The idea for Thunderbird Theatre Company’s new comedy is irresistibly funny, starting with the title, “Salty Towers,” calling to mind, of course, the British TV series “Fawlty Towers” starring John Cleese.
In “Salty,” Poseidon, “the most underappreciated” of the gods, runs an underwater hotel. He’s competing to host the first Olympics, so he’s anxious to make a good impression when the judging committee arrives, including his all-powerful brother, Zeus — “a mighty god with mighty needs” that include an unsavory penchant for certain sea creatures’ blowholes.
But everything conspires to cause trouble for the hapless proprietor, from mechanical failures to a thief who’s stealing Zeus’ personal possessions to an annoying school of dim-witted small fishes worshipping one of those talking fish toys.
And Poseidon’s snake-headed wife, Medusa — for whom he apparently betrayed the virginal and now-vindictive Athena — is consorting with a hotel staff member, a Portuguese Man-o-War with a particularly erotic stinger.
Also, arriving guests have agendas of their own, including a three-way among a very effeminate Hermes, his giggling partner, Hestia, and a youthful, scantily clad, Jim Morrison-type Dionysius.
A goofy Greek chorus initially tries to narrate the proceedings, until they’re fired by Zeus.
Which is a funny bit, but it makes it a little hard to follow the plot, such as it is. Still, it’s all good, raunchy fun, what with Poseidon’s assistant being a sweet dolphin with a part-time job performing at a theme park, and various fishy characters such as a crab, an octopus and the drunken fillet, Mr. O’Fish.
But the two-act play by Dana C. Constance, Bryce Allemann and Kathy Hicks goes, ahem, overboard. While the sight gags (including the amusing array of costumes by lead costumer Sara Breindal), illicit antics and general silliness are fun, eventually it all becomes repetitive and sophomoric, losing its punch.
Part of the problem is Christopher Kelly’s erratically paced direction, plus an uneven 12-member cast. The actors play in a wide variety of comic styles, some less skillfully than others (and with a pointless mix of accents), and for the most part too broadly. Stephen Vaught, as Poseidon, has the best sense of what’s required stylistically, but I also liked Analisa Svehaug’s more naturalistic dolphin, especially because, unlike the others, she wasn’t trying too hard to be funny.
I’d be remiss not to mention, though, that on opening night, the audience shrieked with laughter.
Presented by Thunderbird Theatre Company
Where: Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco
When: July 8-23; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays
Contact: (415) 289.6766, www.thunderbirdtheatre.com