Monday, November 15, 2010

Traces Chicago - Hold on to your seats!

While most of the performers in the newly opened “Traces” have backgrounds that include time with Cirque du Soleil – Cirque this was not.

Traces felt like Cirque du Soleil had come to my corner of Wicker Park, selected seven local hipsters right off the street, and granted them superpowers. The show opens with a purely casual vibe, with seven friends dressed in comfortable street clothes just shooting the breeze in what can be imagined as some dank, gritty neighborhood.

While the primary focus is on circus and acrobatic feats, the show offers an array of performance arts - acoustic music, poetry slam, dance, piano playing…. even a humorous, skateboarding routine that reminded me of an old Hollywood scene.

Early on, the performers invite the audience to get to know them. They incorporate personal information into some acts, further lending to the feeling that we’re just hanging out on the corner with familiar friends (who are far more flexible than we are.) There was something about getting to know these performers as individuals, and seeing them in street clothes rather than sparkling, anonymizing costumes, that seemed to make everything they did even more daring.

Traces contains an unusual mix of darkness and humor. Adding to the vibe of the show is the uber-cool music; live imagery created for the stage by performers using a drawing board; and gritty, black and white live video feeds offering different angles of the performance.

While each act provided some unique sort of performance, the acrobatic prowess of these performers was the most amazing part of the show. Long-locked Florio, who looks like he just walked off the cover of a romance novel, did an entire solo act on a stack of chairs. I’ve seen performers balance single-handedly on top of a chair before, but typically they got to that position after first balancing on two hands and then removing one. Florio was on a stack of chairs, casually put his hand on top of the back of the chair, and then just launched himself up into the one-handed pose. Amazing.

The pole acrobatics were incredible. The performers leaped and flipped between 2 poles, threatening to land on their heads but always making their marks. And by the end of the show, with the performers flipping through small hoops at the top of a 6 foot stack, I was pretty convinced that they did indeed possess superhuman powers.

I recommend this for adults and for families with older kids. The performance is 90 minutes long with no intermission.

Playing October 26, 2010 - December 19, 2010 at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago Illinois.

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