Don't Miss the Edgy Colombian Circus Show Urban at the New Victory Theater
One of the main reasons I love the New Victory is that the theater continually surprises me with its amazing lineup of multicultural dance, music,circus and dramatic performances for families. And the theater's searing season opener, Urban, is all of those genres rolled into one.
Conceived and performed by Circolombia, Urban features ridiculously fit youths doing incredible circus feats to a pounding reggaeton beat. But unlike other shows of its ilk, this one has dark references to the lives of the performers, most of whom were raised on the tough streets of Cali, Colombia. Their strength and daring is mixed with swagger and honesty and it's totally thrilling.
Although you'll see tightrope walkers, aerialists and acrobatics in Urban, calling it a circus is a misnomer. There are no clowns, jugglers or animals, and certainly no bright popping happy colors. The show takes place in front of a gritty brick wall and the stage frequently fills with smoke, which makes the view hazy through the low lights. Mounted video screens project grim images of home (nothing too graphic or disturbing) as the performers sing and rap in Spanish, break-dance and do crazy jump-rope tricks, which all adds to the inner-city feel.
While there is no plot per se, the 17 sequences are tied together by the mood and style. The performers—many of whom are graduates of Colombia's National Circus School Ciro Para Todos—strut around in hoodies, high-tops and tons of 'tude. Many scenes seem to start with confrontations but end with camaraderie as the cast works together for the sake of spectacle. My seven-year-old particularly liked the teeterboard act, when members of the troupe were sent flying up to the ceiling (literally) and then landed on a mattress held by their compatriots. But really, all of the bits are impressive, from the "poets of the street who write with their feet" on the high wire, to the Day of the Dead-themed cyr wheel bit, complete with animated skeletons, to "Money Talk," an autobiographical spoken word piece about making it out of the barrio into the spotlight. (The story is translated on the video screens for those who don't understand Spanish.)
Due to its serious undertones, the New Victory recommends Urban for children ages 8 and up and I more or less agree (my seven-year-old was fine so use your best judgment). Younger kids would love the stunts and not really get the grittiness, but the music is super loud and the costumes are sexy and skimpy. There was a man in a barrel with short-shorts and body paint that prompted my son to ask why he wasn't wearing any clothes!
If you're able to go on Friday, October 19, you get an added bonus: After the performance, the theater is hosting a fun scavenger hunt that ties into the show. It's free with your tickets, all you need is a phone with texting capability. My son and his friend played it last week and loved running around the theater being asked to perform various tricks and learning about Colombian culture.
Urban is playing at the New Victory Theater through Sunday, October 21. Visit the website for a complete schedule. $14-$38.
Photo Credit: Annemone Taake