Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cirque du Sexy

Burlesque doesn't really rock my boat, and that genre's revival in the 2000s has largely left me cold. But mix it up with vaudeville and plain old circus acts, and suddenly it's a whole different kettle of hoopla. Absinthe, a show currently running at the Spiegeltent parked by Southstreet Seaport, is a real hoot because it's so obviously derived from the late 19th/early 20th century vaudeville shows in which sopranos belting out arias coexisted with men who ran around and hit each other on the head with frying pans—Buster Keaton, among others, learned his trade on that circuit.

The acts are real short in Absinthe, and the audience sits real close, sometimes uncomfortably so. From that spatial and temporal brevity springs an engaging spectacle in which genuine physical feats come in very sexy wrapping. Fans of new circus (or is that New Circus?) will be familiar with the approach, but when well done—and it is very well done in Absinthe—it bears watching again and again. (Though Camille O'Sullivan may want to reconsider covering "Falling in Love Again" in its original German; her pronunciation is iffy.)

Highlight for me was Ursula Martinez's striptease-cum-prestidigitation number, which brought the audience to its feet, hooting. I hear that Martinez is likely to be back next year as part of the Duckie show P.S 122 is bringing from London. But it's her solo pieces—which explore the border between public and private, fiction and autobiography, and which she's done in venues such as the Barbican—that I'd love to see most. Let's hope a keen-eyed NYC producer drops by Absinthe.

No comments: