Over and over again, small theater companies push the boundaries of conventional drama and try to find new ways to express their ideas with originality. This musical production is one of those instances. The main character is a charming Beau Fib—he says it means beautiful lie—who extols the virtues of a static, stay-at-home life and then embarks on a adventure to discover why he is wearing his best shoes, because he wears them for special occasions only.
He (Christopher Young) is accompanied by a very rowdy, drunken priest named Father Christmas (Chris Sheets), a potty-mouthed stripper, Honey (Cat Davis), and a soldier, Mike Gray (Scott Palmason), who loved the unworldly girl Honey once was. Fib is sent to hell by St. Clowny (Christopher Karbo) to save his friends. He meets the King of the Underworld (Mike Kindle), and the audience hears from a Small and Mighty Chorus (Ashley Bryant, Jim Merson, Marie Petit, Matt Schueller). It's anyone's guess what all of this means. The idea that a payoff at the end will make everything cohesive just doesn't work, and it is a chore to tie up all the events.
The show suffers from an excess of stage business, including gratuitous puppetry. John Graney and Andy Hentz's music is fun and fanciful, even when Myles Nye's book and lyrics are a puzzlement. Director Andy Goldblatt keeps things moving, but his production needs judicious tightening to unclutter the stage. There are plenty of laughs, double-entendres, and drollery that save the lengthy play.
Davis and Sheets provide the energy when they take center stage, and a barbershop quartet by the four principals in the second act is a treat. The mostly youthful cast plays it for all it's worth, so gold stars go to those who experiment. In this case, though, less would be more.
Presented by Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble at the Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica. Oct. 29–Nov. 21. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m. www.latensemble.com.