by a cast of humorously inept, not-yet-ready-for Broadway singer-actors. These two interweaving plots show some absurd comic bravado. However, the third, contemporary narrative, portraying an alcoholic, womanizing West and long-suffering Swann, crushes the enjoyment. This portion falls into the inwardly directed cynicism of Curb Your Enthusiasm but without the fuzzy warmth of Larry David. The production elements do nothing to help. Jeff G. Rack’s sparse set gives no sense of place, and Rosalie Alvarez’s contemporary costuming leaves us without any period context for the jokes.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: July 12. Continues through Aug. 30, 2008

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