Monday, September 14, 2015

Stage Acrobatics - Blind Date and Empire - Stage Reviews

Blind Date - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Created by Rebecca Northan
Runs until Oct 4th 2015

Empire by Spiegelworld - The Spiegeltent at Harbourfront - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Runs until Oct. 18th 2015


There's quite the theatrical balancing acts going on in Toronto right now and both are jaw dropping in their own ways. In Blind Date, Mimi the clown is stood up on a blind date, so grabs an audience member for what becomes a 90 minute improvised blind date as we nervously watch unfold to hilarious and charming delight. Originally conceived with the help of Harbourfront Centre at the Spiegeltent, Rebecca Northan has created a set up that allows the Mimi (played by Rebecca Northan or Christy Bruce) to carefully listen to their new dates and steer the date on a bit of a journey that is ultimately delightful and sweet while also mining the awkward hilarity that comes on a first date (and in front of a live audience no less!). Spiegelworld's latest show Empire plops it's Spiegelworld tent at Harbourfront to present its latest circus and acrobatic tricks within the small tent in a mix of cheeky cabaret, slightly vaudeville mix of groaner jokes and sexy New York attitude. At times awkward with it's off-coloured humour, but always amazing in the technical physicality seen from close range,


Blind Date is pretty simple in concept but the intricacies to pull off an entertaining improvised "blind date" with an unsuspecting audience member is pretty brilliant and requires an actress that knows how to navigate both theatrics and human condition. At my performance, Christy Bruce played Mimi the clown and she picked the most gentlemanly Polish man from the audience for their live date. With Rebecca Northan on hand as the waitress, and Kristian Reimer as the waiter (and later cop), Christy and her new beau set off on an adventurous date that moves from the cafe to the car where they're stopped by the police, and eventually back to an apartment where the audience chose to fast forward the relationship five years into the future. All this while Bruce's Mimi delicately maneuvers a slightly shy but game date that is both nerve wracking and hilarious. The beauty of the piece is Mimi isn't the entire performance, allowing space and time to coax our shy date to become a stage presence all on his own as we get to know both on their first date. Comedy comes from the awkward first date situations (and live on stage situations) without ever laying judgement on our surprised participant and it's the awe of this human emotional juggling that makes this improvisational comedy such a brilliant set up.

Empire is definitely not like Cirque du Soleil (the current circus giant we now measure circus acts with) and relishes in it's naughty, for adults-only up-close-and-in-your-face nature. With it's intentionally bad off-colour jokes to the oddball characters like Yasu Yoshikawa's Half Naked Asian Dude Wearing Pigtails or our "clowns" of the night, Oscar and Fanny (Don Colliver and Jamie Franta), who provide a litany of groaners and a strangely mesmerizing (if slightly disgusting) banana spitting trick. But then you let Half Naked Asian Dude Wearing Pigtails do his tricks on Cyr and German Wheel amongst a bevy of awe inspiring acts on the tiny Spiegeltent stage, just meters away from us and Empire turns to inspiring and the mix of sexy acrobatics and cheeky humour seems to work in balance for a fun-filled night.


Vlad Ivashkin and Aiusha Khadzh Khamed (above) do a beautiful Hand to Hand routine, Henok Belachew Yazachew and Temegen Adole Zada make their Risley foot juggling look fun and easy, Andreis Jacobs (Rigolo) (below) does the always awe-inspiring act of leaf balancing that look like a set of bones carefully balanced with only one point behind held by Jacobs. All this while Tessa Alves beautifully sings throughout the night.


Photo of Blind Date by Michael Meehan
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