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Monday, May 2, 2011

Cirque Noveau Aims High -- and Stays Aloft -- with Devil/Fish at Brava Theater

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 7:30 AM

Haley Vilora's movements in Devil/Fish resembled those of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. - ERIC GILLET
  • Eric Gillet
  • Haley Vilora's movements in Devil/Fish resembled those of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
Director and featured performer Angelo Rodriguez brought together a diverse range of aerial and acrobatic circus performances to an intimate stage setting over the weekend as Cirque Noveau commenced its second run of Devil/Fish at Brava Theater.

The story is a simple fable: A clownfish falls in love with a beautiful woman and has an existential crisis when the devil approaches him with a deal to turn human. Despite its appeal to young audiences (children marveled at the gimmicky interludes), the narrative is just an excuse to introduce varied characters onto the stage, each with a unique act.

The Clownfish - ERIC GILLET
  • Eric Gillet
  • The Clownfish
The beautiful woman goes first, proving she is worthy of selling your soul. Nina Chubrikova hopped on an aerial hoop and spun high above the stage, legs and arms coming in and out so fast you couldn't keep track of her limbs. The devil then made his grand entrance with the help of his tall manhunk of a bodyguard (Miguel Balderrama). The men engaged in several slow but seemingly grueling body-balancing formations - mutating into one creature. The real devil's advocate is Haley Vilora, who has two acts in the show. The first is a modern dance of slithering contortions, complete with a head-spinning finale reminiscent of that scene in The Exorcist, sans animatronics. For her second act, Vilora, the youngest cast member, wraps her rubber band of a body on the contortionist straps, transforming even more into a snake.
Angelo Rodriquez and crew got airborne with no safety net. - ERIC GILLET
  • Eric Gillet
  • Angelo Rodriquez and crew got airborne with no safety net.
The clownfish character was not just the comic relief, flopping and bouncing onstage. Calvin Kai Ku kicked off the second act climbing the Chinese pole, still playing to the performer's slapstick specialty. However, a fish can't compete with the stuffy prince (Oliver K. Pavick), who captured the girl's fancy with a gravity-defying act of his own. Pavick grasped the rope between his toes and climbed to the top. Gretchen Ernst showed she has no fear of heights either as her birdlike nymph took command of the single point trapeze. During both of these acts, I got sweaty palms - Devil/Fish has no safety net.
  • Eric Gillet
The story took an interesting turn when somehow all these characters, animal and human alike, found themselves at a bar taking tequila shots (just another Friday night on 24th Street). The alcohol gave way to a lengthy display of physical comedy. The performers tumbled, flipped, and spun -- so much happening onstage -- it was the most entertaining part of the show. But it was up to the devil to bring things to a close. Rodriguez performed his signature flying tissue and cube act he originated in Cirque du Soleil's Mystere to a thumping soundtrack. After marveling at all the things the body can do, how could a fish reject an offer to turn human, sweaty palms and all?

Devil/Fish continues at Brava Theater Center on Fridays through Sundays through May 22. Admission is $26.

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