BWW REVIEW: Atlas Circus' Lucky Delights Audiences at Dixon Place
LUCKY, the latest production by Atlas Circus, follows the life of a young man in 20th-century New York City as he tries to find his literal and figurative center. Created and directed by Tommy McCarthy, a graduate of Muhlenberg College with 14 years of dance training (at the Joffrey and Boston Ballet, as well as Muhlenberg), the show consists of eleven comic vignettes.
With a mop of curly brown hair, a staggering repertoire of facial expressions, and a deceptively strong body, Henry Evans endears us to the mishap-prone Lucky from the start. Set up like an old-time movie theater, the stage is bare except for silent movie-style placards that alert us to the context of each scene. Music by David Evans, a Drama Desk nominee for his score of Birds of Paradise (written with Winnie Holzman and directed by Arthur Laurents), is integral to this quirky coming-of-age tale.
Two of the performers (Evans and Avery Deutsch), along with much of the crew, are Muhlenberg alumni, which may explain the palpable camaderie among Atlas Circus members. Leo Abel graduated from Ivaldo Bertazzo's school of dance and acting and worked in experimental theater for ten years, fusing dance, circus, singing, and puppetry. Russell Norris (who has appeared at Theater for the New City, Stairwell Theater, Brave New World Rep, among others) rounds out the talented cast.
Atlas Circus Company hopes to change the way people, especially in America, view the art-form that incorporates dance, theater, magic, technology, and circus. The cast's enthusiasm clearly translated to the audience, which included a handful of children. Dixon Place was at near capacity (with many of the upstairs seats filled) and the response was beyond anything I've witnessed at the now celebrated Lower East Side venue over 30 years old. When Russell Norris' character returns to the stage midway through the show, a small child joyfully blurted out, "There he is!!" A collective "Aww" rippled through the audience.
Unlike the work of the award-winning company, Broken Box Mime (whose See Reverse I reviewed earlier this year), Atlas Circus has mass appeal. One would not bring a grade schooler to see Broken Box Mime, at least not that particularly ambitious production. The "joys of subversion" and the problem of meaning are heavy fare even for adults, yet handled so deftly one is left in awe.
The plot of LUCKY is surely easier to follow than the more abstract narratives in Broken Box Mime's recent show, but I didn't fully understand some of the final vignettes, including the excellent restaurant scene. It doesn't really matter (certainly the audience didn't notice or care). And the gist of the office scene was clear enough and eminently relatable: who doesn't feel stifled working in a cubicle?
The levity of LUCKY belies the sheer physical work that goes into the more acrobatic scenes. That paradox provides a second-order pleasure for more sophisticated audience members, but mostly it's the joy in the unexpected and off-beat that carries the show.