The Midnight Circus: When Circus and Theater Collide | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Midnight Circus: When Circus and Theater Collide 

The Midnight circus: when circus and theater collide, at National Pastime Theater. So these two actors are playing a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire when they're interrupted by an unexpected knock at an onstage door. When they answer it, in marches a circus, complete with clowns, acrobats, roustabouts, jugglers, and stilt walkers doing rolls and cartwheels, jumps and dives through hoops, jitterbugs with Moiseyev kicks and handstands, and tandem back flips off springboards. There's even a cameo by a very small elephant. And that's just the first act!

Before The Midnight Circus: When Circus and Theater Collide is over, we get human pyramids, bungee gymnastics, walls falling down, and even web dancing, with girls slowly twirling on ropes right over our heads. But this is not simply a stunt show, for playwright-directors J.D. Jenkins and Julie Greenberg have also slipped in some clever satire on modern theater in the form of a Stanislavskian director, an Equity actor who lists "Iriquois Rep" on his resume, and a weaselly critic, all of whom eventually join in the high jinks, rendered all the more madcap by Gregor Mortis's spooky tunes. Still, this remains a family show--the obligatory obscene monologue is delivered in less than 60 seconds by a strobe-lit mime.

Literally working without a net, Midnight Circus might not qualify as theater in any Aristotelian sense, but audiences will probably be having too much fun to care. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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