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The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular

nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 23, 2013

The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular

Karim Muasher and Carrie Brown in a scene from The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular | Joe Bourguignon

How do you make a zombie human again?  You make him join the circus of course.  The renowned anthropologist Prof. Vindlevoss, who hails from a long line of circus owners, has discovered a simple-minded zombie named Edward and she is determined to help him in this hilarious piece of devised clown theatre brought to you by Animal Engine productions. 

Vindlevoss is a young woman with a moustache as thick as her German accent.  When she reveals her newest discovery she flashes back to her childhood growing up the daughter of a circus owner who puts her to the task of running the circus.  Things don’t always go as well as they could but her loving father never frets.  Edward is a bit slow for a human but pretty sharp for a zombie.  His rotting teeth and cold, gray skin give no indication as to the warmth in his heart.  As Prof. Vindlevoss puts him through his final tests to becoming human again he learns a little about circus life while discovering his kind human nature. Along the way, their failures, from the fallen highwire walker to the devoured lion tamer, prove to be absolutely hysterical.  The contortionist scene alone makes the show worthwhile.

Created by Carrie Brown and Karim Muasher, the production is charmingly inventive and absurdly silly. Brown and Muasher use a stage full of props and costume pieces to tell their story in a series of short skits, each one building on the previous one.  Brown and Muasher are completely devoted to their outrageous characters.  I was really impressed with their ingenious manner of clowning.  It combines physical comedy and spoof to create a unique form of buffoonery.  They utilize mime, shadow, sight gags, sound bites and even a beautifully made puppet to make us laugh.  And laughs were in abundance the night I attended.  My face hurt a little bit after an hour of having an immoveable grin.  Brown and Muasher have a good amount of polish on this show so the flow and pace, thanks also to their esteemed clowning expert director Mark Gindick, is natural and unrelenting.  Muasher, especially, only has to grunt or raise an eyebrow to get a laugh.

The Frigid Festival has a lot of great offerings and thankfully it offers us a clown show worthy of notice.  These two go directly to the laughs and mostly avoid the distractions of abstractions that often come with the sort of modern clowning that you may associate with street performance.  It is a show designed for one thing, pure entertainment and they achieve that and make it look easy.  So don’t be afraid of the clowns.  Catch this one before the circus leaves town.