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REVIEW // Mardi Gras! by Cirque du Fringe

Street performance in the Spiegelgarden

While walking up to the Spiegelgarden to attend Mardi Gras! by Cirque du Fringe, I commented to my friend how lovely the city looked. We had approached from the residential bit of Gibbs Street, through a wide, tree-lined sidewalk facing the façade of the Eastman Theatre. When we rounded the corner to enter the garden, two street performers were already entertaining passersby outside—well, sort of. A man read loudly from scripture while Walter, Rochester’s beloved accordion player, sang a couple of lyrics to “You are my Sunshine,” and begged, “$1. $1. Put in $1.” 

Inside the Spiegeltent, the atmosphere was different. Mardi Gras! by Cirque du Fringe is more high quality street performance than Cirque du Soleil. But the energy of the Kenya Safari Acrobats was truly spectacular. Emceed by two somewhat irritating clowns from the 20 Penny Circus, the seven-person troupe performed French Quarter-style feats of strength and balance to some great jams, using basic props like chairs and hats. The group first came out, smiles blazing, to do some flip-enhanced double dutch to Kriss Kross’ “Jump.” For the next act, the group’s strongest member, Wallace, performed handstands on an ever-growing tower of chairs, wearing the sweetest neon stretch pants I’ve ever seen. Wallace’s next act was more awe-inducing: on some kind of homemade wooden stand, he went into a handstand, curling his body backwards till his ribs looked like they wanted to tear through the skin on his chest. He then placed a top hat on the stand, did the awesome, cringe-worthy curl again, grabbed the hat, and placed it on his head with his feet. This performance was to John Mayer’s “Gravity,” the only song that did not make me want to dance. Cute wordplaybut not after the clowns introduced the act by telling the “ladies” we’d want to scream (no thanks)

Another star of the troupe was one of two women (no one else besides Wallace was named). Instead of some kind of striptease (which would not have been out of place with the New Orleans theme), the solo female performance featured a lady wearing suspenders and bending rebar with her neck and teeth to James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” The same woman put on a sexy red dress to form the base of the human pyramids for the show’s final act, holding not one or two, but five muscular guys. 

Walter asked again for $1 as we left the venue, but he sang the whole song this time. (Maybe he got a little dose of the energy oozing from the tent.) I’m grateful, though, that we can still expect to see him after the Fringe moves on.

Mardi Gras! runs every evening through September 27, with an additional afternoon show on Saturday.

Danielle Preiss is tweeting through Fringe, too: @DaniellePreiss

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