Heart Stopping Physicality @ ChicagoShakes

4 Stars out of 4


Chicago is a circus town.  With two major training centers, and a long history of being the base for circus companies, if you are going to bring a circus act to this town, you had better be top of the line.  CIRCOLUMBIA:Acéléré, now in the Chicago Shakespeare’s Yard on Navy Pier is the real deal, the kind of jaw dropping thrills that can impress even the most sophisticated circus aficionado. It is also an exquisite and moving evening of physical theatre.

As you enter the Yard, configured for this show like a cabaret with tables as well as a circle of seating on levels like a gladiatorial stage, the smoke is in the air, and the cumbia beat is already working its way into your body.  The ensemble arrives in a drumbeat as heartbeat chant:” See Us, Hear Us, Feel Us, Circolumbia is in the HOUSE”: and the gritty urban gray clad company looks like they were lifted out of an of the moment urban nightclub in an international city somewhere in the southern Hemisphere.  High energy singers Diana Particia Vargas Montoya and Juliana Valentina Toro Valezquez let us know that in this show the music is as important as the stunts.  And the stunts!!!!  The equipment is straight up classic circus gear: Russian bar, Banquine, teeter board, cloud swing, with an arial duet that is a love dance and a death defying  statement on commitment, that includes the couple hanging by their teeth, literally.   Each of the “acts” in this circus is part of an emotional statement about ensemble, about interdependence and trust, and about rising above fear and insecurity as you risk your life.

CIRCOLUMBIA:Acéléré is part of Destinos, the second annual Chicago International Latino Theatre Festival and despite this circus being part of an international production company based in London, this artwork, sensibility and emotional resonance grew up in the streets of Bogota. The company and the show began as a jobs program for graduates of the Circo Para Todos school which is a professional circus program for “disadvantaged” youth.  Those youth have blossomed into centered, vibrant pros, from the quirky petite Laura Patricia Tenoria Cuan flying through the air or shimmying across the stage to the rock solid power of Jarrinson Cuero Martinez.   Julia Alejandra Sanchez Aja does a revelatory monologue about her body image and how she is more at peace in the air than on the ground and then she wraps the rope around her feet, drops and swings upside down over our heads.  These artists are vulnerable and strong, with swagger and calm, performing without a net.  It’s over in about an hour and it leaves you SCREAMING for more.

This work is a much a dance, a theatrical statement as it is circus, and it joins the top artistic companies in the world in conveying a complex emotional story even as it amazes with physical prowess.  James Louden’s impressionistic lighting design serves up striking stage pictures, and Ryan Wilmotts musical direction will have you dancing in your seat.

Winter is coming: warm up your soul with CIRCOLUMBIA:Acéléré, but hurry: they are only playing a Tuesday through Sundays at thChicago Shakespeare Theatre’s  Yard on Navy Pier until November 4th, 2018h.For tickets and information go to www.ChicagoShakes.com  or call 312-596-5600.Or go to https://www.theatreinchicago.com/acelere/9992/