The following article may contain spoilers for the “Circus Veritas” production.
Four figures entering a gym-like stage in dark robes is not the opener one would initially expect from an acrobatic show, and the oddities only escalate from there, but the strangeness of the production is what make it so enjoyable.
Kinetic Arts Productions’ “Circus Veritas Featuring the Sacred Order of the Burning Pants” was based around what it means to lie in a live-production setting. While the show was full of typical circus acrobatics, the performance was also a look into how performers can trick their audiences with events that feel like accidents and audience participation being both planned and unplanned. These included intense feats of strength and the five performers swinging from ropes, silks and poles.
After their robed entrance, the performers immediately lead the audience to be wary of what is scripted and what isn’t, as the first round of audience participation led to someone in the audience being revealed as a member of the cast. The crowd member was pulled on stage to participate in the acrobatics within a matter of minutes.
This show played largely on the theater being a place where things can go awry.
Generally speaking, audiences become uncomfortable when things go wrong, and this production used this anxiety to its advantage — most effectively when a set-piece broke and, when a cast member was hoisted into the air to fix it, dropped from the ceiling to reveal the “accident” was actually part of the show the whole time.
This production played into the era of alternative facts, with performers leading chants, such as “This lie is better than truth!” and tricking audience participants into believing they were actually throwing knives at them, endangering their lives.
This performance was as entertaining as it was impressive.
The audience was so enthralled with the raw human strength of the performers that there was little time to think of anything else. The sparse set and costumes enhanced the focus onto the performers, with the most intense acrobatics incorporating a towering pole. Performers would leap onto it, climb up it and interact with other performers on the pole, all while there was no apparent safety net in sight.
Eric Gillet/Shoot that Klown/Courtesy
And the performers were ripped.
Every move they made was simultaneously effortless-looking and incredibly challenging. There were parts in the show where, with one slip of the hand, someone could have been seriously injured, but instead they flew effortlessly into the air and lept through each others contorting bodies like it was nothing.
There was a slightly political message to the show, but not enough to really make a statement — however, a statement was probably not the show’s intent. The piece used the state of the world around it to set up the main event, which was human beings doing extraordinary acrobatics for an hour and a half.
If you are looking for a delightful distraction from daily life, “Circus Veritas” is an effective one. Those faint of heart may be stressed at how seemingly close to danger these performers are, but they can be thankful they are not being asked to climb up two strips of silk and do the splits in mid-air.
This circus was not a hard-hitting look at truth in the modern era, but why would it be? This was a circus meant for families, but it is certainly not a waste of time for college kids in need of a little midterm distraction. You can watch people climbing, swinging and leaping, and be thankful your chemistry midterm only asks you to move electrons around.
Circus Veritas is playing at Kinetic Arts Productions (785 7th St, Oakland) on Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 4 through Dec. 17.