Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cirque Du Kit-Kat-Klub

"Absinthe" at the Spiegeltent at Pier 17. September 20, 2006

With a very European sensibility, "Absinthe" is a cabaret-style variety show featuring a bizarre range of acts. Here's some info about the venue:

Saunter through the gently lit, European style beer garden. Drift on through the beautifully crafted art deco doors and discover a place filled with flirtatious laughter, exhilarating live performances, swirling lighting, and lush billowing velvet.

These gleaming mirrors have reflected loves, laughter, entertainment and spectacles from all over Europe for the last 100 years.

From their beginnings in Belgium at the turn of the last century, these iconic tents have been traveling the world as part of arts festivals and fairs. The famous and the infamous have performed in these haloed halls. Made from finest teak and beveled mirrors, and looked after
lovingly by a small band of owners, these exceptional venues have never failed to enthrall, delight, surprise and seduce.

For more information on the venue, click here.

On with the show...

The pre-show music consists of recorded military marches, which oddly adds to the retro ambience of the tented space. A round platform in the middle of the circular arrangement of folding chairs serves as the stage. Before the houselights dim, a striking and zaftig young woman in a black bustier and skirt enters and seat herself on top of the piano beside the stage. A man enters in a dark suit and bowler hat, begins to play the piano and she sings. Clearly not American, it's difficult to determine whether she's German, S. American, Italian, who knows what? (She's later introduced as Irish.) She is Camille. Earthy and unapologetically sensual, she whirls round and round in a carousel song (Jacques Brel, I think) - and almost makes you feel as if the round tent in which you sit is also spinning.

Following is an acrobatic pair of Englishmen (in dark suits and bowler hats) who go through an amazing series of presses and balances. They are a mismatched pair, size-wise, one taller, one shorter. The pair have a certain Laurel and Hardy quality, the tall one serious and dead-pan, the smaller one all child-like smiles. The suits come off during the act revealing sculpted forms in Union Jack briefs - I think we have a hit!

Next is a scantily clad woman swinging on a trapeze bar. She had some nice moves and was much stronger than one might have guessed from her appearance.

Soon we are introduced to Miss Behave, another Euro curiosity who seems to have neither a uvula nor a gag-reflex. Wearing a 1940's cut dress with a hobble skirt - in red latex, no less - she explains her act during her second appearance describing it as "...not so much 'wow!' but 'why?'..." Her feats include a cute bit with a pair of scissors, a rose stem dropped through her pierced tongue then putting out a lit cigar with same said tongue. Maximum shock effect comes with a bizarre finaletto involving a table leg.

The next act was an inexplicable sound effects guy, whose only note from the director appeared to be "make it a little more creepily sexual from time to time." Skilled - yes, attractive - no. The act had no narrative to justify its presence, nor did it add anything to the proceedings.

Continuing on the creepy track, Rubberman - Captain Frodo! From Norway (I believe) this is the evening's contortionist. Forcing his body through not one, but two, tennis rackets (unstrung, of course and one 2" smaller in diameter than the other), he was quite funny and engaging. Full of pratfalls, at one point he has one foot on the ground, the other leg is pinned to his torso with the larger racket and the smaller racket is just past his head with one arm through and the other just above the shoulder. As he then bends over to pick up the microphone he's just dropped, he gives a leer to the crowd and says "I know what you're wondering. And, yes, I can!" I'm not sure that his spill all the way off the platform was intended.

After the intermission, Camille returns in an hilarious number "In These Shoes?" followed by Capt Frodo. This time, he stacks successively smaller cans while standing atop them, and ends by sitting on a vegetable-size can with both ankles behind his head. It is during this pose that he challenges the audience with "If you think there's something strange that you'd like to try, you'd be amazed at how you can make a living at it."

A Russian hula hoop performer is next, followed by a final song from Camille "Falling In Love Again" sung a capella in German - lovely!

The grand finale - and grand indeed! Well, how to describe it? In one of the more "Cirque-like" acts of the evening, a bathtub full of water is brought onto the stage. Two ropes/straps are lowered from above. David, wearing only blue jeans, gets in the tub, then wraps, lifts and swings himself around for 5-10 minutes. It's a clinical description, I know, but was it HOT! David is German, dark and smooth. The front row did receive some protection from the spray with some plastic sheeting.

In all, it was a most engaging evening - one I'm glad I didn't miss!

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