Ithai Benjamin, Destiny and Domingo. This picture isn't from the FringeNYC production, but you get the idea.
BOTTOM LINE: One human and four puppets in a variety hour of sorts, singing songs, showing slides, bantering, and doing other bizarrely entertaining and slightly dirty things.
I almost don't know that I have the words to explain The Princes of Persuasion. It's weird. Really, really weird. But I don't mean that in a bad way. Because I was totally entertained. But this show is unlike anything I've seen before.
Creator Ithai Benjamin is a musician, and he has a repertoire of silly and sweet songs that sound like they could be for kids but aren't really juvenile. In this show, he performs these songs with four puppets as his band mates. The band is known as The Princes of Persuasion, and they bring a sort of variety hour that feels like The Muppet Show meets Flight of the Concords. There is also a bit of an Avenue Q vibe, but only in the sense that the puppets say dirty things.
Although Benjamin's music and lines are delivered live, the rest of the music (presumably a synthesizer) and the voices of the puppets are pre-recorded. The timing is spot-on, so the show runs smoothly and Benjamin converses with the puppets as if they were having a back and forth conversation. It's easy to forget that they are actually puppets - except for the fact that their design is creepily adorable and their movements are creepily animatronic. (The puppet design itself is really incredible.)
The songs are strung together loosely with the interim banter conveniently leading the conversation to a song of a similar topic. In this way, The Princes of Persuasion doesn't really have a plot - don't go in expecting a traditional play or musical. The five band members introduce themselves (accompanying Benjamin is Lil' Bo-tique, Domingo Santa Fanus, Linda the Ballerina, and Destiny Mazursky, the frontwoman). Then they engage the audience in a concert interspersed with slide shows, sing-alongs and chit-chat. There is a loose theme involving romance (this show is actually called The Princes of Persuasion: Recipes for Romance). The show's description refers to it this way: "Pop songs, sing alongs, vegetable casseroles and animal assholes: It’s a Recipe for Romance!"
If you are inclined toward silly, eccentric theatre, check out The Princes of Persuasion. It is definitely weird, but its generous, good-natured spirit is enough to charm anyone. Its hard to resist puppets making fart jokes.
(The Princes of Persuasion plays at the Dorothy B. Williams Theatre at HERE Arts Center, 145 Avenue of the Americas between Dominick and Spring Streets, through August 26th. Remaining performances are Thursday 8/19 at 7pm, Sunday 8/22 at 1:30pm, Wednesday 8/25 at 6pm and Thursday 8/26 at 8:30pm. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)