The Passing Spectacle Vol. III, No. 6

Circus Smirkus Sails Along on a Nautical Theme

In Circus Smirkus’ latest production, Anchors Away for Atlantis,  artistic director Troy Wunderle wears the biggest hat.  Presumably he is the admiral of a crew that sets sail for the lost underwater world of Atlantis.  Below him in rank is Sam Gurwitt the captain of a ship manned by a slapstick crew of six nautically inclined clowns, all similarly dressed as part of an ensemble.  This effective style of costuming runs throughout the show and is both a visual treat and a shorthand way of telling us who’s who.  The girls in the show and some of the boys are, for the most part, dressed as sealife, both vegetable and animal. One should not underestimate the impact of a group, be they clowns or acrobats, dressed as an ensemble with complimentary costumes. It is a very powerful visual statement.

As the crew sets sail, they dance a lively and exhilarating horn pipe.  The dance quickly incorporates  some nicely integrated action on the Chinese pole which serves as the ship’s mast, so that the dance and acrobatic skills are all of a piece, concluding with a catalogue of classic slapstick pratfalls while striking the pole.

During all this the delightful score and orchestrations of Tristan Moore keeps the tone lively and playful.   The variety of sounds he gets out of his synthesizer is truly amazing, every once in a while sneaking in a familiar seagoing shanty to the original score.   In the meantime the highly animated drummer Jacob Levitin adds to the excitement with his own set of antics in his perch above the performer’s entrance.

Another group is similarly dressed as a lobby (or league?) of lobsters.  Their bright red costumes are amusingly dressed with the tell-tale claws of this delicious crustacean as they build pyramids to help the other characters get on and off.

The young performers involved in the big juggle are outfitted in Nor’easter rain gear, which gives the number a sense of unity, even as the patterns of movement and passing poses keep changing providing greater interest.   Emily Wunderle works in a net above the juggling and acts as prop for the clubs to be thrown around.  This particular number also features the solo juggling of Alec McGowan and Eyal Bor, the latter an emerging star who handles eight or nine clubs with impressive surety.

A group of contortionists are effectively costumed as seaweed, perfect for this kind of act as their movements channel the undulations of underwater vegetation.   The clowns’ parody of this act provides an entertaining way of striking the props, one of the things Smirkus always manages to do so artfully.

In another group act, which is dressed to look as if it is occurring under the sea, three strap acts fill the ring with an other-wordly atmosphere.  Here Sam Ferlo, who has previously been a member of the clown briagade stands out as an accomplished solo performer.  It is a dramatic change of pace and skill set for the young performer who impresses with his artistry.

For the inevitable silk act, worked by a group of three girls and a boy, the fabrics are used as if they were sails, blown about by sea-nymphs, creating some intriguing images and providing this kind of act with extra interest.

This creative staging is the combined work of Jesse Dryden creative director; Troy Wunderle artistic director; Tristan Moore composer and bandleader; Patsy Bessolo costume designer; and Matt Williams choreographer.  I particularly admire Williams’ work enormously.  Under his tutelage everyone in the cast looks as if he or she can dance and enjoy doing it immensely.

In addition to these group numbers there were a number of stand-out solo performers.  These include the diabolo work of Liam Gundlach, Ryal Bor and Sawyer Oubre embedded in a nicely choreographed ensemble piece.  The aerial anchor rigging works well in this nautical theme, especially as performed by Lola Picayo and Marieke Dailey.  Ariana Wunderle, Sorrel Nielsen and Brin Schoellkopf are impressive on the tight wire, maintaining not only their balance but their characterizations of seagulls.  Ariana brings this same character to an irresistibly comic confrontation with her father, who, of course, gets the worst of it, as the two tussle over a sandwich.  She literally eats his lunch, much to our delight.

The admiral does have a moment of triumph of his own when he invites every kid in the audience who wants to be a member of his crew into the ring for a session in which they are taught to be sailors.  Inevitably the ring is packed with kids of all sizes, but Wunderle is undaunted, and manages to reach even the youngest of his new crew.  Like the true pied piper that he is he charms the kids and the adults as well. An absolutely surefire episode that ends with the inevitable shark attack and screaming exit.

One of the most exciting displays of aerial skill comes in the cradle act presented by Julia Baccellieri and Ella Warner.  The duo works its way through the entire repertoire of this discipline with amazing daring and skill.  Warner also teams up with Wesley Williams as his top-mounter in a novel and interesting unicycle display that makes excellent use of a flight of stairs that Williams hops up and rolls down.

Certainly one of the more interesting and the most novel act of the program, is a lyra attached to the end of a boom that is manipulated by Doug Stewart.  Hardly an anonymous figure or invisible Chinese prop person, Stewart interacts with Morgan Pinney throughout her intricate performance on the lyra.  I especially appreciated the fact that there was no effort made to encourage us to ignore the fact that he was there, which made the combination of the aerial performance and his reactions to her an infinitely more interesting act.

In group displays and solo performances the cast of Circus Smirkus always wins our hearts, and we are more than ready to happily share in their triumphs.

In addition to the creative team noted above there is also Jason Eckenroth,  sound designer; Anthony Powers, lighting designer; Elisha Schaefer set and prop designer; and Joshua Shack, production manager. Ed LeClair is the company’s executive director.

 

Circus Juventas Stretches Barrie’s Peter Pan

into a Circus-Sized Production

In a production that incorporates both circus and theatrical arts, runs a solid three hours through twenty-one scenes, has a cast of seventy-five young people presenting an almost infinite variety of skills with the emphasis on aerial, and follows a familiar narrative with inventive twists and tons of moveable scenic pieces one could hardly expect it all to be ideally realized throughout.  Circus Juventas’ Neverland, which includes all of the above, however, comes about as close to accomplishing that as it may be possible with so many moving parts

Dealing with a familiar plot, like that of Peter Pan, has both its advantages and disadvantages, both of which are on display in this production.  We know who the characters are, and they must live up to our expectations.  Happily the principal performers Paul Weisman and Cooper Smith who play Peter and Captain Hook, respectively, not only embody these icons of literature quite fully but display an amazing set of circus skills to an even greater effect.  The role of Hook, by the way, is one of those comic gems which it is impossible to over exaggerate.  I especially liked Weisman’s unrestrained joy in everything he did.

I  do wish, however, that the comic attitude created by the juxtapositioning of innocence against villainy was encouraged to prevail to a greater degree than it does, especially in the numerous battles which tend to get rather serious in nature.  My other wish is that the Juventas people could restrain their tendency to overdo the makeup.

But then there is the surprise performance of the production, Kayleen McQuillan who plays Tink (or Tinker Bell), a character who is usually portrayed as an ephemeral figment of one’s imagination.  Here she is not only a delightfully full-bodied personage but a circus artist whose every move is clothed in the grace and beauty of a trained dancer.  Whenever she is on, it is impossible to take your eyes off her, even when there are numerous distractions, which often seems to be the case.

This production also adds some plot twists that might be startling, if not downright disturbing, to those familiar with the James Barrie original and the Mary Martin/Cyril Ritchard version of the musical.  Tinker Bell gets involved in a love triangle with Peter and Wendy, one that threatens to get quite violent. Tink actually shoots her rival with a bow and arrow.   Wendy who is quite fickle gets involved in another triangle with Peter and Hook, both vying for her attentions.  She’s apparently ready to go either way.

On the other hand there is nothing in this production that comes close to capturing that glorious moment when the Darling children learn how to fly as Peter admonishes Michael to “think lovelier thoughts.”  And then, of course there is that coup de theatre with the musical number “I’m Flying.” Actually this production does produce a coup of its own, but it comes late in the production, when a huge crocodile swoops down and gobbles up Hook in its gigantic jaws.   I also enjoyed the clever solution the show’s creators have found to the problem of having to deal with Hook’s hook.  Such an appendage would be a distinct disadvantage to a circus artist, and so by a bit of hocus-pocus  the hook is replaced by an “artificial” limb right before our very eyes (or almost before our very eyes.)

Much of all of the above has to do with the theatrical end of the production.  When it comes to the circus skills we get much closer to perfection.  Cooper Smith’s solo on the Cyr wheel, one of the few moments in the show when a solo artist is allowed to work without the distractions of other acts working simultaneously, is very well done.

Several of the group numbers were not only excitingly staged but exhibited a degree of skill that is unexpected from such a young group of artists.  The Russian barre act, which worked in triplicate was a rousing success throughout featuring Weisman and two other flyers who impressed me a great deal, but I am, regrettably, unable to identify.  The teeterboard was similarly successful, with three flyers in the air at once on at least one occasion.  The teeterboard in past productions has often proven a daunting challenge to the young performers.  Here the undaunted Weisman even completes a double to the shoulders of his porter.  Cooper Smith is also an important part of this act.

The troupe on the highwire is as expansive as some of the other presentations, but they are no less sure- footed and daring.  Weisman gets into the act here as well.

One of the few places in which comedy prevails is the wall trampoline, allowing the combatants to not only take it on the chin with spectacular falls but also bounce back (literally) with equal bravado.  Need I point out that Weisman and Smith are also involved in this episode?

In the flying act Smith works as the catcher and Weisman one of the more successful flyers, a situation that works well with this plot.  At the performance I saw all of the flyers connected with the catcher but the timing of their returns was more often than not, off.

Then there were the individual performances.  As noted above McQuillan is ubiquitous.  She is part of an excellent trio on the triangle trapeze, a brilliant partner for Rachel Wilson on the duo trapeze, and  a soloist on the swinging trapeze.  Ultimately she plays a pivotal role in the play’s climax which is dramatized by a pair of hand balancing acts in which she is partnered first with Cooper Smith as Captain Hook from whom she acquires the poison with which she will use to betray Peter during the second of the two paired acts.  These two acts, presented back to back are the most effective combination of drama and circus in which each serves the other exceptionally well.

I was also impressed by a strap act performed by two women, Piper Gibbs and Maika Isogawa, the latter as  Tiger Lily.  Beyond its novelty the acts impresses with the level of strength and artistry both women exhibit.  Isogawa also has another standout moment in her pas de deux with Weisman on the aerial straps.

The production is also filled with visual excitement, especially each time a different group of six women go aloft on the bungees, cloud swings or web.

Obviously Circus Juventas’ Neverland is so filled with visual and physical excitement, that it is impossible to take it all in, and it leaves one happily exhausted as Wendy, Michael and John fly home and Peter bids them farewell as he returns to Neverland.

Credit for all these wonders go to director Betty Butler, Lauren Stringer (script writer/scenic designer),Sara Langworthy, Kathy Staszak, and Janice Marcella (costume design), Kellie Larson (prop construction), Dan Rutledge (sound design), Jarod Boltjes, Risa Cohen, and Lili Rancone (choreography) and Annie Enneking (fight director), Jason Burnstein (clowning), Aaron J. Fiskradatz, Tyson Forbes, and Caleb McEwen (acting coaches) and Heather Zehr (jack-of-all-theatrical-trades).

 

Marvel Comic’s Heroes and Villains Invade Nation’s Arenas

The universe faces a crisis that could mean its ulimate and complete destruction.  The Cosmic Cube, the ultimate source of power in the universe, is for the moment in the possession of superhero Thor, but his evil brother Loki is determined to gain control of it and use it to dominate the entire universe. To avert this catastrophe Thor smashes the cube with his mighty hammer, splitting the Cube into three pieces or Fractals which he scatters about the universe.

One problem: Loki has collected enough dust particles created by Thor’s action to clone his own cube.  and to make matters worse the super villains of the Universe are plotting to track down the splintered pieces of the Cube and reassemble it for their own evil purposes.

Our heroes are not going to stand idly by and let this happen.  They divide into three teams and embark on a global mission to rejoin the Fractals.

The action, and there is plenty of it in this live arena attraction produced by Kenneth Feld and his youngest daughter Juliette Feld,  is virtually non-stop as the plot follows each of the teams and their heroic efforts, which consists mainly of lots and lots of hand to hand combat interspersed with spectacular kicks to the head.  This is accomplished with an impressive array of acrobatic twists, tumbling and flips that take place on various platforms, staircases and even the crown of the Statue of Liberty which provides greater visual variety.

Besides the human and hybrid creatures who are forever catapulting off stairs and platforms there is a variety of vehicles—cars, trucks, jets—that  also add to the action by crashing and exploding.  An entire army of motorcyclists, equally as agile and acrobatic as the characters, adds even more daring and excitement.

The heroes include Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Captain America, the Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, Iron Man and of course Thor.  The Hulk also shows up to lend a hand when needed in the escalating war against such hybrid villains as The Green Goblin, Red Skull, Doctor Octopus and Rhino, Black Cat and Lizard.

What has this to do with the circus?  The acrobats and the acrobatic moves, of course.  Everyone in the cast must be proficient in acrobatics, the martial arts and have balletic grace (it takes a certain finesse to be able to be pummeled with convincing violence and style.)

The person responsible for bringing this spectacle to fruition is Shanda Sawyer whom circus fans will recognize as the director and writer of several productions of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.  Here her billing reads, “concept creator, director and co-writer.”  The other writers are the brother/sister team of Adam Wilson and Melanie Wilson Labracio.  Andy Armstrong is the action and stunt coordinator, a role he also fulfilled in several of the Spider-Man films.  Cynthia Nordstrom is the costume designer, Joe Stewart the production designer.  Norm Schwab is the lighting designer and Bob Bonniol is the video content and system designer.  Michael Picton, who was a subject of a feature in a recent issue here, is the composer.

 

The Bindlestiff Family Heads for the Woods

There is hardly a more urban-centric show than the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, yet it seems perfectly at home in the Spiegeltent that is part of Bard College’s Summerscape and Music Festival.  Located on Bard’s Hudson River campus in Annandale-on-the-Hudson, the whimsical structure is situated in an idyllic setting in the rolling hills and sylvan glades of Westchester County in New York State.  The tent’s neighbor is the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, a phantasmagoric concoction of stainless steel sails designed by Frank Gehry that somehow seems right at home in this leafy setting.

There is something uniquely fascinating about seeing a circus performance close up, as we are able to do here.  Several shows and venues promote this kind of intimacy, but none is quite as close-up as the performance in the Spiegeltent, which in contrast to its setting at South Street Seaport here looks like a fairy-tale cottage which some wandering children or those young at heart might stumble upon while picking their way through an enchanted wood.

This kind of venue requires more of the artists and provides more fascination for the audience than other larger venues.  It isn’t just a matter of being able to admire the musculature of acrobats.  It is the personalities of the performers that come across more forcefully.  A circus performer who prefers the anonymity of the arena or has only a bland perfunctory faceless styling to offer audiences would be at a great disadvantage here.

This cast, put together by Keith Nelson and Stephanie Monseu, is anything but anonymous.  They are charmers who make contact with the audience every moment they are in the ring and even when they are only in its periphery, and not only during their tricks but in their exits and entrances as well.

The Bindlestiff’s presented two different versions of their show, one designed for adults, the other aimed at a family audience.  Both versions seemed perfectly at home here.  At night among the colored lights hiding among the trees the performance seems like something a wicked witch might conjure up, and as it turns out there is a wickedly, sexy woman, Sabrina Chap, in residence, who provides the musical accompaniment on the keyboard and comedy with her kazoo.  During the day the young audience is charmed by a slightly more benevolent spirit.  I actually liked the kids’ show better, for it seemed more honest.  The x-rated material comes across as something tacked on for its own sake, superficial, forced and  strained.

I was especially impressed by the personality of Ariele Ebacher, the girl on the wire, who connects with the audience even when putting on her shoes or ballet slippers or handing props to Jan Damm, the boy on the rola bola.  Susan Voyticky and Matthew Greenfield performed an adagio together, and she had a solo on lyra.  In the afternoon show he performed a solo on straps.  The fascinating part of this act, more than his muscles, was how unfazed he remained as toddlers strolled in and out of his performance.  Kyle Driggs, the young juggler whom I had previously seen at the circus school in Canada was fantastic and in contrast to that earlier performance is best viewed up close where one can more easily appreciate the quirky novelties of his catches working with a red umbrella and juggling rings.

Keith Nelson is the best hobo clown of his generation sporting a perfect makeup the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages.  His well practiced spiels during his plate spinning  and sword swallowing acts also recall an earlier era.  In the plate spinning act, however, he could profitably raise the level of hysteria as he averts near disaster.  Having Stephanie wandering through it all as an inebriated assistant isn’t quite enough.  His spoon juggling, however, raises the ante considerably to a triumphant ending.   Eventually Stephanie’s drunken state renders her rather maudlin, the perfect mood for her snooze on a bed of broken glass.

Don’t try this at home, with or without the fortification of alcohol.  But do try to catch the Bindlestiffs.  Their shows harken back to another time even while  introducing new talent.

 

 New & Noteable Juggling Trio Debuts

by Kim Campbell

On a recent Saturday night in Chicago, a trio of overgrown and comically inclined young men appeared at the Aloft Loft (aloftloft.com) with buckets on their heads and juggling clubs in their hands. Behind them was an orderly pile of household items like laundry baskets, more buckets, and a pile of clothing.  Unbeknownst to the audience, those neat piles were about to get played with as props in original and impressive ways via the art of juggling.

The three men are the Company McQuiggs (mcquiggs.com), also known as Willem McGowan, Kellin Quinn and Nathan Biggs-Penton. Kellin is currently a student at Canada’s national circus school in Montreal and the others are students of  Ecole de Circque de Quebec.  All were on summer hiatus, so they took it upon themselves to arrange a brief tour of the Midwest (Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago, and a final stop at the annual International Juggling Association Festival in West Lafayette, Indiana.) Their vigorous performance affirmed their official motto as stated on their website , “Company McQuiggs’ sole purpose is to waste your time in the best way possible.”

The show may have begun and ended with  buckets  on heads and some sightless juggling, but in between is where the entertainment happened.  The three worked well together, combining European contact juggling and toss juggling styles seamlessly in the first act, then provided a visual cue which turned out to be a theme of the show by donning somewhat matching t-shirts throughout the performances to delineate each subsequent act. Kittens t-shirts, dollar bill signs shirts, and plaid shirts to name a few were rapidly swapped out as the show progressed, with Kellin always seeming to get the worst of the attire, to everyone’s amusement.

Some of their shenanigans were reminiscent of the Blue Man Group and the art of parkour by the way they playfully interacted with props and each other, often using one another as props, juggling while intertwined in acrobatic poses, juggling each other’s heads as well as more standard juggling balls, and moving boldly around the stage, leaping, tumbling and twisting. The performance was energizing to watch and the contemporary accompanying music was well-chosen and contributed to the youthful tone overall.

Local Chicagoan Willem McGowan had a suspenseful solo routine on diabolo, assisted in the act by his partners dressed in money themed t-shirts and goofy sunglasses. After that, the three performers did a toss style juggling routine with 12 clubs in constant motion. For the following act, the trio took out the laundry baskets to artfully toss around dozens of multi-colored juggling balls, using the baskets as extended hands.

Company McQuigg had one salute to the past with a lively dance and toss juggling routine to the “Good Morning” song from Singing in the Rain complete with Kellin Quinn getting lampooned with the purple dress while his companions played the dapper Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor roles.

The finale was a very entertaining and frenzied celebration of mayhem where every prop got tossed, juggled, thrown, jumped upon and spread about the stage while the 3 performers completed clownish feats of manipulation with everything they had at hand just before they settled back down and placed the buckets on their heads to end the show.  Once it was over, the young men thanked the audience and revealed another mission of theirs beyond wasting our time well. They announced their wish to improve appreciation for the circus arts in the hopes that someday we too would have a national circus school offering American circus performers  the option to receive professional training in their home country. I hope Company Mc Quiggs keeps up both missions–to amuse us and deepen our appreciation– well into an expanded 2015 summer tour.

 

The Circus That Came to Dinner

by Kim Campbell

The stage was set this past August at Chopin Theatre in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. It contained a fancy couch, a dining room table, a chandelier, the all-important liquor cabinet, and portraits hung on the wall of the recently deceased father and mother. At first glance, the obvious circus props do not appear to be around, but as soon as the show begins, the utility of the furnishings for circus become apparent. The play revolves around a family of five spoiled adult daughters returning to the ancestral home in mourning. Unlike most plays, this one is not wordy, in fact, there are only 6 words in it. In spite of this, the feelings and intentions of the characters are skillfully conveyed through their actions and movements, blending aspects of physical theater, dance and circus. The show is divided into 13 acts, most of which are more similar to circus acts than acts in a play, in that they are paced quite briskly and full of action-packed surprises. Each act is cleverly titled to give us a taste of what turmoil the family is experiencing.

Dinner of Our Discontent was originally produced in 2008 by Shayna Swanson, the founder of Aloft and El Circo Cheapo. She wrote and directed it and also choreographed 5 of the scenes. This should come as no surprise to those who know Shayna and her work as an award winning dance and circus choreographer as well as an accomplished aerial artist and acrobat. Since she founded Aloft in 2005, she has been a force for expanding the circus scene in Chicago, producing over 5 full length shows.

Dinner of Our Discontent’s first run in 2008 was at a smaller theater as a fully formed production, but in the intervening years Shayna has used her experience as a director and producer to expand the artistry of the show and also uncover some confident new performers that lend it a polish.

The 5 daughters are identified solely by their birth order in the play. There is the eldest, full of self-importance and dressed in business attire played by Leah Leor, the second born (flawlessly displaying the middle child angst) dressed in spandex rebel fashion and donning a mohawk, played by the energetic Dana Dugan, the brawling and competitive twins dressed as a cross between cheerleaders and roller derby girls played by Natalie Abell and Mary Jane Schroeder, and the clueless baby of the family, played by Zoe Sheppard sporting the Little House on the Prairie look.

 “A Realization”

The story begins with a slow start as the dejected maid played by Molly Plunk strolls through the posh home of her beloved deceased employers. She is preparing the place for the arrival of the daughters. They will come to read the will and embark on the obligatory squabbling over sibling pecking order and who gets what knick-knack. The maid discovers a whisky bottle in the couch cushions and she proceeds to drown her sorrows and entertain herself with a little illustration of her foot juggling savvy with the bottle.

Soon the firstborn daughter arrives and the maid makes a fuss over her before leaving her to get reacquainted with her childhood home. The first daughter discovers her dad’s boots and in an attempt to fill them she performs “A Reminiscence” as an homage to her father,  using the boots as poi, toys,  and ultimately as shoes before breaking into a soulful contortion and acrobatic dance.

When second daughter  arrives for the act “A Rebellion” her anger is expressed to the tune of Rebel Rebel by David Bowie. She leaps around the house, performing furious acrobatic moves and simultaneously trashing the place. She literally hangs from the chandelier  to perform an angry aerial solo before moving on to snorting coke, masturbating on the couch, making sure to close the curtains over her parents’ portrait first, and eventually uncovering the hidden bottle of whisky, which consoles her in the same way it did the maid.

Next enter the twins for “A Resentment”. They express their need to compete for family love and acceptance by rifling through boxes and constant squabbling, which evolves in to an impressive acrobatic performance involving beaded necklaces, wrestling and hula hoops.

They are soon interrupted by more intense feuding when the eldest daughter and the second born meet up for “A Provocation” that reaches its peak as a dance performance verging on martial arts tussle on top of the family dining table.

“A Remembrance”

Throughout all of these tiffs, the parents, played by Will Howard and Destiny Vinley, watch calmly from their perches in their oversized portraits. When one of the daughters discovers a photo album, the children have a singular touching moment of solidarity in remembrance of their parents while browsing it together as their mother and father interact with each other in a romantic double rectangular lyra duo in the background.

The hilarious act titled “A Ruining” begins with all of the kids gathered around the dinner table being served wine by the doting maid. With the ring of a bell they summon her for refills, but soon even that becomes a cruel competitive game among them all, and things get so out of control that the maid has a panic attack when asserting her authority fails miserably, fleeing to the tightwire for “A Delusion” where she performs an actual balancing act while taunted from the sidelines by the girls. Her harassed maneuvers on the tightrope demonstrate perfectly how torn she is between maintaining her role as the family caretaker and her powerlessness to make the girls behave.  Ultimately, she is lured away from the brink of her meltdown and the tightrope itself by the solace of the bottle of High West whiskey she had earlier balanced on her feet.

 “A Rebirth” is next, with the twins having their ultimate battle on the aerial cloud swing which is festooned with clothing hung out to dry. During their struggles it becomes apparent that what they are attempting to do is to forge their own separate identities without losing one another. They manage this with exciting aerial drops while grabbing for the clothes, which they put on as they descend from the cloud swing as separate individuals, tentatively examining one another and reluctantly accepting their individuality with a mutual hug.

In “An Acceptance” it is finally time for the first born and the rebel second daughter to come to terms with one another, beginning with the rebel daughter’s attempts to get the firstborns’s attention and acceptance. But she will have none of it, and ignores all of the second’s attention seeking stunts, even amazing drunken handstands on the table. It breaks out in to a brawl again, with their dance eventually moving to the cylinder shaped chandelier and becoming an aerial duo. Their viciousness gradually becomes more graceful and fluid as they begin to echo one another and form a reluctant truce.

Finally “A Brawl” brings the family tension to a head as the will is fought over. It even lures out the overwhelmed youngest daughter, who could be found hiding under the table during most of the confrontations. The energy level spikes to its peak in this all-cast acrobatic brawl until finally the youngest asserts herself for the first time in “A Reclamation” to perform her solo act on the chains, a beautiful, dreamlike performance which shows her gentle but stoic nature. Ultimately, she snatches the will and reads it to herself in stunned silence before she shocks the audience by speaking the only words  of the show in a loud, clear voice: “Get out of my house!”

“A Reunification” When the house is empty at last, the ghostly parental couple descend gracefully from their portraits to perform a romantic and exquisite acrobatic duo that acts as the perfect contrast to the strident tempo of the rest of the play. Destiny and Will almost steal the show, being the most likeable characters, aside from Molly Plunk as the maid.

Dinner of Our Discontent was an exciting foray into the story of a dysfunctional family. It did not apologize for its flawed characters, but instead celebrated the archetypal roles of family, expanding those roles in to the comical realm with the magic of circus, but leaving the heart of the family drama intact. It is an experience of pure mayhem that leaves the audience happy to have seen such a spectacle. Perhaps most importantly, it is a terrific example of how the arts can be meshed together and enlivened by circus skills. Hopefully, this type of example is an indication of one of the directions circus arts will continue to move towards.