Friday, August 27, 2010

FRINGE: The Princes of Persuasion

The Princes of Persuasion: Recipes for Romance makes for an oddly entertaining concert, not a satisfying work of theater. Ithai Benjamin's music is catchy, Rebeca Raney's lyrics are delightfully twisted (think Roald Dahl), and the automated puppets are novel and neatly designed. But the show is mostly prerecorded, and the puppets, not Benjamin, are the characters: airy and deranged Linda, sensible Destiny, boyish but occasionally demonic Lil' Bo-tique, and the goofy Domingo (whose eyes and nose face a different direction from his mouth). Wouldn't this work just as well or better as an installation at a kooky tourist trap like Jekyll and Hyde Cafe (the new "Muppets Family") or as a series of high-grade YouTube clips (ala Henson Studios)? This is even truer considering that The Princes of Persuasion has no plot, no momentum: it's just a loose series of conversations that serve only to segue into songs like "Long Legs," which features this goofy verse: "Mustache, mustache/ I never grew one/ tiny hairs above my lip/ it would tickle your face/ with our noses tip to tip." But though it can't compete with the far more complete Jollyship the Whiz-Bang and Avenue Q, it's whimsically winning enough to persuade Fringe audiences to love it. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "The audience revolts against false royalty" and 5 being "All hail the king," The Princes of Persuasion gets a 4.

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