NY Clown Theatre Festival: Circus Lunai!
I was really hoping to like this show. When I did the San Francisco Fringe Festival a number of years ago, there was an improv troupe doing something very similar, (they were supposedly an improv troupe from an hitherto undiscovered Slovakian country, and they were hilarious)
The director of Theatre Dzieci is a student of Jerzy Grotowski, and is obsessed with the idea of the clown as simpleton. I’ve seen a couple of their other pieces, mostly cabaret pieces, and have enjoyed their work a lot. The concept- Borat meets the circus, is a good one. Sadly, I don’t feel that Dzieci has found the funny, or even found the heart of this idea.
The show begins with a bit of Beckettian clowning– a young stonefaced clown enters and in seeming slow motion tries to blow up a balloon and fails. He tries a number of times, and eventually manages to give the slightest bit of breath to a dog, which he gives to me (naturally, I’m sitting in the front row) The routine is competently performed, with some life behind it, but it doesn’t bode well or invite us into what follows.
A group of seven clowns (the leader, his wife, and 5 maroons, all bucktoothed) enter singing a quasi-circus marching song. They enter and exit several times. The leader has an excellent energy, the wife so-so, and the rest of the cast seem to have taken too much of their zombie medication.
They proceed to introduce themselves, and do a series of circus stunts that they can’t do or are terrified to do. (walk a tightrope on the floor, and tame a “tigger”) For that they get an audience member. Want to guess who they picked?
They gave me a hat and a whip, and one of the characters was in a tiger costume. They wanted me to whip the tiger to get it to jump through a hoop. I suggested some positive re-inforcement, and the leader said “No- whip the tiger!” I didn’t want to whip the tiger, and finally touched the tiger with the whip, who whimpered as if I had whipped him.
From my perspective, this shows exactly a bad way of dealing with an audience member. The first rule of improv is to Say “Yes, But” not “No.” I think he should have said, “What is this positive reinforcement of which you speak. In my country, we train animals by whipping. You want to be nice to tiger and you think he will do what you say?” –then we would have had a live improv, and maybe something going on. Instead, the energy just kind of depleted, because they had to do it a certain way.
There are some okay ideas (the synchronized swimming was a good idea but went on way too long)– Overall, the show runs at a glacial pace, and the maroons are far too zombified to differentiate themselves as clowns and performers. The last exit of one clown took forever, and once again, had no truth running through it, rather just some very strong zombie medicine.
I hope their next show they can say Yes during the show, and I’ll be able to say Yes after the show.
Theatre Group Dzieci
New York, NY
Hailing from East Molvania, Cirkus Luna! may be the worst circus act ever to perform in public. There is nothing this family troupe does that comes even remotely close to demonstrating skill. Tightrope walkers chicken out, the lion weeps, and acrobats can’t even do a forward roll. Festival veterans Theatre Group Dzieci bring their unique, hilarious, even creepy version of clown work back to The Brick. 45 min.
Friday, September 10th @ 7pm
Tuesday, September 14th @ 7pm
Wednesday, September 15th @ 9pm
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