Boston Circus Guild Brings Halloween Monsters to Oberon (4 stars)
by Johnny Monsarrat
I have long been a fan of the Boston Circus Guild, which this week performs Cirque of the Dead, their annual Halloween show. It takes place in perhaps Boston's most daring venue, Oberon, which is run by Harvard's American Repertory Theatre as a second stage.
The show is full of Halloween-themed goodness, I mean spookyness. Each performer, and the stunts are mainly acrobatics, involves high quality and intricate Halloween-themed costuming and makeup, which add to the macabre mood. Moreover, each act has been modified, or sometimes apparently created specially, for a haunted Halloween theme.
In one scene, two human spiders climb and wind themselves around separate silk "threads", and then take a controlled tumble or pose. This was even more notable than a usual aerial silk routine because they did it in concert, synchronized. Then as a finish they lifted two cocooned victims to the ceiling. We also saw a drowned corpse performing acrobatic stunts on a swing, and the show has comedy, dance, with music by Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, a local favorite at strange events.
Some of the most notable routines were more cabaret stage show than circus, but entertaining nonetheless. They called up "volunteers" from the audience (plants) who got murdered on stage. In one routine, a woman with a very big knife is lifted and twirls above her masculine partner. In another, a dancing male stripper tears out a bleeding heart from a victim and dances with it. It's much more effective than I can describe, and kudos to the club for the courage to use liquid blood on stage -- lots of it. The several events were energetically and efficiently led on stage, off stage, and cleaned up by a scattering of stagehands.
Oberon is a great venue with a full bar. It has professional lighting and a second-tier railing that the production incorporated into the night. Still, unlike The Donkey Show, they didn't make use of the main dance floor except for two small performance platforms, and it was uncomfortable for most of us to stand for 90 minutes just for these when seated chairs would not really have gotten in the way. A few stunts of the night could not be seen by everyone because they occurred just above floor level. The acts were brilliantly performed but not at the caliber of my last review in 2013, or the stitching together of shows into a single flowing theme. The three comic emcees seemed poorly rehearsed and their comedy was filled with in-jokes and winks at the audience that didn't work at all. The music was energetic and creative, but you don't go to the circus for music. It could have stayed in the background while the acts performed.
I still have a 5-star love in my heart for the Boston Circus Guild, which I've seen put on national-level shows, but this one I'm going to give a worth seeing but not perfect 4 stars.
See http://www.bostoncircusguild.com and be sure to watch for their upcoming shows after Halloween.