City Paper is not for tourists
Logan Fringe Arts Space: Trinidad Theater
Remaining Performances: (Tickets available here)
Wednesday, July 15 at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, July 19 at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at noon
They Say: Come one, come all! Leila Blaze is the new CEO of the Bringling Brothers Circus. An allegory on the presidency, Leila hits the ground with both feet running. Will her efforts keep the circus successful, or will she be overwhelmed?
Marshall’s take: Come to the show early. Not only can you enjoy the Fringe bar, but you can also catch a fantastic pre-show: Letting the majority of the cast loose as clowns is the high point of the show. It’s easy to get lost in Jacqueline Chenault‘s (Sally Jericho/Nancy Heifersweiderfur/clown) antics as a scientist trying to crack the secret of juggling, only for Duyen Washington (Lucy Reeves/Trish Cassidy/clown) to surprise you with a charming stick-figure portrait, drawn at break-neck speeds. Each performer is energetic and dynamic; this cast could entertain a packed house with ease. Starting with all that skill, it’s quite a surprise that It’s a Circus Out There doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts.
Writer/Director Kevin Finkelstein’s script is as busy as a stage full of clowns, but to less effect. It’s described as an “allegory on the presidency,” but you don’t have to worry about politics coming up again much after the first few minutes. It’s billed as children’s theater, but jokes for the adults in the room seem to make up much of the comedy (making it certainly the best children’s theater you have to walk through a bar to get to). It’s got a love triangle subplot threatening to break the dour executive assistant (Jon Jon Johnson), who is keeping the new CEO’s head above water, but that’s resolved off-hand over the phone.
However, with help from the designers, the actors still find opportunities to shine. With costume designer Kat Fleshman’s work, the cast easily commands multiple roles. Christian Campbell (“Wild Bill” Burdenhop/Paul Massey/clown) seems to change costumes every couple of minutes. They jump on their chance to be playful during a tour of the new CEO’s (Stefanie Garcia) many performers. Casy Severn (Vladimir Petrov/Alejandro Vazquez/clown) has spent more than 25 years with the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It shows: real fire-eating and sword-swallowing skills dazzle the audience. Nick DePinto (Oliver Droopbackle Dzierzanowski/clown) gleefully shares his sideshow’s treasures, no doubt embodying Finkelstein and prop designer Amy Oliver’s own joy at finding or building such fun props.
Michael Harris (The Ringmaster) deserves a strong bravo. From pre-show to bows, the Ringmaster is unrelentingly charismatic and enthusiastic. Only his pied-piper routine could keep the audience’s attention as we go from budget concerns to an ad for the railroad, back to budget concerns, to background checks, animal rights, and a final moral: Don’t be too hard on CEOs. Let a blue collar worker take the blame for management’s mistakes, while relying more than ever on their expertise. At least that last bit proved useful for this show.
See it if: You love both business school case studies and fire-eating.
Skip it if: You would rather wait at the bar for your chance to talk to the talented cast unencumbered.