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THEATER REVIEW

A 'Gush' of rain, fire and circus theatrics

September 24, 2007|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Friday's scheduled performance by the FOCUSfish Flying Circus at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre was canceled because of rain, although activities took place on the plaza before the drizzle grew serious. But the Saturday show went on. Or, rather, some people listed in the program did.

An amalgam of circus skills, rock music and physical comedy laced with skepticism about the way of the world in general and the deterioration of the environment in particular, the show's new edition (titled "Gush") came into being through the efforts of writer, director and co-producer Paul Beauvais.

But the distinctive style of the event depended most on such artists as the tireless, feisty rock band Storytyme and projection designer Anaitte Vaccaro, who kept the huge cloth panels on the upper stage (and the side towers) filled with images of fire and water.

The first half-hour and brief segments thereafter belonged to Robb Zeiser, a clown developing unusual formats for juggling while faking ineptitude. His way of wowing you while parodying the notion of doing anything of the sort also became a concept dominating "2 Men With 3 Balls": Beauvais and John Midby hurling large red spheres to express ridiculously pretentious sociopolitical agendas announced by Kirsten Reuters.

Comic competition added complexity to the juggling -- including fire-juggling -- of Julien Heron and Parag Mallick as "Careless Cads." And the flames became even hotter in "Firemageddon," with Hannah Mooney, Kamala Mathis, Anah Reichenbach and Jade Mangiafico manipulating burning hoops, batons and poles around the central performer, a supercool Lester Mooney.

The dancing in Act 1 and a children's aerial ensemble in Act 2 proved energetic but badly coordinated.

Still, dance and aerialism accounted for some of the evening's greatest pleasures when Chobi Gyorgy lifted Christine Van Loo over his head while she moved through knotted contortions with the grace you'd expect in a conventional dance duet.

And just when you believed you'd seen everything she could do, Van Loo left Gyorgy to execute a new set of contortions high above the stage on skeins of fabric.

After intermission, in a post-apocalyptic landscape that featured a giant eel-puppet swimming up the hillside behind the stage, Eric Newton worked a so-called static trapeze (a little hanging bar) for all it was worth. Dangling in ever more precarious balances -- from the back of his neck at one point -- and switching from one to the next with great speed, he made every stunt look easy and fun.

Meanwhile, Zeiser wooed the resident showgirl, Stevie McKinley, encouraging us to pursue love with persistence: a theme to warm the cockles on this icy Hollywood night.

--

lewis.segal@latimes.com

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