PEDAL PUNK! Family Show Review by Jo Mispel

pedalpunkwEven a spontaneous visit by a beloved cousin was not going to stop my son and I from eagerly hopping on a downtown train last Saturday. We had tickets for Cirque Mechanics’ Pedal Punk! We had been intrigued by the combination of circus and machinery brightly proclaimed from promo posters we had passed on our subterranean jaunts.

Our subway ride rattled into Times Square. We weaved through crowds, swerved past a one man band busker, under flashing screens and screaming sneaker shops. And finally, into the welcoming warmth that is the New Victory Theater on 42nd st.

Once in our seats, we were impressed by the stunning set before us suggesting some sort of alternative reality, magical past or parallel future bike shop. The 1900’s lush insides of this unique theatre space combined deliciously with the metal machinery and whimsy of the set for a very, as intended, steampunk feel. No doubt this was one of the reasons director Chris Lashua was so keen to bring his new production back here. This and the intimate feel, as he comments on in his program notes. You are so close to the action, it is amazing the cast doesn’t fall off the stage.

In the center of this tinkerer’s workshop, hung a beautiful penny farthing. A bike so majestic and yet comic at the same time, its character further set the scene for what turned out to be a fantastical comic ride.

The cast introduced themselves by spilling into action around the 22 foot high gantry which is the ingenious contraption which served as both set and interactive play ground for the acrobats. The welcoming tableau was cleverly choreographed by co-director Aloysia Gavre and with the high energy music we are pumped and ready for action.

Jan Damm plays the eccentric bike mechanic, who will clown the story line along as well as impress us with his numerous other skills of Diablo, juggling, balancing and slapstick. Into his tool shop will come an array of comic and/or enchanting characters. The first, Nata Ibragimov, being the later kind, looking for a wheel and bewitching Jan with an increasingly sophisticated hoop dance.

Two of the women aerialists, Lauren Stark and Lindsey Covarrubias, were next and their agile strength and flexibility was exhilarating to watch. They used the modified penny farthing for a trapeze act which was also the first glimpse into the satisfying mechanics of the gantry set up. The bike was lowered and raised by one of the ‘punks’ peddling a pulley system up and down it’s side. Set designer Sean Riley is apparently obsessed with gravity and Newtonian physics and it shows. His creation is co-performer, the unique flesh vs mechanics interweave made possible. Such a treat to watch and examine the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of a working object.

The show is well-paced with enjoyable music. Our favorite first half acts were the single large hoop, spun like a top, with star stretched acrobat inside. And Windu Ben Sayles who was a truly freakish contortionist who got to pretzel on top of another unique bike. My son also appreciated the bmx tricks, no doubt taking internal notes on what he thought he could master on his own, similar bike.

We were at an opening preview, and there were a couple of minor gaffes, but the humor and warmth of the show made these somehow feel like an enhancement. Sometimes when skills are performed so seamlessly the level of difficultly becomes abstract and under appreciated.

At intermission, we were intrigued by some unique merchandise, I was even tempted to buy some jewelry, but we instead found ourselves new owners of a Diablo (look this up if you need to).

When we returned, there was some delicious slap stick hilarity with Jan Damn, and a member of the audience (who must have been placed he was so balletic?). I don’t want to spoil all the surprises, but it had us older folk guffawing, which felt wonderful. The show rolled along with comedy and beauty and the gantry trampolining at the end was spectacular. The finale spun the set and performers like some hand turned musical box.

Founder Chris Lashua was a bmx freestyler who joined Cirque du Soleil after witnessing a show and knowing that circus was his going to be calling, would be his joy. Cirque Mechanics is his own break away creation begun in 2005, and based in Las Vegas. He has grown a family with this unique troupe and you can feel the love. My son and I were so hugely entertained by the storytelling flow, interactive set and impressive skills of the team. We recommend you get on your wheels, self propelled or otherwise, and get on down to a Pedal Punk show for an exhilarating experience.

Pedal Punk runs until 3rd January 2016 at New Victory Theater on 42nd St, Manhattan. For more information and tickets go to new