MANIFEST: THE BATTLE OF INTERGALACTIC FARCES
nytheatre.com review by Loren Noveck
Serene Zloof, the writer and performer of Manifest: The Battle
of Intergalactic Farces, has a keen eye for the absurdities
of twenty-first century urban living, California style.
Beginning with Hamiken, the former "art fag extraordinaire" now
on a quest for "Something to Say," and moving through a broad
array of city-dwellers (among my favorites: Wilma, the New Age-y
spiritualist who truly believes in something, though no one’s
quite sure what, and Angry Joe, the modern anarchist whose first
target for revolution is the Toyota Celica belonging to a fellow
protester’s mother), Zloof’s portraits are both sharp and
compassionate. She acknowledges the ridiculous in her
characters, including her hapless protagonist Hamiken, without
mocking them. Zloof is also a spirited and graceful performer,
able to use vocal and physical tics to transform herself from
one character to another even in mid-conversation. Emily Ehrlich
Inget’s simple, stripped-down production is perfectly suited to
both the demands of FringeNYC and Zloof’s performing style.
August 15, 2003
I thoroughly enjoyed Manifest as a portrait of twenty-something left-wing/occult/New Age San Francisco. However, its larger and more philosophical plot concept didn’t work so well for me: Hamiken believes that a race of superbeings (gods, aliens, spirits) are essentially movie producers, controlling humanity in a never-ending quest for superior entertainment. He thinks that perhaps by being in on their secret, he’s been granted special powers to make mischief and create a little chaos. Turns out he’s right—he, and he alone, is granted free will. However, Hamiken with free will doesn’t seem to behave all that differently from Hamiken without free will—but his actions now have an enormous impact on the world, setting humans off into a chain reaction of chaos that leaves Wilma as the embodiment of the Hindu goddess Kali, turns the city into a giant circus—literally—and makes humankind into its own deities. And although the image of tightrope walkers and flaming unicyclists taking over downtown San Francisco is appealing, the philosophy feels a little murky and unconvincing. Act Two is dragged down a little by the unfolding of this story, but the considerable pleasures of Zloof’s observations and performance remain.