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Theater review: Cirque Eloize works not in a ring but in a social circle. Its actions speak even louder than its skills.

April 10, 1998|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — In Europe, few circuses have animals. Circuses are small, intimate and comfortable. That's the feel Canada's young Cirque Eloize troupe, at the Irvine Barclay Theatre through Saturday, has gone for, and it makes for a charming and visually refreshing evening.

There is no pretension. The acts are technically amazing, even though they are on a small scale. Yet the technical feats are unimportant here.

What makes the evening outstanding is an amazing through-line, almost story-like although there's no plot to "Excentricus." The social interplay, almost conversation, during each trouper's brief time onstage, is enlightening.

They are a team, in the true sense of the word. They have a director (Christine Rossignol), a theatrical director (Michel Dallaire) and a choreographer (Catherine Archambault). Yet their moments seem so spontaneous, one would like to think they are.

Artistic director and founder Jeannot Painchaud runs a little like comic actor-director Jacques Tati; through the evening, simple, amazed and curious, on a bicycle that seems as naive as he is. He and the bike perform miracles of motion (don't try this at home, kids), and his innocence infuses the evening with the subtle message that this is what a circus is about.

The other acts are part of the tapestry of this old-fashioned but always new entertainment. Alain Boudreau and Noemie Sirard Gervais create poetry in their "hand to hand" act, in which two bodies often seem to be one. Shana Carroll's trapeze work is not flashy but evocative within this framework, and Daniel Cyr's love affair with a ladder is a wordless Spalding Gray-like monologue.

*

While Nadine Serrano's physical contortions add to the music of the piece, the (almost) silent comedy of the duo Les Voila! sparks the energy of the evening with standard material that is nevertheless funny.

The evening is almost stolen by acrobats Damien Boudreau and Robert Bourgeois--not just by their airborne feats but also by their effervescent laughter and joy. The real scene-stealer is Marcus and his rope, which usually seems part of his body, even when it's obvious that it will propel him crashing to the stage.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

"Excentricus," Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive. 8 p.m. tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. $17-$28. Ends Saturday. (714) 854-4646. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Jeannot Painchaud: Artistic Bicycle

Damien Boudreau: Acrobat

Robert Bourgeois: Acrobat

Shana Carroll: Trapeze

Daniel Cyr: Ladder

Marcus: Rope

Nadine Serrano: Contortion

Alain Boudreau: Hand to Hand

Noemie Sirard Gervais: Hand to Hand

Les Voila!: Clowns

A Cirque Eloize production, presented at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Directed by Christine Rossignol. Original music (with others) by Denis Hebert. Theatrical direction: Michel Dallaire. Choreography: Catherine Archambault. Scenic/prop design: Daniel Cyr. Lighting: Louis Landry. Costumes: Mireille Vachon. Makeup: Nathalie Gagne.

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