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Fish tale

The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy at OFT

From left: Mark Alford as Joe, Vanessa Postil as the narrator and Xander Layden as Fred star in The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy. Photo courtesy Open Road Productions

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Once again, Olympia Family Theater wows audiences with a totally local production. This time it is the ever-popular The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy, written by Bryan Willis, music by Bruce Whitney and lyrics by Scot Whitney, and produced for OFT by Open Road Productions.

Willis, founder of Northwest Playwrights Alliance and a longtime popular writer of plays of all kinds, penned Lawnboy, popularly known as the Joe show, in 1994. In the years since, it has toured many area schools and theaters to the delight of children and their parents and teachers.

This current iteration is directed by Andrew Gordon, who played Fred in the original production.

OFT is a children's theater, and Lawnboy is not a children's play, but the beauty of it is. Children love the outlandish costumes and the fantasy of a human boy being put on trial underwater by fish and birds; while adults love the ecological message, the clever writing and the veritable explosion of horrendous puns.

Joe (Mark Alford) has been in high school - for somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 years. - Capital High, Go Cougars! He never finished high school because he can't pass algebra, and he can't pass algebra because instead of studying, he goes fishing. While diving underwater with a special breathing device one day, he gets his leg caught in a sunken shopping cart, and while trapped underwater is put on trial by the fish for environmental destruction. The narrator, Vanessa Postil, plays the part of the judge. Heather Christopher plays Joe's defense attorney, Darlene, who tries to get him off on the basis that he doesn't know any better. Xander Layden plays Fred, the prosecuting attorney, a loon who is capable of spending miraculous amounts of time underwater, but who does have to surface once to take a breath of air - very loudly. And finally, there is Greta the opera singing fish (Sara Geiger), who does not like to be called merely a fish.

In play after play after play, Alford continues to amaze audiences with his versatility and enthusiasm. Most recently seen as a functionary of the party in 1984 at Theater Artists Olympia and as Kyle the hotshot soccer player in Fishnapped at OFT, he is ideally cast as Joe - a not-too bright, happy-go-lucky boy with a good heart.

Geiger is the spark of lightness and beauty in this production, with her liquid movements and her beautiful blue costume by Mishka Navarre, and her powerful operatic voice.

The musical team of Scot and Bruce Whitney, the same duo that was responsible for introducing Shakespeare to rock and roll with Harlequin's A Rock and Roll Twelfth Night, has mined rock, gospel and opera for music that is bright and joyful.

Longtime set designer for both OFT and Harlequin, Jill Carter, has done her usual clever and beautiful job with sweet movable backdrops painted by Steve Bylsma and the same dock by the water that was used in the original production in 1995.

The Joe show happily and humorously drives home important information about how we are destroying the undersea habitat and what steps we can take - as Joe promises he will - to prevent further destruction to the home of Greta and Fred and Darlene.

There are no evening performances. Shows are at 2 p.m. this weekend only.

The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy, 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5-6, $10, Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.570.1638,

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