The Big Apple Circus | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Big Apple Circus 

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Modern circuses generally come in two varieties: very arty or very kitschy. The arty ones like to tart up their shows with lots of novel commedia dell'arte costumes (Cirque du Soleil) or weigh them down with dark, angst-filled narratives of children adrift in Bosch-like lands (Cirque Ingenieux). The kitschy ones are so frantic to be fun for children of all ages that they frequently alienate all but the most childish. The Big Apple Circus combines the best of both. It has a beautiful big top, artfully crafted shows, and tasteful costumes, but the aesthetics don't distract from the performances. The acrobats may wear tights modeled on Mondrian's paintings, but their virtuoso act is never meant to elicit anything more from us than sheer joy at watching grace and power in action. The clowns, led by the amazing and funny Bello Nock, are just funny people, not symbols of urban despair or Dantean torment. Yet these shows manage to appeal to both kids and adults without sacrificing everything on the altar of family entertainment. Big Apple never dumbs things down, never condescends to kids, never tries to hide mediocrity by blasting everyone into sensory overload. It just presents an evening's worth of fine circus acts--tumblers, aerialists, clowns, the whole schmear--in a simple, eye-pleasing format, performed in a single ring that gives even the people in the back rows a great view. Arlington International Racecourse, Euclid and Wilke (enter on Euclid), Arlington Heights, 312-902-1500 (or 800-922-3772 for wheelchair accessible seating or additional information). Opening performances Saturday, June 12, 1 and 5 PM. Through June 27: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays, 11 AM and 7:30 PM; Saturdays-Sundays, 1 and 5 PM. $12-$34. Note: On Thursday, June 17, at 11 AM, Big Apple Circus presents Circus of the Senses, a special free performance for children with visual and hearing disabilities. Call 800-899-2775, ext. 207, for reservations for this performance. --Jack Helbig

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