By Mukul Khurana
Nurturing and encouraging the next generation of artists is important. The Circus Collective of San Diego pools just that kind of talent. Their stated mission is to “blur the lines between circus and theater” and, given their background, that means the physicality of the circus will prevail over the emotions of the theater, right? How does a circus troupe merge acrobatics, juggling, contortion and aerial arts with the hyper theatricality of a “noir performance?”
Initially, the set design of Circumstantial Evidence: The Crimson Canary was on the sparse side. The music telegraphed a clear message—it was a mystery—a “whodunit.” This is a good time to give credit to the excellent musicians in the piece. Gina Granier (Piano), Aaron Pratts (Trumpet), and David Bramley (Drums/Guitar) gave a consistently great performance. They underlined the mood of the acts perfectly. The cast assembled at the base of a pole. We got a sampling of circus acts to come. And then, the sets were assembled. The dialogue and set up pointed to a noir mystery.
Included was dance and more. Kayla Rose (the writer of the piece who also played Madeline St. Rose) sang the first song. A bar scene (totally unlike the one in the original Star Wars) gave us a taste of juggling to come. There was a tap dancing number by Katie Amarillas (who also played Mina Winchester). The next song was sung by Danielle Berg (who also played Lola Lyonnel, was the Technichal Director, and responsible in part for the Set Design). The last act before the intermission was the whole cast doing aerial stunts to a background of tango music. This was incredibly well done. I saw many of these same people at The International Fringe Festival of San Diego 2015 and this level of perfection had not been reached.
Having said that, why do I mention the circus acts as individual pieces and not the play and the acting? Because it dawned on me a little after the halfway mark that the strength of these performers lay in their individual and collective circus acts—not in the acting. It is hard to merge the two. In fact, it might be easier to go from acting to circus than from circus to acting. The acting felt forced and stilted. On the other hand, the excellence of the circus acts continued into the second part of the show.
There was more dance (with a hip-hop flavor this time). And then, the pianist surprised by showcasing another talent—she was a contortionist! Her display of yoga poses with a “twist” was remarkable. Ehrick Costello (who also played P.I. Danny Gibbs) also delivered an impressive solo on the pole with aerial feats that defied the imagination. Danielle Berg and Krista Perks (who also played Twitch) continued to amaze with more aerial feats. Jaqueline Witt (who also played Piper Daniels, and was the other part of the Set Design team) was the director. She did a beautiful piece with a pole between two men. This all ended with a very nice piece with ropes. Travis Ti (who also played Malcolm McTweedy) was also the Producer.
Sarah Shire (Kate “Slash” Fezzoli), Seddrick Darnay Bassett (O’ Hannan), Angel Waali-Villalobos (Kerry Burnett) was also responsible for some of the Choreography, and Zoe Irvine (Delivery Girl) was also the Associate Producer—round off this great team of performers. As mentioned, however, the strength lay in the circus acts in the piece—not in the acting. Less is more. Maybe the idea is not to put so much emphasis on the “play” aspect of the presentation, but to focus on the circus aspect—maybe keep that part abstract? Just a thought…
This production had a short run from 5/27 – 5/29 at San Diego Repertory Theatre. However, they will be at The San Diego International Fringe Festival 2016 along with other artists. Support them and other emerging talent! Look for coverage of Fringe events soon.
Speaking of art and culture and the need to support our arts in San Diego, The San Diego Repertory Theatre was being renovated. It was interesting walking along familiar pathways with a new perspective. Sal Cicalese (House Manager) pointed out that the renovations were going to cost around $3.2 million. New facilities await us in January 2017. Support this performance space (it’s another one of those progressive spaces that make us proud to be San Diegans).