Monday, September 08, 2014

Struck by Kelly Miller on DVD: A Tale of Two Circuses Under the Same Tent

 First Time in America: Abrham Gebre

It came in the mail, not unexpected, per what seems a friendly tradition, a big envelope which, when squeezed, suggested the inclusion of peanuts. MMM, those I will like, for sure.  It came without a note; perhaps the sender sent it reluctantly, though I have never solicited such.  Perhaps he could still not resist, wishing to maybe tease me with evidence of the kind of a circus he is on record for wishing to produce – the “best” in America.

On the top left of the envelope was one word, written in letters: NORTH.  Of course, we know this to be none other than John Ringling North II.

Inside, a program and a DVD of the 2014 edition, still out there somewhere on the road.

Of course, I would watch it, forever interested in what the House of Ringling may be up to.  At the same time,  I had no intention of reviewing the show on the basis of a DVD.  My thinking along these lines is “evolving,” however, because recorded videos can contain an entire performance, unedited for the most part.

But, at the end of the first half, I knew I would not be commenting at all.

And then, in the second half, came an act so good, it felt like an out-of-body experience at Kelly Miller.  A young juggler from Ethiopia of inventive skill, showmanship, and a fast gripping delivery,  sending me into Ringling or Big Apple territory.  Maybe  not perfect, but Damn good.  This guy would hold his own in any ring.  His name is Abrham Gebre.

 And then yet another act of high-line showmanship, this involving fire, the artist, Lamount, returning for his second year on K-M, and earlier seen on a Lane Talbert You Tube,  but only in a sampling of clips, and no, I do not review clips.  Here, in complete, the act is remarkable in its variation and complexity, in how a series of blazing stage pictures in the dark can build to a mesmerizing climax.

And so, here I am, to a degree commenting on the two circuses I saw in that one tent.  Never have I witnessed a performance so incredibly varied -- from rank amateurism to virtual world class fare.

First off, to a couple of very good new acts that lift the first half into pro territory: Veteran juggler Nicholas Souren, and two finely choreographed Mongolian contortion acrobats, Amina & Zaia, who come with a touch of Vegas razzle dazzle, offering some novel moves on an act we see perhaps too often these days, the public seeming never to get enough of this type of slower moving artistry.  But they give the show class, if only they had a stronger pay off..

So, at Kelly Miller circus 2014, a show otherwise staid. stagnant, and numbingly redundant redeems itself at four intervals with a much higher class of action than we have grown to expect from Johnny North  II’s Cherry Pie Repertory company.

** Juggler Noholas Souren.  He offers a full winning repertory, but what I lacked was a more flashy presentation, perhaps just a more colorful costume.

** The Mongolians.  Lots of meticulous class and styling.  I'd expected something rudimentary, but got a polished frame.

**  Ethiopian ball bounce juggler, Abraham Gebre -- a star in the making, and a credit to North’s potential ability to go after and book some of the best out there. 

**  Biggest surprise: Lamount, The Human Volcano. 

The other circus under the same tent?  I will not dwell, I am not here, believe it or not, to rile those who detest my line of critical prose.   It would be pointless.  But for those ready to claim I haven’t the guts to come clean on what exactly it is I find weak, okay, a few examples:

* Dogs that appear to be in training rather than performing.

* Clowning that falls woefully short of the mark.

* The Carousel "production"  number comes up a blank, a void.   Almost nothing happens, and it was a let down, for I have noted in past comments that JRN II shows a flair for production.  Not here.  The action is pinned on pleasant, slow moving  aerial work of little consequence.

Three examples, there.   The rest of the show, I suppose, is adequate.  Now, please, if you yourself are on fire, ready to fire off hate mail, may I kindly propose a way to cool off?  Consider that Circus Report called the show “the best in America,” and that Spectacle gave it a fairly glowing pass.  Still upset?  I’d suggest ditching this blog for good, pal. That’s what I do when I can’t stand whatever it is I can' stand anymore, like obnoxious talk show hosts -- or critics.

I will not linger.  Sometimes, a first draft is the most honest draft.   I did enjoy a new brand of peanuts, thank you “North.”

And I might now replay the DVD, just to enjoy what there is there to enjoy.  A friendly piece of unsolicited advice: Let go of your comfort zone, Johnny the Sequel, and think NEW.  And if I don't get a big envelope from you  next year, I will understand.  No hard feelings, okay?

End Ringers:  Incredible.  Three of the four acts I mention, all first timers, do not have photos on the show's website.  Steve and Ryan are still there, as are acts from other years.   Go figure.

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