Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: A Bloody Circus Mess

By Michael Block

Have you ever wanted to see a spooky dance circus? Well Hideaway has delivered something unique in Slumber, a haunted delight ready for Halloween. With a mix of acrobatic tricks and choreographed treats set to a pulsating score, Slumber brings the audience into their world of visual wonder. But when you remember that directors Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid tried to incorporate a story into their little floorshow, the proverbial tent comes tumbling down.
Playing the stunning House of Yes, Slumber is an energetic night of performance from a talented troupe of acrobats and dancers who use the architecture of the space to tell the story of a girl who has a taste for blood. The painfully thin follows Mabel after a kinky night with a hunky guy leads her on a power trip of murderous revenge against her mean girl friends. Throwing in arial acts, contortion, dance, and much much more, Slumber pleases those thrill seekers but dies when it tries to be something greater than it can be. Like another similar New York based company that seems to experience similar traps, Company XIV, Hideaway tries to explore story and theme through the art of circus and burlesque while aspiring to be the next Cirque Du Soleil. The trouble that Aviner and Magid experience is trying to make this a flawless piece. Unfortunately the execution leaves much to be desired. To cover up the holes and set ups for the next act, Slumber suddenly breaks the fourth wall through monologues by Mabel. Whether it was weak writing or Lee Hubilla’s inability to improv, the direct addresses were nothing short of uncomfortable. That’s not to say she’s not charming or engaging, the material Hubilla had to work with was simply not flattering. As an emcee, her banter with the audience needed finessing. The concept is enthralling, but if the draw is the intrigue of circus and dance why even introduce a story?
Directors Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid incorporate an electronic pop score to accompany the acts. It’s a smart choice for this style of performance. But once again, concept aside, the execution was what held Slumber back from being successful. When the first image is your performers laying down on a raised stage and the majority of your audience can't see it, you know you're in for trouble. Moving from act to act, you may have had a glimpse of a hope being lowered or a rigger running across the stage to set the Chinese pole. It hurts the illusion. The specific routines were catered to the specific artist. And at times, it destroyed the momentum. Especially when discovering an intermission was about to come. This proved that much needed to be reconsidered. The individual pieces can be restructured as, from a story perspective, one murder didn’t always lead to another. At first glance, House of Yes looks like the perfect venue for this show, but as the night proceeds, you discover there's only so much it offers. Safety is important but when giant glow tape corners are visible at all times, it’s just unfortunate. There’s no denying that choreographers Keone Madrid and Mari Madrid’s dances were some of the most extraordinary and most polished moments. They were fresh and energetic, keeping the spirit the piece alive. The lighting design by Dan Alaimo evoked the feeling of a Brooklyn dance party. But when you walk into Slumber, the mix of reds and blue lights give you the illusion of wearing 3-D glasses, and a bit of a headache.
If you like danger and the potential of a catastrophe, these performers will deliver. And perhaps whip you with a silk. There's no denying the spectacular talent in the blood. Joren Dawson surely knows how to work a pole. You simply can't keep your eyes off him, especially after that magical Spider-Man drop-in. Olga Karmansky was the Queen of the Contortion. Her Act II number was mesmerizing to say the least.
So how do you improve something like Slumber? Bring in an expert that knows how to execute an event like this. Hideaway has something potentially great on their hands but this product was not it. There are far too many flaws that detract from the beauty. But if the goal is to pull the wool over the untrained eye, audiences looking for a good time will likely have fun. But don’t think you actually get a say in who lives and who dies. That’s just a gimmick to attempt to explain the immersive.