Mark Alford in The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

In The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy, opening Saturday at Olympia Family Theater, boy meets fish — and loon, and other denizens of Puget Sound — and learns deep lessons about the importance of water. The Open Road Productions musical is educational but not dry (in any sense of the word). “A play about the environment can easily scare the socks off of kids,” said Bryan Willis, who wrote the 55-minute play in 1994 with Harlequin Productions’ Scot Whitney (lyrics) and Bruce Whitney (music). His solution was lots of humor and interaction; the show has six different endings and the audience decides Joe’s fate.

The original 1995 Harlequin production toured through schools all over Puget Sound, racking up about 500 performances, Willis said in a recent phone interview. Andy Gordon played Fred the loon back then and is directing the current production. He had long wanted to revive the play. “Joe has stayed with me more than any other show in which I’ve been involved,” he said in a recent email interview. “Some of that may have to do with doing it so many times, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a great piece of theater.”

The Open Road production played at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts as part of Olympia Junior Programs and toured to Tacoma and Shelton. Gordon intends to continue the tour, though no other dates have been set. The show has a rotating cast, with the OFT run featuring Mark Alford, Heather Christopher, Sara Geiger, Xander Layden and Vanessa Postil.

Joseph P. Lawnboy’s messages are more relevant now than they were two decades ago, Willis said in a recent phone interview. “At the time I wrote this play, I can’t remember if Capitol Lake was still the community swimming pool,” he said. “Now you can’t even put a canoe in Capitol Lake. It’s off-limits. We can look at it and that’s it. … Water-quality issues have become even more acute. Our interaction with the environment has become even more important.”

What: The Incredible Undersea Trial of Joseph P. Lawnboy

Where: Olympia Family Theater,
612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia

When: 2 p.m. July 29 and 30 and Aug. 5 and 6

How much: $10

Get tickets: 360-570-1638 | OFT