Innocent When You Dream is a great example of a show trying to follow the fringe formula, but failing badly.
Zeb West, attempts to mash the tales of Moby Dick and Don Quixote into a single story that sees himself, and the novels’ protagonist trapped in the belly of a whale. West uses puppets, curses, and – admittedly interesting – props fashioned from the wreckage of ships to try and show audiences a good time, but his anachronistic jokes fall flat, and his puppetry and awkward audience participation lack substance. Innocent When You Dream is listed at 60 minutes, but I clocked it at 36.
A long 36 minutes that should be spent elsewhere.
The stories of Don Quixote and Ahab might have elements in common worthy of basing an entire play upon, but if they exist, West does little to expand upon them in a way that is either meaningful or very funny. He frames it as a story of love between the whale and the man, and his use of disguises, puppets and props does well to convey the general sentiment of lost love, but the performance lacks the specifics necessary to propel the show forward.
It lacks the specifics necessary to propel the show forward
Frequent attempts at audience participation also ground the show to a halt. I’m not sure if West is accustomed to his hometown Texan crowds raucously hollering for minutes on end after measly dick jokes, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the theatre I was in. Three times, he even joked that he was considering cutting his own gags, and after his first few performances, I’m sure the only thing holding him back is his lack of any other material worth charging people for.
As the show wore on, I found myself resting my head in my hands waiting for the lights to fade to black, because Innocent When You Dream tries to carry and entire show on shallow jokes with nothing more than a tenuous connection to the happenings of the story.