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A CurtainUp Review Le Circle Invisible

Editor's Note: As a rule we don't review shows which are practically in the past by the time we can post them, but David Lipfert was so enthusiastic and on the chance, that this will become a regular New York event (like the Big Apple Circus), we are making an exception.

Husband and wife team Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierrée have evolved their particular mix of clever transformations, magic acts, and circus-style balancing over the past two decades. Their aim is to delight and amuse their audiences-always careful not to let their light touch become heavy-handed overkill. Le Circle Invisible has been seen as an astute commentary on the traditional circus laden with tigers and trapezes.

The show is organized into a series of solo entrances with the couple together for the finales. Mr. Thierrée brings on his magic table where candles of all shapes and sizes disappear and reappear in a twinkling. Beaming his wide grin to the spectators, he unexpectedly chomps on a carrot-sized white candle before tossing it to the rear. From his right palm emerges a replacement. With impeccable rhythm, he smoothes out the single acts into a continuous melody. Occasionally he reveals his secret behind a transformation, as if to poke fun at his act and to encourage us not to be so serious either.

Now Ms. Chaplin enters with a mountain of white chairs, which she sets down one by one. Her wide-eyed face with its seemingly naive expression disarms the audience. As she rearranges and inverts the chairs, she plays to our unfulfilled doll house fantasies. Finally, she assembles them to make a four-chair-high horse, which she mounts to canter off the stage.

A fruit theme is the vehicle for Mr. Thierrée's next act. His unusual variations on standard juggling using three real oranges include quick reversals and wry sleight of hand. Giant-sized oranges appear on demand for him. As if to convince the audience that nothing out of the ordinary has happened, he tosses the real ones to three different parts of the house.

Ms. Chaplin appears to slide in encased in a conical suit, within which she promptly withdraws leaving only the shell. The cone now comes alive, balancing precariously on the edge of its base, toppling and rolling about. A look at its empty interior confirms the illusion that Ms. Chaplin has completely disappeared. Watching these unexpected images, we connect to our Jungian unconsciousness but always minus any sinister undercurrents.

With a different twist on the standard tricks, Mr. Thierrée presents a giant rabbit in place of a hat-sized one. The first half ends with a well-behaved barnyard of geese and ducks wandering onto the stage from the wings to create their particular cacophony. In a bow to the traditional circus, the second part has the inevitable balancing on a tightrope. The finale with a series of bicycles, one more fantastic than the other, brings the show to a delightful conclusion.

These brief descriptions are merely a taste of what Le Circle Invisible offers. After a while watching the show, the audience relaxes into simply enjoying the performers' wit without the distraction of trying to figure out the technique involved. Ms. Chaplin and Mr. Thierrée encourage us to forgo analysis but instead to indulge ourselves in enjoyment. They will seduce anyone with a weakness for grace and charm.

Running time is just under two hours including one intermission. The show is suitable for all audiences.

Created and performed by Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierree
John Jay College Theater
889 10th
(212) 721-6500
From:7/22/97-7/26/97-extended to open ended run.

©Copyright 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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