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Hot And Sweaty Clowns

November 28, 2007

A tropical climate hung over The Climate Theater last night. The tiny SOMA space was so packed that temperatures must have been in the 80s. It wasn't just the audience, crammed together like happy sardines, that caused the heat. A lot of the warmth came from the venue's postage stamp-sized stage, where the agile Cirque du Soleil clowns John Gilkey, Daniel Passer and Wayne Wilson and a few of their dancer and musician friends performed material that Cirque wouldn't allow them to perform.

The clowns and dancers are currently associated with the Cirque off-shoot show in Las Vegas, Le Reve. What they did last night in that congested little theater was indeed a dream.

Not all the bits worked -- there were rather too many routines involving lip-synching for my liking and some of the musical numbers were a bit rambling and flat -- but the laughter was dense and kept coming. I had to massage my face several times during the show: It ached from the effort of constantly smiling.

One of my favorite skits involved a solo by a young female clown. She wore a huge fluffy white tutu, a black, tailored jacket and high-heeled shoes. Stomping about the stage making hydraulic noises, she looked and sounded like a new species of machine -- something crossed between The Terminator and a Spinning Jenny. The act revolved around this tutu-wearing colossus' attempt to blow up a yellow balloon. Having failed at the task several times, she asked a male audience member to help her out. After stealing a kiss from him, she them set about trying to burst the balloon by stomping on it with her foot in a very robot-like way. When she finally succeeded in her task, she exited. The disjunct between the character's femininity and her misplaced attempts at playing Terminator were what made this funny. Plus, the performer had a great presence.

The main trio of clowns also did some brilliant skits. In one of the best, Gilkey, wearing a sweat band around his head, from which his spiky hair protruded in all directions, told a story through mime about a great tennis-playing musician, whose love for tennis and music was surpassed only by his love for his cat. Gilkey managed to imbue his absurd little tale with silliness and sadness. It was a simple but strong performance.

The show is only running one more night. There might be a few tickets left for the 10pm performance (the 8pm is sold out.) If Gilkey and his cohorts don't make you want to run away and join the circus, it will at least make you want to sign up for The Climate Theater's mailing list.

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