Mort, Push & Shove Inc., at Breadline Theatre. I’ve never read Terry Pratchett, but judging by this adaptation (drawn from his popular “Discworld” series) he resembles Piers Anthony, offering perversely literal readings of metaphysical notions and jivey puns fleshed out with a lot of self-reflexive, often labored humor. Adapter Stephen Briggs might have used a sharper knife, as this exhausting fantasy takes its time doing just about everything. Director Andrew Dannhorn might have cut some of the deadweight too. Neither would have remedied the material’s faint incoherence and curious lack of conflict, but their efforts might have made the plucky cast’s thankless task a little easier.
Mort tells the story of what goes wrong when Death’s apprentice, Mort, takes over for a while. The action plays out in an alternate universe shaped like a disc (don’t look at me) and populated by wizards, princesses, and all manner of fantastic folk. Colorful storybook costumes and emblematic props set a cartoonish, gently ironic tone, and Dannhorn has a light if leisurely deadpan touch that makes the most of Pratchett’s fumbling wit. It’s all resolutely prosaic, but well-placed sight gags (Death reads a pop-up book, Death flips a burger) and divinely geeky bits keep things from getting too flat. Though rough in places, the charismatic, enthusiastic actors are fun to watch, especially Melissa Tropp, Craig Degel, Greg Hardin, and the ingeniously outfitted, drolly stentorian Jason Jones as Death.