‘Machine de Cirque’ (Photo: Loup-William Théberge)
By April Stamm
While flying through the air (with the greatest of ease, as the 19th-century song goes), five men try desperately to connect to another soul in a post-apocalyptic world. Sounds like the perfect set-up for a kids show, right? Machine de Cirque presented by the New Victory Theater is just that and does so with grace, humor and ingenuity.
On a gloriously death-defying set of scaffolding, pulley systems and moving platforms, five young friends have created a communication machine. They try in vain using a cobbled-together antenna (and at times their limber limbs) to catch a radio signal to connect with others in the dark universe to rebuild society. It’s likely that the intended audience for this piece, the early grammar school set, might not quite grasp this world. However, through astounding performances, intriguing set design and an air of honest darkness surrounded by silly levity, they like what they see.
The five performers are necessarily precise in their physical feats and intent. They also need to make it look like a big ridiculous mess, and they do. All five are credited with being not only performers but co-writers and co-directors of the show, but they all have a specific role. Though approximately the same age and running about swinging and jumping off things, each one’s uniqueness is revealed through their connections to one another.
Frederic Lebrasseur is credited for composing Machine de Cirque‘s score and performs it live. Using found objects, a drum kit and synthesizer, he sets the quirky tone of the show while being an extraordinarily vital member of the action himself, performing with a wild and manic fervor in the best possible way.
In a show with lots of oooh’s and ahhh’s some moments stand out as supremely spectacular. Maxim Laurin and Ugo Dario’s teeterboard act (gold medal-winning at Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain) has to been seen to be believed. Yohann Fradette-Trepanier’s special relationship with his bicycle is stunningly executed. It’s hard to breathe as he glides and flips his way through the seeming cramped stage with grace and dare I say, love.
Nerve-wracking, tenuous and looming, mechanical engineer David St-Onge and scenography advisors Josee Bergeron-Proulx and Julie Levesque create a fantastically dark world full of purpose. Not only does every bar and castor contribute to the storytelling, but it looks the part, too. Sebastien Dionne’s costume design has a bit of a hipster Waiting for Godot vibe which suits this piece just fine: pants and blazers distressed and dark, shirts greying, hair tousled in that sweat-mussed way all settle perfectly in this strange world.
Fantastical and awe-inspiring, Machine de Cirque is a blast for the kiddies and has enough depth for their grown-ups in tow. The new age of circus has arrived.
Machine de Cirque
New Victory Theater
209 W. 42nd Street, NYC
Through October 7, 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.