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BWW Reviews: PSY Inspires Awe at ArtsEmerson


ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage Presents Les 7 Doigts de la Main; Director, Shana Carroll; Assistant Director, Isabelle Chassé

ARTISTS: Guillaume Biron, Héloïse Bourgeois, Mohamed Bouseta, André Farstad, Joshua Finck, Danica Gagnon-Plamondon, Olga Kosova, Florent Lestage, Julien Silliau, Olaf Triebel, William Underwood

Performances through July 24 at Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, Boston; Box Office 617-824-8400 or

Psy has been described as "a mind-blowing circus," and it is doubtful that I can be succinct and come up with a better explanation for this visiting production in a return engagement at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. Created and performed by the Montreal-based troupe les 7 doigts de la main, Psy is a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring theatrical event that combines acrobatics, aerial feats, choreographed movement, music, comedy, and drama to explore the human psyche, thrill, and entertain.

As ArtsEmerson approaches the next season of bringing to Boston works from around the country and the world, Psy is back by popular demand following a brief run in January. The young performers exude joy and pride in their talents, sometimes failing to hide a "watch me!" aspect - but who can blame them? To quote a line from The Producers, "If you've got it, flaunt it!" Their stunts on implements such as trapeze, aerial rope, Chinese poles, and German wheel are death-defying and beautiful to watch. On solid ground, they create a spectacle when most of the group tosses juggling pins back and forth across the stage, as well as up and down the tiered dollhouse-like set. Tumbling acumen and balancing acts of strength are not to be believed.

The simple thread that connects the many scenes in Psy is that each of the characters suffers from a psychological condition which they enumerate in an encounter group circle. Among the maladies are insomnia, addiction, amnesia, paranoia, hypochondria, and intermittent explosive disorder. Throughout the show, these traits are demonstrated by the skills that each artist displays. For instance, the insomniac (Héloïse Bourgeois) "sleepwalks" off of the top tier of the house onto a Chinese pole and flops around like a ragdoll grasping her pillow, sliding down and climbing back up repeatedly, apparently saved from falling off by her partner, played by William Underwood. Olga Kosova plays the girl with the rage problem and enacts a dangerous knife-twirling act at a childhood birthday party. Later, she does an in-your-face routine on the aerial rope while wearing a skin-tight costume that looks like it comes from the world of professional wrestling.

Far above the stage on the swinging trapeze, Danica Gagnon-Plamondon accelerates to great speeds before engaging in flips and spins that cause communal gasps in the audience. Spider-man, eat your heart out! André Farstad's multiple personality disorder man takes his place on the end of a teeterboard and two cast mates jump onto the other end, flipping him high into the air, where he somersaults and lands on a big cushion, over and over again (once for each personality?). The symbolism of the addict (Julien Silliau) spinning on the German wheel is matched by the balletic beauty of the routine in sync with the recorded musical accompaniment.

One of the things that my companion and I noticed (and enjoyed) is that like any live theatrical event, mistakes can happen. Fortunately, nothing serious or harmful occurred and nobody had to stop the show, but occasionally a juggling pin drops or a hand-balancer loses his balance and has to regroup, reinforcing the quality of immediacy. However, rather than being nonplussed, these veteran performers go on with a wink and a smile as if they planned the mishaps all along. For two hours and ten minutes, time flies, and yet it stands still the way it does on a perfect play day in childhood. I think that encapsulates part of the charm of Psy for adults and children alike, but be forewarned: don't try this at home. You'll be diagnosed with delusions of grandeur.

Photo Credit: David Poulin





From This Author - Nancy Grossman

From producing and starring in family holiday pageants as a child, to avid member of Broadway Across America and Show of the Month Club, Nancy has cultivated her love of the art and respect for the... (read more about this author)

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