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Theater Review

A Parade of Characters as Real as They Are Fun

April 02, 1999|CORINNE FLOCKEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Canada's Cirque Eloize is back with a new show, "Excentricus II," that brings alive characters everyone has run into in their youth, from the street tough to the wide-eyed innocent, with feats that once again are consistently engaging and frequently breathtaking.

There's virtually no dialogue--only the whispered ravings of the comedy duo Les Voila!--just an hour and 40 minutes of amazing acrobatics, juggling, aerial work and other circus skills.

Five musicians--each given a distinct character--play on stage with the troupe's 11 circus artists, allowing the musicians to change tempo in sync with the performers' acts (and vamp through the infrequent gaffes) and interject themselves into the action. Bassist Pat Donaldson, for example, provides a nice contrast to the show's playful mood as a dark, dour and supremely "adult" maestro.

Jaime Adkins, a San Diego performer who joined the company during last year's U.S. tour, is the only American in the cast and is its most endearing character: the bashful charmer who fumbles his way into the spotlight and finds he likes it, growing increasingly bold as the show progresses.

*

Children at Wednesday's performance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, where the company's four-night sold-out run ends Saturday, warmed to Adkins instantly, especially when his blunders caught the disapproving eye of Donaldson's character. Adkins' gift for blending physical comedy and agility on the slack wire is shown off nicely in the second act.

Through their skills on the trapeze and the ladder, Marie-Eve Dumais and Daniel Cyr portray a budding romance between the sought-after girl and the Everyboy. Her elevated dance is alternately beckoning and aloof, while his masterful balancing and spinning on the ladder seem designed to win her heart--or, when she skips coyly out of reach, to while away the time till she returns.

A second pas de deux unfolds overheard on the aerial cradle between Ariane Darche and Antoine M. Gagnon. Intertwined on this large suspended hoop, the pair resemble pieces in a Jacob's ladder puzzle: each one's motion inspiring a reciprocal motion from the other to create a single, fluid action.

Not all is serene on this playground, however. Marcus, a performer with a compact, muscular build and a menacing stare, adds conflict to the mix as the bully. His performances on the rope are powerful and tinged with violence, culminating in a dark moment that changes the group's dynamic.

Still, this bunch appreciates a good laugh, and the resident jesters, Les Voila!, serve them up amply. The musical duo (he plays several instruments, including an acrobatic stint with a bass viol; she strums a mean ukulele--neither's name is listed in the program) employ some of the same slapshtick we expect from American circuses, but their goofiness is never mean-spirited or crass. In their deft hands, even a burp over a bullhorn seems right.

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* "Excentricus II," Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive. Continues at 8 p.m. tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Sold out. Ends Saturday. (949) 854-4646. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Jaime Adkins: Slack wire

Damien Boudreau: Acrobat

Robert Bourgeois: Acrobat

Daniel Cyr: Ladder

Ariane Darche:Aerial Cradle

Sylvain Dubois: Artistic Bicycle

Marie-Eve Dumais: Trapeze

Antoine M. Gagnon: Aerial Cradle

Marcus: Rope

Les Voila!: Clowns

Anne Charbonneau: Musical director, keyboards, accordion

Eric Bernard: Electric & acoustic guitars

Pat Donaldson: Bass

Ross Richard: Drums

Claude Vendette: Saxophones, flutes, keyboards

A Cirque Eloize production. Artistic director: Jeannot Painchaud. Directed by Christine Rossignol. Music: Denis Hebert and others. Musical arrangement: Eric Bernard. Theatrical direction: Michel Dallaire. Choreography: Catherine Archambault. Set and prop design: Daniel Cyr, Daniel Waddell and Sofi Dagenais. Lighting design: Louis Landry. Costume design: Mireille Vachon and Helene Tetreault. Makeup design: Nathalie Gagne.

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