Stage

Visually the piece worked beautifully. The two circular screens, which displayed jungles, skyscapes, and computer animation against a black heavenly backdrop, counted as the most lusciously poetic use of multimedia imaging I have ever seen. And many of the acts -- especially Wang Hong balancing spinning umbrellas on her feet or Silvain Dubois driving a trick bicycle with demonic fervor -- worked a kind of collective hypnosis on the crowd. Other scenes, however, seemed both underrehearsed and misconceived. "Star Song" was an oozing Disney-esque ditty sung by Annabelle Cruz, who was dressed like a cosmic beauty queen in a starry parachute; the song exemplified the worst of composer Jeffrey Gaeto's eclectic but at times too smooth jazz score. A monologue about man's prevailing aggressive nature was followed by "Cave Men," a series of static lifts and holds; the only thing aggressive about the performers was the unconvincing grunts that they emitted between choreographed stunts.

The whole pretense of giving the circus a narrative had not been taken far enough, and many of the transitions cried out for more choreographic ingenuity. (It's ironic that famed choreographer Tandy Beal, now presiding as the circus' artistic director, conceived and directed the show.) The narrative presented some child-friendly scientific ideas, but didn't connect the clowns' journey through time to the various circus acts in anything but the most tenuous way. For instance, after an arch monologue about how the invention of the hamburger bun led to the invention of the wheel, two acrobats (the charming young brothers Francisco and Raphael Cruz) performed an act of tumbling through hoops; it seemed a more appropriate prologue to the bicycle act. It was this sort of carelessness that kept the show from transcending its parameters as hip and happening family entertainment. Yet for many -- including the wildly appreciative audience and, as it turns out, my art-jaded mother -- these were just rude noises compared to an evening that delivered on its big bang promise.

-- Carol Lloyd

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