Where would psychiatry be without the Oedipus complex? Where would modern culture and civilization be without Greek mythology? For that matter, where would AXIS Theatre's "Mama, I Can See Again!" be without the Fox network's afternoon cartoon show, "Animaniacs"?
Though the last question may seem less consequential than the other two, it's of considerable consequence to this self-proclaimed cartoon musical, which has a script by local writers Kimberley Lynne and Brian Klaas and is premiering at AXIS under Klaas' direction.
The show, which gets into such large issues as whether the gods created man or vice versa, is also AXIS' largest production to date.
But while the cast and production crew have mastered the show's fairly complex technical demands, it's a shame their efforts aren't in service of a goal worthier than this satirical college-style script.
But back to "Animaniacs." The after-school show features three adventuresome mice named Yakko, Wakko and Dot. Their counterparts at AXIS aren't mice, but they're close enough in almost every other respect, right down to the British accent of one of them. And, oh, yes, both threesomes are patients of an adored psychiatrist.
"Mama's" adventuresome trio consists of Alpha, Beta and Gamma -- three newly invented half-animal, half-human bastard children of Zeus. Together they set out to stop Dionysus from altering Greek mythology -- especially the tales of Oedipus, Theseus and Hercules.
Dionysus' motivation is too complicated to explain here, though the show goes into it at length -- far too great a length -- and, for the most part, in song.
A word about the songs. Although "Mama, I Can See Again!" bills itself as a world premiere musical, its music is shamelessly looted from sources ranging from Broadway to the theme songs of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "The Brady Bunch."
Playwrights Lynne and Klaas have written their own lyrics for these tunes. Some are clever, some less so. But whether or not this spoof would anger the gods of Olympus, it would probably enrage the gods of copyright.
There are a number of fine comic performances, particularly those of Kelli Danaker as Dionysus' decomposing but strong-voiced mother, Semele; Anita Anderson as a Valley Girl-esque Aphrodite; Bethany Brown as Zeus' shrewish bride, Hera; and Darlene Deardorff as a Mae West version of Jocasta, Oedipus' mother and wife.
John W. Ford, Reggie Meneses and Michelle Shupe fare admirably in the roles of Alpha, Beta and Gamma, as do Jake Riggs as their psychiatrist and Joan Weber as his beloved Valkyrie (don't ask).
"Mama, I Can See Again!" is too long and involved for a cartoon (even one that's a send-up of the intricate relationship between mythology and Freud), and it's too guilty of melodic theft to qualify as a new musical.
Usually one of Baltimore's most impressive small theaters, AXIS seems to have spun a bit out of control this time.
'Mama, I Can See Again!'
Where: AXIS Theatre, 3600 Clipper Mill Road
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; (no performance tonight); through May 14
Tickets: $11 and $13
$ Call: (410) 243-5237