nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
June 24, 2011
The New Eccentrics’ Manifesto is a hit-or-miss cabaret act that asks a lot from its audience. For one, the show cannot function without willing participants, who are asked to read a story aloud, perform a runway walk-off, turn pages in a pop-up book, and/or eat sushi from a performer’s hand. Also, one cannot be concerned with the show’s haphazard storyline, inconsistent accents, or botched accordion solos. Many of these shortcomings are intentional, resulting in an absurd, so-bad-it-might-be-good piece of late-night children’s theater (for adults). While this type of show certainly has merit, I nonetheless found myself at a loss due to its overall lack of coherence.
At rise, the audience is told that the show will instruct us how to keep our dreams from “being eaten” while living in a major city. Immediately following, we are thrown into a story about a dog and cat whose joint dream of their perfect snack, a sushi-cookie, is eaten by The City. Through a dizzying mashup of songs, juggling, and story-time, we follow the dog and cat as they journey to the bottom of the ocean to find their stolen dream (don’t ask why). The City finds them there (don’t ask how), and a battle ensues (don’t ask who wins—it’s still unclear). The show abruptly ends thereafter, without mention of the originally articulated agenda.
Performers Jasper Patterson and Sarah Al-Kassab—also the show’s creators—act with enthusiasm, however the focus of the piece is so disjointed that they end up appearing more inexperienced than eccentric. Bringing on a director would aid them immeasurably in their next outing, ensuring that everything represented on stage is thoroughly thought out and rehearsed.
One noteworthy success of the show is Al-Kassab’s production design. While she herself is clad only in a full-body cat suit, the costumes she’s created for Patterson are nothing short of extraordinary. Seemingly inspired by Lady Gaga and Tim Burton, they are accessory-laden and oddly-shaped, most often in a black-and-white checker pattern. Her original pop-up book, projections, and fabric backdrops are likewise stunning, and lend a welcome sense of professionalism to an otherwise lacking production.