Feasting On Cardigans

By Mark Eisman
Directed by Amy Henault
Oberon Theatre Ensemble/Midtown International Theatre Festival
WorkShop Theater Mainstage
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

In Feasting On Cardigans, a massive moth infestation hits New York City, sending sweater-wearers into a panic. Haff (Ian Pfister) is an exterminator who suddenly finds his services in demand, not just as a professional bug killer, but also as a father figure.

Haff and his fiancée, Lenah (Kate Sandberg), have agreed never to have children, but Haff befriends a boy, Duncan (Tyler Samuel Lee), whose father is in prison, and becomes the lad's mentor. The two share a love for bugs, and both suffer persecution from a society frustrated by the moth invasion. When not watching his relationship with Lenah wither, or bonding with Duncan, Haff also finds himself involved in a complicated relationship with his exterminating partner, Rose Marie (Virginia Callaway), much to the chagrin of his fiancée.

By the end of the show, everything manages to work out just fine for everyone, in a conclusion that seems a bit too happy, and little too easy. The problem is that there's not much reason to think that things won't work out fine; there just isn't a whole lot of conflict or drama going on, either in the text, or with the direction. There are a couple of plot twists, but they aren't particularly twisty and are rather predictable. The play just strides along, directly to the most obvious conclusion. Compounding this is the fact that ...Cardigans moves extremely slowly, with lots of talky dialog, giving the audience plenty of time to ruminate on what might be coming next, and how it will all end up.

Although it's less than an hour-and-a-half in length, it felt longer, mainly due to the stiff performances (Ian Pfister gave a noticeably better performance than the rest of the cast, though). Surely director Amy Henault is equally responsible for the wooden acting style, since it was omnipresent for the entire show. Henault’s direction also overplayed the comedy in the beginning of the show, then tried to turn things serious at the end (a flaw also present in Mark Eisman’s script too). There were some shifts in the style of drama too, like a couple of asides thrown in, which stuck out awkwardly, not fitting the tone of the rest of the play.

Set design (not credited) mostly consisted of a couch and table, but there was one nifty scene where a huge puppet representing the Japanese movie monster Mothra appeared in a closet (puppet design not credited). Costumes were acceptable, but nothing particularly interesting. The sound and lighting were standard fare as well (lighting by Carolyn Sarkis).

A show about a plague of insects, and with so many references to Mothra, ought to have been a bit more exciting, but Feasting on Cardigans turned out to be a project that might have been better off left in the closet and moth-balled.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby