A clown who conquers the inanimate
Avner the Eccentric One-man show starring Avner Eisenberg
Avner Eisenberg is a master of conspicuous consumption. In ''Avner the Eccentric,'' his one-man show at the intimate Lamb's Theatre, he begins by consuming popcorn - a kernel at a time, tossed in the air and caught in the mouth. He ends by appearing to wolf down a stack of paper napkins, which he then retrieves all neatly spliced together and at great length. It's an old trick but still a good one.
Indeed Eisenberg, a Georgia-born clown with a global perspective, works in a number of time-honored traditions. Before checking his biography, I thought he must be a Middle European. His Old World expressiveness may be explained by the fact that he studied mime and movement in Paris with Jacques LeCoq and has performed internationally. Avner, red-nosed and red-suspendered, is a miming clown and a juggling mime par excellence.
His buffoonery casts him as the immemorial simpleton of unexpected consequences. His butterfingered ineptitude is exceeded only by the confidence with which he approaches the inanimate objects he has chosen to conquer. His black bowler hat in particular lives a life of its own and must be coaxed into reluctant submission and correct position. Avner's ultimate triumph over inanimate objects - baseball bats, a peacock feather, two large stepladders, and stacks of paper cups - delights the audience and proves how beguiling are the uses of eccentricity.
As puppeteer, he creates a baby from a folded table napkin and cradles it tenderly in his arms. For a spectacular gymnastic touch, he rigs, mounts, and finally conquers a slack wire (which then converts to a clothesline for the intermission break).
Like most entertainers with street training, Avner draws the audience into his antics at every opportunity. Two latecomers are treated to a quick reprise of the show to the point of their arrival. The spectators cooperate gamely if sometimes sheepishly (after all, this is the Lamb's Theatre) and always leave the stage to a round of applause. Being a mime, Avner never speaks, although he sometimes communicates with the aid of a kazoo (particularly for chicken jokes).
The Lamb's Showbill records that Professor Eisenberg (he teaches in his spare time at the University of Louisville) fell afoul of the law in his apprentice days as a street entertainer. He was arrested in New Orleans ''for creating a public disturbance'' and in Paris for ''Buffoonery in Public.'' Now, a few paces from Times Square, ''Avner the Eccentric'' might just become the first popular hit of a lagging Broadway season.