Wednesday, May 04, 2011
From Carson and Barnes, 2011: Vexingly Uneven Opus Mixes World Class Action with Amateurs in Slapdash Package
Circus Review: Carson & Barnes
May 2, 2011, 4:30 PM
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this circus is that it is still on the road. Whenever I go, most of the seats are vacant. This time, I estimate that around ten percent were filled, most of them moppets who seemed amply engaged.
The next most amazing thing, certainly this year: Carson and Barnes can throw into the same ingloriously staged mishmash performers of world class status with utterly rank amateurs. Go figure.
The show proves, as I have often argued, that at practically any circus you are likely to find one or two very good acts, if not more. Top of the class on this generously varied bill are the juggling Rinny family, whose star attraction, a young man, sustains a mesmerizing display of juggling expertise and showmanship. Worth the price alone. The four family members work splendidly well together through a variety of routines. They're the real thing.
Equally accomplished is gifted contortionist of a thousand body bends and tucks, pulls and dislocations -- Kevin Barnal Rios from Columbia. He's a standout showman producing complex, sensually executed contortions. How refreshing to find so much more in so much less — less being no partners. He goes solo and brings fresh life to a genre all too often, no matter how impressive, slow moving. Not with this star. Ends up inside a glass cube. Guy could play most venues to kudos.
Also on stellar sawdust are a couple of skilled bide riders, Jonathon and Jasmine Olivero, nicely building their repertoire from simple to surprising. Another winning asset is the “silk artistry” work of a young man, sans (I assume) partner. C&B Website references the De Paula Duo. (Show sells no program magazine) He connects well with the crowd working the usual basics up and down a ribbon.
Rounding out pro offerings are a trio of high wire walkers, the Tandazos, who deliver mid-level staples to wining effect; and, of course, the Carson and Barnes elephants, but not without a shocking deficit: This pachyderm performance was the shortest I have ever witnessed, and I came expecting a Big Show. I could not believe my eyes. (The Flying Cavallini Famly did not appear owing to a recent fall; the flyer is reported in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery)
As for the rest of the outing, one or two acts manage to please despite meager ingredients: For instance, so fundamentally home-made are Dallas’s Doggies, that they charm, thanks to a skillfully developed program advancing from simple to amusing. Over, around or under four hurdles each move. Last dog simply knocks 'em all down. Funniest moment in the whole show.
Other turns may leave you yawning. The wheel of death is pretty dull stuff. A pony drill is almost ok. Weakest item by far is the unwelcome sight of a fellow nervously trying to bring off a slack rope effort. He's not yet ready, not even for sub-prime time.
Comedy? About as much a drag as a tickle (rarely) is Alex, working mostly the same numbers I remember from two years ago. He scores the best when his bits are brief, when he's mimicking the star performers; not at all when he interacts laboriously with the show’s laborious ringmaster, who gets from me an “O” rating — O for Obnoxious (ok, you can think “overbearing” if that makes you feel better). His tediously overblown oratory cries out for a gag order. He and Alex produce more ear-shattering noise than genuine humor.
Costumes are colorful enough. Aerial ballet is adequate at best. Parades have dazzle and opulence but lack better staging at front and end segments. Some of the music references Cirque du Soleil scoring; other puts us onto a late-night disco meat rack.
To their credit, the Byrds seem sincere in trying to upgrade and diversify the quality of the performance. That's obvious. But they have yet to break some old habits that denigrate the good moves they are making. Peanut and coloring books pitches remain, of course.
Carson & Barnes, with judicious direction and pruning, could be so much more.
Overall Rating (out of four stars tops): 2 stars