nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 28, 2008
The subtitle of ExcesSecret Circus is "Guess What It's About?" and that is a good question. The answer lies in how you interpret the word "about." If you take it to mean "guess what the story is about," well, forget about it, there is no story. But if you take it to mean "guess what the show is about," well, that's easy. It's about being spontaneous, endearingly eccentric, and extremely funny.
They launch right into the evening by entering at pre-show and sitting with their backs to us and watching a live video feed of us watching them. They are dressed in hospital scrubs and hold tanning reflectors under their chins while sipping punch out of a fish bowl through long plastic hoses. Olga (Kristin Arnesen) turns to us and contorts her face into flirty full-faced smiles while Bjorn (Christopher Thomas Gilkey) tans. Then Olga does the announcements, "Ladies and Gentlemen, in case of fire, we're all going to die." And "Cell phones... I wouldn't..."
The show is a series of short sketches, most of which have a fantastic soundtrack behind them and some have a bit of video too. Most of the sketches are done without words and when there are words they seem mostly improvised. There is (and this is a warning to those in the front rows) a segment of "audience tampering" in which they pull out a couple of people and make them the focus of a bit they call "Honeymoon Suite." You get the picture. There are several moments of corny choreography, such as the Twister Dance in which they execute a silly dance, play Twister, and strip down to their pasties and panties.
My favorite bit by far is what I titled the Extended Stuff-Your-Face Banquet Pop CNN Culture Jam. There are two "operators" (or stage crew) dressed in black unitards and leather flying caps and goggles (Radoslaw Konopka and Rachael Gilkey) who bring out a long table piled with real food. Olga and Bjorn proceed to stuff their faces, cold turkey and everything, while sound bites from American pop culture and newsreels play. The scene then transforms into an eating contest between and man and a bear. This scene is hilarious and the sound design, courtesy of Konopka, is just as funny and very well put together. Konopka, in fact, runs all the video segments and sound from a laptop on stage.
This scene says volumes about excess and media influence on our lives but the other scenes don't have as much to say about this theme. The show is very funny and the performances are great but much of it is silliness for the sake of silliness. And there's nothing wrong with that. Arnesen plays Olga with so much clownish charm that I found it hard to take my eyes off of her (and not just because she's partly naked half the time). Gilkey, like Arnesen, doesn't have to say a word to be funny. They are both excellent physical actors and can simply lift an eyebrow and get laughs.
This show is definitely worth putting on your list of shows to see at this year's FRIGID Fest. It's funny and unique and altogether a good time.