‘Air Play’ by Acrobuffos (Photo: Florence Montmare)
By April Stamm
A pure sense of glee and wonder… that’s a hard thing to achieve in theater, especially when working with no dialog, intending to teach as well as entertain and playing to the grammar school set. Air Play, now playing until April 15 atThe New Victory Theater, does exactly that with grace and ease.
Created, written and performed by Acrobuffos (Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom), Air Play is a romp through the ethereal and hysterical world of air as told through mime, acrobatics, silent comedy and movement. With balloons, tiny and human-sized (literally, the performers climb inside of them), feathers, gauzy oversized scarves and glitter, the two explore the physical properties of air flow and gravity (Daniel Wurtzel, Air Sculptor) to create fantastic and beautiful scenes. Interacting expertly with the objects they manipulate, Gelsone and Bloom tell a story through their masterful movement giving the objects a life as well. It weaves together as a tale of two friends who meet, play, tease, argue, separate, feel loss and loneliness, and eventually work their way back to each other.
Gelsone and Bloom both have extensive years of experience in movement, mime and comedy. Gelsone has worked in 38 counties as a non-verbal clown, juggler, puppeteer, acrobat, mask performer and stilt walker. As an alum of Bond Street Theater in New York City, she did wordless productions of Romeo and Juliet in Kosovo and Albania. Her partner in crime (and life, the two are married), Bloom has toured as a juggler and silent comedian, working in Afghanistan with the Mobile Mini Circus for Children and has degrees from Wesleyan, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre and LISPA.
Beyond all of the honed skill, though, what truly sets this duo apart is its energy and connection as a team. The couple’s craft, expertise and experience in movement is easy to quantify and describe, this symbiosis and understanding of each other in such a way that they can take an eclectic array of props and tell such a poignant and honest story to such young viewers is more impressive.
If the performance itself wasn’t enough reason to venture to the New Vic, the theater itself is a draw. Since 1990, The New 42nd Street, a nonprofit organization, has dedicated itself to restoring Times Square after its decline in the 70s and 80s. This has included restoring what was first dubbed Theatre Republic built by Oscar Hammerstein (grandfather of the famed lyricist). The theatre took many turns over the decades from a marquee venue featuring big names when it was built in the early 1900s, to Broadway’s first burlesque club, to a first run cinema, to the block’s only XXX-rated movie house.
The New 42nd Street reimagined the derelict theater after this storied past and created the first and only full-time performing arts center for kids and families, christening it The New Victory Theater. As well as housing a wide variety of performances for kids of many ages, The New Vic makes clever use of its sizeable main floor for engaging the tots with pre-show activities. My fellow reviewer (my six-year-old) and I got to play loads of “air” related activates pre-curtain; blowing down solo cup towers with an Airzooka, racing packing peanuts with tiny blowers to a goal post, and more.
There are a lot of ways to judge performance: its artistic creativity and impact, its performers and their skill and honesty, etc. Air Play at The New Victory Theater is easy to judge by the ringing belly laughs and edge-of-seat wonderment in the eyes of all of the small faces. Acrobuffos enthralled kids and adults alike for a captivating 60 minutes with ease, heart, and an uplifting theatrical sensibility.
Air Play by Acrobuffos
The New Victory Theater
209 W 42nd Street, NYC
Through April 15, 2018
April Stamm is a theater, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to The Broadway Blog and EDGE Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center. Follow her on Instagram at @aprilstamm.