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Review 1, 12-12: OZmosis
Watch the Ceiling and Watch out for that Dog; Circus Oz Takes Manhattan
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2003 Maura Nguyen Donohue
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NEW YORK -- Five days
short of its eight-year anniversary, the New Victory Theater reaffirmed
its vital role as the city's only nonprofit theater dedicated to
kids and family programs with the cheeky Aussies of Circus Oz. Saturday
afternoon's performance was a benefit for the New Vic's Education
and Youth Corps programs, chaired by Phoebe Cates Kline and Rita
Schrager. Though Ms. Cates Kline was home with the flu that afternoon,
husband Kevin, in full Falstaff busy beard for the Lincoln Center
run of Henry IV, and their beautiful children made a strong showing
of support amidst the rambunctious audience.
The show opens with
a fiery bang as a row of drummers with flaming sticks pound out
a rhythm on top of the riot of the company band. Flaming hula hoops
and bicycle wheels round out the spectacular introduction. We meet
an upside-down clown with a bit of gravity confusion who walks on
the 'ceiling' of the theater. He eventually "climbs" down the pole
to the stage before the company attacks the pole in a barrage of
gasp-inducing displays of incredible inner thigh strength and coordination.
More than once I swore one of the performers was shooting for a
broken nose, sliding down the pole, head first, arms airplaned out
only to stop at the last moment with a clench that would make any
downtown dominatrix proud. Juggler Joel Salom accompanies the antics
using his JAMIDI (Juggling Activated Musical Instrument Digital
Interface); as he juggles balls against the sensors on his arms,
a lively musical sequence ensues.
Tough broad Melissa
Fyfe's interlude on the German wheel, that big contraption resembling
a hamster-wheel, is pure magic, showcasing her unassuming strength
and flexibility with plenty of exhilarating precariousness. A deceptively
simple contraption, the wheel shifts from jungle gym to trapeze
to swing set to tidal swell as Fyfe slides, drops, flips, surfs
and suspends with all the hypnotic potency of a perpetual motion
Six weeks into new motherhood,
I was completely heartened by the display of playful power from
the women in the company. Anni Davey supports any number of performers
in any number of ways, including by dangling someone by her hair,
and Ruby Rowat rushes past us with willful abandon on her swinging
trapeze. I can't wait to bring my daughter to the New Vic during
its 10-year anniversary season to instill images of flying bodies
and people standing on each other's heads.
But the company provides
plenty of rocking good fun beyond any nouveau feminist agenda. Matt
Wilson's good-hearted boy scout gets shot from a cannon to earn
his badge for world peace while Jim Dunlop provides just enough
pithy political humor in his game-show narration, declaring the
section's "weapons fabricated by Donald Rumsfield" to keep the parents
in the audience on edge. Wilson must maneuver around the 'razor-wire
of repression,' against the 'bodyguards of brutality' using the
'road-map to peace.' He flies through the air onto the crash-mat
of human kindness (brought to us by George Bush Reloaded) and I'm
dreaming of running away to join the circus just so I can experience
a few seconds of what looks like a luxurious free fall.
Sosina Wogayehu does
the rubber pretzel thing in an old school setting. As she bends
herself backwards all the way through her legs, an accordion plays
and she is rotated on a manually operated turntable surrounded by
dim bulbs. Salom manages to get his jacket off and lose his pants
and get them back on again without dropping a pin, and the only
animal on the roster is a robot dog who likes to tell stand-up and
piss on the audience.
Circus Oz continues
at the New Victory Theater through January 11.
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