Fun Design with Svelte (Can You Believe How Fun This Is?)
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
May 7, 2009
Children innately know how to have fun. You can drag them to a boring department store and they'll find the crawl space so they can escape into an impromptu adventure. Kids know where their silly switch is and they can turn it on like a Clapper. Most adults, on the other hand, lose track of their silly switch. Sure, they still know how to have fun but it often manifests in various forms of escapism and the silly factor bows to hangovers and perhaps some lost time. Thankfully Preston Martin knows just exactly how to find your silly switch and he goes right to it.
Note to the reader: If you are not prepared or are unwilling to get just a little bit silly then this may not be the show for you. If you like to sit and passively watch then just forget about it. From the get-go, the audience is invited on stage to be a part of the silliness and you don't stop until Martin makes his Grand Exit.
Martin creates and plays Svelte, a "designer of fun" whose parents are "from everywhere" so he of course sports an outrageous Scandinavian accent (which Martin pulls off masterfully with hilarious results). I felt the accent and foreign persona helped me to accept him more easily as my fun designer because he comes across immediately as outlandish and downright funny. Martin is on from the moment he walks on stage and he never, even for a second, loses his character or his audience. He is an extremely captivating performer. His magnetism leads the group like we are a bunch of kindergartners hanging on his every word anxious for the next fun activity.
Martin eases us into the piece by breaking fun down into its essential elements. First, we must trust each other. No, he doesn't make you close your eyes and fall back into the group's arms—he simply asks everyone to exchange some article of clothing or accessory. After that he teaches you to play an instrument. He doesn't actually have any instruments but you'll learn some pretty good air violin skills. Emergency is the next element and this one really opens up a huge can of silliness. We run back and forth across the stage screaming like children on a playground.
But it's not all completely silly. Martin actually has the perfect handle on the whole arc of the night. He loosens us up in the beginning and from there he literally guides our emotions in a quirky little facial expression exercise. At one point he makes us find a partner. The element of fun in that segment is risk and I certainly felt the little rush of fear as we were set loose to pick someone. I picked the cutest girl with the most energy and that worked out, thank goodness (no, I didn't get her number). In the end he has us sit in a comparatively somber circle and sing a sweet song about being together. As a result I looked around the room at my fellow audience members and I felt a little closer to them, like we'd had a bonding experience. I left the theater feeling like I had let myself have some fun regardless of how silly I sometimes felt (and I did at times feel very silly). But I think it's important to let yourself be a little silly at least once a day. Throw your hands over your head and scream and do a silly run around the office. It may very well keep you sane.
One thing is for sure, Preston Martin is the Vera Wang of Fun Design and if we could wear our fun like we do our fashion we'd be a happier nation.